About FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA (Cedar Books, New Delhi); By Nabina Das

"Fittingly for a poet, Nabina’s novel also has a strong lyrical core. 'Footprints in the Bajra' takes the homely image of the millet field as its central metaphor. ... But the novel is less a thriller about guerrilla action than a subtly colored character study of a fascinating group of individuals who intersect at various points in their lives ..." -- DEBRA CASTILLO, author, editor and distinguished professor (Cornell University, April 17, 2010).

Footprints in the Bajra is a serious book that moves at a smart uncontrived pace. It voices deep concerns about how and why the deprived and the marginalized in certain parts of our country join the Maoist ranks; how they adopt desperate and often terrible measures to wrench justice and to make their voices heard... a confident debut novel, a good read, which will leave you with plenty to mull over. -- PRITI AISOLA, author (See Paris for Me, Penguin-India, 2009) in DANSE MACABRE XXXIV.

In her debut novel, Nabina Das writes about an India where social divides stand taller than multistoried shopping malls. Footprints in the Bajra, inspired by what she saw while touring the interiors of Bihar as part of a travelling theatre group, inquires into why the Maoists have an influence over a large section of Indian society. Das talked to Uttara Choudhury in New York about her book, and its protagonist Muskaan -- DAILY NEWS AND ANALYSIS, Mumbai, March 28, 2010.


"The interspersion of references from both the West and India do not clash. Shakespeare and Lazarus as reference points are brought in with ease, as also Valmiki and Goddess Chhinnamasta, and nothing jars ... The language is poetic and creates visual images of beauty and ugliness side by side." -- ABHA IYENGAR, poet (Yearnings: Serene Woods, 2010) and fiction writer in MUSE INDIA, May-Jun 2010

Shwetank Dubey says Nabina Das ably recreates the milieu of Maoist-infested regions of India -- Nabina Das has chosen the first person account of narrating a story from the main characters of the novel, Nora the sheherwali (urban dweller), Muskaan the rebel, Suryakant Sahay the crafty clandestine planner and Avadhut the frontrunner of all the operations... the book deals with something that no urban resident is bound to know on his own — the life and times of people living in Maoist infested areas and why do they give in to the temptation provided by the Red Brigade. -- PIONEER newspaper, April 25, 2010.
'"If you misrepresent them, they'll abduct and kill you," says Muskaan, our hostess'... goes the first line with which Nabina Das settles everything about her novel -- style, subject and pace... Excellent plotline. Wonderful detail. A beautifully crafted book. -- Karunamay Sinha; THE STATESMAN, Sunday supplement "8th Day", May 16, 2010.

"This is bitter-sweet, if a rather longish tale of a modern-day Maoist revolution and the seeds of destruction and betrayal that lie embedded in it." -- Business World, May 17, 2010

Friday, December 19, 2008

One Place To Go

There was no place to go
When winter dimmed
There was this all that came to light
When sacred fires skimmed our faces over fences of memory
I waited for the unfed Santa-man on my school's sidewalk
He didn't give, but begged for coins
For him there was no sweet crumbs baking
Warm dishes squealing in the little arc of holiday lights
Also there was this fat nun-teacher in our section who did a jig for us
She tall and big, sang throaty carols in the name of deserts, donkey and a child
We saw that kid everyday near the pale woman by the shops
She wore rags like royal attire and a smile to light the brightest
Candles lit by my Catholic neighbor that competed
With my grandma's heathen oil lamp flames chasing the Sun-god
Running askew at solstice behind the sky
To flicker till the rays fell straighter on her dew-soaked Tulsi
Grandma would scatter puja grains and chant her Uttarayana mantras
And tell me about a path that leads to a garden
Of ceremonies where we apparently could share
Sugardrop laughs with my classmate Maria Joseph -- also Humeira and Maya
There, where incense sticks burned around ravishing firepits,
There was no place for lines or walls
There was no place to go other than
Longings for prim days that opened their doors wearing festive shades.
Picture from Internet: Surya, the sun-god
(This poem has been written for this holiday season on a special prompt by the very helpful blogspot poetswhoblog's "Twelve Days of Poetry")


Joy Leftow said...

Amazing the images that come to mind here, traditional & old India mixed with modernity - the unfed Santa mixed with puja grains & burning incense sticks around ravishing firepits.

fleuve-souterrain said...

I sent off the poem to poetswhoblog.blogspotcom after reading about their 12 Days of poetry project... lovely pieces there one must check out. This is what Sara of poetswhoblog wrote back to me:

"I really like it. I like how it explores a culture different than my own. It makes me think of what this time of year means for people all around the world, and not just in my backyard.
Thanks for taking part in our Twelve Days of Christmas project.

You will be Day Nine.


I'm waiting with baited breath. Nice holiday touch for me.

fleuve-souterrain said...

Thanks Joy! That's how it has always been for me, an india mixed up in its new mores and old values and somehow it continues... and therefore, writing this poem came very natural to me... I kind of sat down and did a 15 min job, not usual of my work!

Ritu said...

Funny, I did a prose bit today itself on a similar subject - urban vs rural India. Loved the poem. The play of imagery is fascinating

fleuve-souterrain said...

a must read for me... visit your blog soon sweetie! Thanks for the encouragement...

Abhinav said...

It smells of light nostalgia... nostalgia like the breath of a serpent close to one's heart... loved yet dangerous...

How do you do it?

fleuve-souterrain said...

Abhi dear, you have such an interesting way of expressing yourself. really like it! a serpent close to one's heart must be a very dangerous game :-)... For me it's probably as close as a pet lizard... or a wound i want to have healed and yet keep scrtaching and bleeding! Do let me know what you ahve new on your blog.