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

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pop Goes Delhi!

South Asia Curator of Cornell University, Bronwen Bledsoe, a very funky and friendly personality, is coming to town. That is Delhi. Where I am these days. She I came to know recently through Prof. Debra Castillo of Cornell in Ithaca. Debbie, the lovely angelic soul that she is, had very kindly suggested my name to Bronwen as one of the people to meet up, for planning a Bollywood series in collaboration with Cornell Cinema. Later about that.

Now Bronwen is touring South Asia and China regarding her own work and researching on Subcontinental pop culture (she is a historian, and in her words, everything is "pop to a medievalist" like her!!). I'm damn glad I have a chance to meet her again. Hopefully at least a couple of times we will have delightful discussions on Bollywood, food and neo-urban customs.

That brings me to think: what is pop culture in Delhi without a Big Fat Punjabi wedding anyway? Something in the style of "Monsoon Wedding"! In fact, I just came through one in the family, my sister-in-law's wedding, held pretty true to medium-budget (ha!) Bollywood flicks. Every ritual seemed important as well as mindless at times and yet we enjoyed so much! Now IF I can take Bronwen to a loud, pompous, alcohol-infused, raucous DJ-music-ridden, obscenely intricate crystal-and-gold lehenga-carpet-curtain-cover-draped farmhouse or clubhouse wedding, I'd say both of us will instantly know more about pop culture than any astute researcher poring over books or a computer screen.

Or, we can take it easy and just eat and drink and laze about in Dilli Haat or Crafts Bazaar in Pragati Maidan or scrounge around in Janpath. Also visit my alma mater JNU.

If my readers have any suggestions, kindly write in about what to do in the name of pop culture in Delhi.
Photo (from Internet): Diwali decorations on sale


Anonymous said...

Lol Nabs the BFPW is a great topic for writing a book, include the panjabi aunties . JNU seems a great idea ,I would suggest a metro ride to DU too ,am I being partial ;)!!!!nahhh love DU.Also a trip to old Delhi galian aur chaubare including Ghalib's haveli will be great idea .dig into all those delicacies Nabs ..am sure she wud love it too ..

fleuve-souterrain said...

what ideas girl! Lived in Delhi for a decade and yet I forgot about old Delhi, Bhure ki Biriyani, Nizamuddin, Ghalib's haveli, paranthewali galiyan... I'll also probably suggest to Bronwen the sometimes pretentious hip and elite gatherings at India Habitat Centre, my old work place, and the jholawala arty surroundings of Mandi House where i hung out many afternoons with persons of interest!

Thx sweetie!

anu said...

You dare to talk about biryani? meanie!!
Delhi, no idea. Bangalore true to its cosmo. nature has several subcultures, unlike Pune which I found more homogeneous and accessible by everybody. Quite enjoyable! particularly stunning were the varkari pilgrims (bhakti movement relic), and host of other night time festivities which would combine ancient and ultra modern practices without missing a beat.

fleuve-souterrain said...

Hmm, the dargah at Nizamuddin Aulia (probably this is not the time for Urs, a great experience)... Janpath kitsch... Btw, biriyani is the heart of Delhi of not soul!! Anything savory around Jama Masjid is manna from the sky! Keep warm in Ithaca, Anu!

Abhinav said...

I loved the Monsoon Wedding! And there was a funky version of 'Raske Bhare Tore Nain' on its soundtrack. A very good example of how classics may be turned into an expression of popular art.

fleuve-souterrain said...

Wasn;t that movie loads of fun, Abhi? And am so glad oyu point out the sound track... for an obscenely opulent punjabi wedding, that song was truly a soft score use dvery well.

And music-wise, now that you have set me off thinking, there are so many such classical/traditional numbers that have been appropriated by the Big Brother Bollywood! Bronwen will like the music aspect a lot.

Too much to lose said...

Talking about delhi haat ...i was there three days back...fed myself with umpteen number of momos..It was great to see that place after such a long time ....Refreshing ....

Pop culture and the punjabi weddings go hand in hand (as you had mentioned) ..You ought to take Bronwen Bledsoe for one .....

Rhett said...

Take her to Kareem's, and let her taste Mughlai cuizines. Ghalib yeah, of course. But let her also know why Jug Suraiya would think of it as Shit city.
Delhi is so goddamn vibrant that you could love it in countless ways and wouldn't know how yopu love it. Like loving a mysterious woman. lolz....

anu said...

>>>Pune which I found more homogeneous

Ugh! didn't mean it that way. Pune has several subcultures, but uniquely, all of it seemed accessible to all kinds of audience, anybody who had the time could participate or go to them. Unlike Bangalore where the pop subcultures has exclusive, select audience -there's hardly a pop-culture that most Bangaloreans would have participated or relate to, that is, it never leads to a cultural memory that spans the city's populace.

As the curator is a doing a Asia thing...., Nabina, I will hold you singularly responsible if she comes back with exclusive accounts of only Delhi pop cultures. Delhi is not India (that part of Asia), Yeah -lets fight :-)

Ritu said...

Nizammuddin, Darya Ganj, Chandni Chowk, Janpath - and of course Delhi Haat. Gate crash one of the desi mehendis and shaadis ....., and do get her some samosas - oops I am rambling on a bit! Okay I'll quit