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

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Poems in Lit Up Magazine

Got word recently from editor Mike Covey that two of my new poems are published in Lit Up Magazine. Follow the link http://litupmagazine.wordpress.com/new/. Lit Up Magazine is a cool journal of poetry, fiction and art. Check it out.

For all those lazy people out there :-), I am pasting the poems below:

Othello’s Path
Butterflies dropped dead from branches
Where they never grew
Dewdrops of nights that stifled dawns
Lay on your path
Or were they tiny handkerchiefs
Outlining a long sorrowful track?
White of course
Black with guile
Wordsmiths called
It green, envy
But when the foliage died
No one was left to pry
So, don’t walk that path dear Othello
Don’t wipe your eyes with
Those thunderstruck fingers, they’ll teach
You rage and us a loss forever to linger.
In very hot weather
Flowers wilt like bouquets
As do kneeling gardeners
But no one hears them.
It is fashionable for us to
Take bouquets - not words -
To happy or sad rituals where
No one deciphers the flowers.
We can shade the buds
But that may deter buzzing bees
Heavy with the delusion of summer
And the ensuing calm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roger's Haikus

My esteemed former colleague from The Ithaca Journal, Roger DuPuis II, now an editor working from Scranton, has a beautiful way with Haikus. His comment was so arresting that I decided to put it up as a separate post. He blogs at arespectablesecond. Read on:


I was delighted to receive your request for haiku. I think a started working with the form out of a wry desire to use it as a filter with which to distill my own sardonic angst into little pools of pure, shimmering bile! Albeit drinkable bile ...

Rather than fall into the appalling Western tendency to caricature the form (see above; and I agree) I wanted to capture moments, people and ideas which were ordinary, yet sublime -- and sometimes really rather jarring -- and which had nothing to do with leaves or ducks or lily ponds.

The 5-7-5 pattern required me to work in a controlled fashion which prohibited my charateristic verbosity, to which you are right now being subjected! That said, here are a few untitled selections from recent months:

"Seated down the train:
Proud sister, your poise and grace
Somehow make me smile."

That ode was to an unidentified woman on a Philadelphia elevated train, whom I gazed upon bleary-eyed the morning after a particularly nasty row with my best friend. April 14, 2008. Happily we've moved on... But also from that day:

"E-mail is evil.
For it never quite conveys,
What you meant to say."

Unrelated from the next day, after I had my income taxes done:

"Well, that was painless!
Sometimes it's worth it to pay
Someone else to think."
Haiku about income taxes! How very bourgeois --not a lotus flower in sight!

Then there was this, written privately to a family member in July:

"All the little lies
Told so we can smooth the way ...
Deals with the Devil."
Such is life.-- R.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today is the Trans Day of Remembrance

"The Trans Day of Remembrance is about protecting the dead from oblivion, true, but their memory has another hold on the living. They remind us that we can’t barter away their lives."

I am cross-posting the post Full Spectrum from Feministe. You may also follow the link : http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/11/20/full-spectrum/ or click on the title of this post. Leave a comment, in appreciation or dissent, if you wish. Have a day of thoughtfulness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Let's HAIKU!

I am going to be a copycat for some time and try write a reflecting haiku in English for each of these masterly compositions below but without the traditional trappings and the mandatory seasonal reference. My samples will be quite contradictory to the lilting idea of a haiku.

Possibly the best known Japanese haiku is Bashō's "old pond" haiku.

Roughly translated:

"old pond
a frog jumps
the sound of water "

My sample:

murky snow
million footprints
searching paths

Another example by Matsuo Bashō:

"the wind of Mt. Fuji
I've brought on my fan!
a gift from Edo"

My sample:

the cry for freedom

scattered morsels
whither justice?


And yet another Bashō classic:

"the first cold shower
even the monkey seems to want
a little coat of straw"

My sample:

the last chance
a woman's voice
silence is death

Now, perhaps my compositions are really not haikus. But hopefully some of my readers will write a few for me to show me how to practise this beautiful craft.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This is a very personal poem... I feel infinitely better having it posted for my blog readers. Death, dying, decay etc. have occupied a portion of my mind lately. Hope to derive strength from my readers' supportive reading, so please do comment:

You shirt flutters in the afternoon air
On a clothesline in the yard, sweat evaporating as
You sit under the toiling rotating fan under a humid roof
In your undershirt, smiling.
From you boots (Ma allowed you to keep them on) drop
Dust and grey grass, scatter in the musty breeze
On our living room rug.
Ma couldn't stop exclaiming: boots in this heat, you must be crazy!

You must be crazy, I reflect now,
To take your own life.

We are your little cousins who stare in bubbling adoration
As you tap your boots and strum a lonely guitar
Sing with eyes eying the wooden beams above that define
Our human menagerie, outline the ceiling.

Similar wooden beams where
One day you would sling your shirt in a loop.

Or was it the bright scarf you wore one placid winter
Working on tomatoes in your precious patch?
We giggled around ecstatic in touching the red round forms
And squished ourselves with blood of fruits while you sung.
The tunes stutter in my ears
As though they were butterfly wings broken and stuck
Still throbbing with the music of life that wished to live.
So young, yet you sing of pain! Ma had exclaimed.

You must have been pained
To die while we still hummed your song.

You let me play the strings once
You let me touch your colors that kept you busy through night
I marveled at your sculptures so lifelike
Perhaps life was elsewhere for you, I think.

Love is everything, it’s all up there, you had said winking
Before you were gone that summer day, waving at us kids,
Shirt back on. We practiced the springy steps you taught
And howled to see you go, Hawaiian guitar and all.

‘It’s all up there’ meant nothing to us then
Until we heard you were dead, my dead cousin.

They had brought your body down, flower dangling from a twig
Laid you beside your friendless guitar
Ma told us after many years the meaning of your songs –
He was a child of another world, she said, shy and alone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I finally, admit it. But don't hate me for thinking this way, please! I have been slow in putting up poems on my blog because I didn't feel very comfortable about it always. Perhaps because I am technically a new blogger. It's not just random people picking up my random thoughts and lines that I am scared of, but it's also something to do with my allegiance to the paper form of my writing, an old habit nurtured too long. Anyway, I'll try to be more forthcoming as time passes. Now, I wrote this poem up realizing I sorely miss the warm and humid weather of India -- the years I spent in Delhi, and before that my hometown Guwahati. Both the places I'll see soon. Ithaca has summers like Delhi autumns and winters like the North Pole...!! Hence this musing about the weather!

It’s musty in my town --
Not frosty
It’s a bit hasty
Like here it is gusty
It tweaks open buds early morning
Makes my shingled heart tremble
With it’s rippled caress every dawn.
It can be dry as rolled oats
With sand flowing under the nails
After rivers go for a sleep-full rest
Never to come back again

Like lost pets.
It’s musty
And not frosty
It rains as if the sky had forgotten
Something stirred its tears
Kicking up spiral mud where
Our ankles twist and slip playfully
And our guard drops like water
That wipes our dusty faces
Tired from running life’s errands –
Same jokes, same wasted tests.
It’s musty
Not frosty at all
Although winter can hoodwink
You into bundling up in
Hats socks and scarves entwining
As though we were trapped inside
Thermal rainbows, fuzzy and bright
Watching the mist roll up its
Car windows, slowly passing by –
A short-term guest.
It certainly is musty
Never frosty there
A bit lusty with bodies shining
In sweat and warm diurnal light
Gliding through the sun and moon’s
Humid corridors to where
The town heaves everyday
Without repose or rest.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vote for my poems on bookhabit.com!

Two of my poems are currently in a competition on bookhabit.com, sponsored by the New Zealand Poetry Society. It'd be great to have my readers and friends go to http://www.bookhabit.com/competition/ and register for FREE in order to vote for my poems. (clicking on the post title will also take you there...)

Once registered, the site's users get to award points to the poems currently in the race. My entries are:




An advantage with bookhabit.com is that you can upload your own book or poetic work and wait for excellent peer review. Besides, there are a lot of other cool things you can do by connecting with writers and poets on that web site.

So please vote! Cannot post the poems here now because rules forbid me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Writing Ruba'i

Of late I've been reading and practising writing "rubaiyat" (plural), an adapted form of the classical Persian quatrain, each derivative quatrain or four-lined verse called a "ruba'i". In Persian I'm told, the ruba'i is only 2 lines long...

The most famous example of the adapted rubaiyat form in English is Edward FitzGerald's 1859 translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Another very popular form of this Persian quatrain is found in Robert Frost's 1922 poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". We've all read it, haven't we? Still one of my favorite poems.
Now each ruba'i that I've written below are only evolving ones, because I'm constantly changing them and re-working them. It is not as easy as it seems, but definitely fun, especially when the rhyme scheme has to contain a pithy idea. Here I use the AABA rhyme scheme:

Brutus Sings A Ruba'i

From behind O Caesar, when I saw your trusting head
I imagined homeless folks, kids hungry in bed
Democracy raped, chasms deep all around
That noble moment let my hand, remorseless, strike you dead.

Shakuntala Sings A Ruba'i

If a ring were everything, a face, an identity
I should call my luck all but serendipity!
Thus I too have learnt to take a passing fancy
At faces like talismans. There’re too many, O king, in your city!

(I don't like putting footnotes, so I'll let readers find out on their own about Shakuntala's story and the reference here...)

Mobocracy – a Ruba’i

This is where you took home millions
And nurtured your unworthy scions
Those that hardly cared for a ballot to come clean
Or reach out to lambs eaten by lions!

(Persian literature in translation has engaged me ever since I was a child. For more information we can go to A Brief History of Persian Literature, by the Iran Chamber Society. Feel free to add more ruba'i on the Comments section or on your respective blogs. Will be fun!)

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I extend my newfound
hand to the clouds
I spread out my hair like the
light of the night
I step on a graveled
path that blooms

I give myself a name
That discounts all we knew so far in the name of peace and war

And the firmament splits

I am a tree, a border, a language

I take sides
I change.
This is called change.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proposition 8 ruins my election fun

Yes, we are all happy that Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America. Such a day should come everywhere in the world, in every country where the marginalized are able to to find their rightful voice. This win is not a magic wand, but without it, America would truly be sorry.

Now I hate to be a party-pooper, but this morning I read the news item "California voters approve Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriages - Los Angeles Times" and was sorely disappointed.

Gay-rights advocates, after this debacle (52% yay-48% nay), filed a legal challenge in California Supreme Court to Proposition 8. The supporters of gay-marriage ban call it an attempt to "subvert the will of voters".

According to LA Times, lawyers for same-sex couples said they will argue that the anti-gay-marriage measure was an illegal constitutional revision -- not a more limited amendment.

Guess, there is still a steep hill to climb then, as Obama (watch video) said in his thank you speech.

Incidentally, I noted that Proposition 8 was the "most expensive proposition on any ballot in the nation this year, with more than $74 million spent by both sides." Talk about fervor and nastiness.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Er, I stole this from the political blog Crooked Timber that I follow:

A committee setting exam papers, a long time ago.

Paper: Public Choice Theory

Draft question: “When is it rational to vote?”

Economist, with raised eyebrow, looking political scientist in the eye: “On election day?”

Hope we know what America did by midnight...