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, February 16, 2009

INDIAN LOVE STORY 8 & 9 (additional ref: Ruth Vanita & Saleem Kidwai's latest book)

INDIAN LOVE STORY 9: Khajuraho Longings

The monk and the layman
Order a cooled lemon drink
And talk about cafes one would visit
When they would visit new cities
New York, Paris or Buenos Aires
Accordingly they’d pack their bags
One extra robe for the monk,
A pair of fine shawls the layman
Buys with his months of pay
The monk and the layman
Laugh at their own sculpted forms
Sculptured by another layman
It captures their soft moment together
On that ancient temple wall
My hand on your chest looks great
Your arm around my waist
The monk’s dress light, one color
No shoes and wooden flip-flops
A small cloth bag across his brawny shoulders
His tan exciting and earthen the layman
Likes a lot and they laugh and they touch
Before they plan to set off for a worldwide tour
Learn to eat anchovies and mix a gin
They laugh because they know immortality was at hand
Scholars' books, photographs and documentary films
Meant just one way, more so
Once they set off from that temple wall

INDIAN LOVE STORY 8: Maidens in Love

The tree had supple foliage
Dense and purple
Something about that color
(They said, oh a Poison Tree)
Perhaps because it was enraged
To be called such a name
A tree from storybooks
A story that looked for readers
Very much like those who incurred banes
While the tree grew the mane of an unruly teenager
And leaves like eyes
Measured in turmoil
When you see someone die
In front of you and yet stay mute, not cry
Yes, Poison Tree they called it
Then there were these women
Who frolicked under the tree
And made it their own
With glee rubbed its bark
On each others' hands and feet
Lithe, earthen and stark
Those scary Poison Girls
They painted toenails with the purple sap
Sharpened a free tongue
With its twigs
Nymphs who poisoned static rules, turned
Upside down balances small and big
Wiped grime from wars and rage
Searched homes never found
Books with overgrown wild flower pages
Poems head down, as if ploughed
Also caused old wood and fabric
To wilt like filth
Under the purple joy
They still sing
For trees and rhymes
Sing and say oh come,
We aren’t Poison Girls and know
Your false storybooks chime
Of times chipped and gnarled.

These two poems looked good bunched together. I did not want to steal any more picture from the Internet. But "the monk and the layman" photograph is available in Wikipedia as well as in other sites, made famous and copyrighted. I would, for the discerning reader, like to provide a link here to a discussion on the latest book by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai -- "Same-sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History" http://queerindia.blogspot.com/2005/03/gay-historians-ruth-vanita-and-saleem.html. Also, there's a blog on the same by Frog Books publisher Sunil Poolani (http://frogbooks.blogspot.com/2009/02/out-of-closet.html). He is on my blog roll if you scroll down and search on the left-hand column of my blog.


anu said...

you mean, you can't ask the Monk on twitter for a pic? Well, maybe get one when they are here. They are coming to the gorges place aren't they?

fleuve-souterrain said...

Anu, you can see the monk and the layman on the Khajuraho temple wall here:


Phoenixritu said...

And they say same sex love is illegal. They dont know squat shit about our culture do they???

Nice poems

fleuve-souterrain said...

Ritu, sadly the indian law is outdated and heavily influenced by colonial hangups... Khajuraho is not the only place where one finds the past, but also in several texts and paintings... the book I mention above is a new take. Also read Sudhir Kakkar...
Happy you like the work here!

Anonymous said...

stunning... I really loved these poems and I guess the book is worth a read.Have seen the khajuraho pic ..In our culture there are a lot of examples of same sex love .It is not a new thing ..Thanks for sharing Nabina

fleuve-souterrain said...

I surely think the book is a good fresh angle... same-sex love in India is as old as anywhere else in the world but of course Western discourses have shaken up the current scene steeped in Victorian morality and Hindutva pretensions...