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

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Conversation With a Woodchuck

he was this goo-green or perhaps it was my imagination because I saw him glide over a gherkin-green lawn with that uncanny shadow cast overhead from an eager cloud not so eager to participate in our conversation
I said hello to my furry friend who was not in a hurry and closed in while he examined my not so woodchuck-like face, which was neither-bird-nor-ant – not ants that crawled very close on the belly of the earth, close enough for him to sniff them whenever there was a shifting sunlight that took all of us from place to place in search of food fuel shelter or things like warm hands or soothing sights – my face
not bird-like because I had stopped shaping my mouth into a beak since long and cooed lesser than usual for I was distraught that winter could still creep in soon like army ants on their strong bellies and shove me indoors
only, I’d stay inside my hay-baled walls, he residing beneath the floorboards of my snap-together pre-fabricated housing unit. Truthfully enough, we had already spent some winters together, I baking my potatoes in a smelly electric oven cautiously dripping drops of olive oil on their curled up skins while he (possibly) enjoying the aroma and munching on seeds he stole the previous spring from my fancy plastic lantern porch bird feeder
no, that’s fine, I tell him I’m not upset because the seeds are taken by you dear woodchuck and are not in the bellies of fickle-minded birds who might have considered hunting grasshoppers by the creek. Of course, the grasshoppers were all extinct because some grass got pulled out by mistake with the predator weed this last summer when school kids invaded the creek
the woodchuck smooths his coat counts his furs while listening to me, nodding and smiling like an otter that eyes flighty fish in front of him, sleepy sunlight shining like rare fish in this hemisphere where we were still allowed to run about for it really was spring
if you wish, do come and sun your back on my porch I tell him because I too am interested in counting his pollen-like furs or the number of times his tail flaps. No I’m fine he says, living beneath your wooden floor during my off hours, he assures me, although your invitation is tempting… he thinks, then
see, right now I’m coiling inside your half-open and unused cauldron of a barbecue grill, rubbing my back on charcoal remnants and eyeing an interfering chickadee that got off the group in order to put a tab on me. I’m showing her my gooey back – oh now you may think it is goo-like with all that charcoal soot – and waiting for her to know I prefer my own company
well, I am so happy, I say. You and I to that effect can now roll on the ground and sniff the grass and tell the world we’re talking, talking, in between I’m throwing sunflower seeds in my mouth as well as towards you. We are talking woodchuck, although I don’t speak in bird trill or have antennas like communicative restless ants. I do understand though that all we love is a pizza-hot sun and blowing away of the dandelion flakes that get inside our nostrils making us both sneezy, and now we’re talking … Yes, we are talking, we are, says the woodchuck, turns his snoozy belly up to the warmth dripping like syrup from the afternoon sky, waiting for me to throw him the sunflowers seeds and roll over to sleep with the words while I keep throwing words towards him on the lawn … one two three.

(poem in progress... Visual from the Internet, LT Cartoons)


priti aisola said...

Extremely well written!

fleuve-souterrain said...

thank you! I am sure the woodchuck philosophy has a lot to teach us! This is a poem still evolving...
How are you? Feeling better Priti?