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, May 27, 2009

In The Eye Of The Storm-Kolkata post

Here I am in Kolkata. In the month of May. Sizzling heat, 90-100F, wrapping me up in its belly. The beast is merciless in its radiating 'hotness' but kind in its lack of discrimination. The sky is clear after a massive cyclone that hit the state of West Bengal a couple of days ago, one of its kind to occur in the last 3o years apparently. The aftermath is soothing in terms of life resuming in all spheres -- vendors, officegoers, students, daily workers, businesspeople back out in their bikes, rickshaws, cars, buses, et al -- but very unnerving when I look around to see there are swathes of neighborhoods without electricity, water and other essential services.

Last night as we came down by the efficient Kolkata Metro from Park Street to Tollygunge, the air seemed rife with discontent on the road outside . Taxis, autorickshaws and cycle rickshaws were disgruntled about the fact that roads ahead were jammed by angry residents, shopkeepers and random well wishers. How long could one live without essential services? And why won't then different modes of public transport charge triple the amount from route passengers? In this melee, the buses looked like ripped open sardine cans, human hands, legs and heads hanging rather graphically from the bare wooden windows and footboards. But the faces were alive.

I was not witnessing any uprising of any kind. No revolution or battle rally. A simple flare-up based around inconveniences that occur on and off around public life here. Some times it is the unique cyclone. At other times it is real political barricades, power line tripping, summer blind rage, monsoon's expected torrents or rare miscreants upsetting the public system. But no one raised their voices beyond a tolerable decibel. No one touched anyone around the collar or pushed and jostled. The aggrieved addressed the perceived privileged as sirs and madams. Only eye brows twitched and lips got pursed. Sweat streamed under shirts and saris but no one uttered one foul word. Women and kids were quickly allowed to cross all protest protocol and moved to calmer zones.

My ties with Kolkata are old, very old. Right from the days of my families' ancestors. Some of them studied here, practised as lawyers, did politics, were even born here, etc. I am not too fond of the title City of Joy for Kolkata. There is too much pain, sweat and daily struggle here that I don't want to eulogize and much less endure myself if I have to live here. In the word of poet Nirendranath Chakravarti (b. 1924, http://india.poetryinternationalweb.org/piw_cms/cms/cms_module/index.php?obj_id=11156)
however, Kolkata has evoked rhythms in my heart every time I visited it, some times jarring and cacophonous and quite often, a raga melody hankering after the sweet sadness of losing something:

Estrangement, and

[1]There’s moss a little below
the surface of the water,
you can see it if you lean just a
but she doesn’t care to, she’s sent
her gaze off
in search of the red rose.
I watch, from dawn to dusk I watch
how like estranged love and
longing it keeps moving endlessly,
the water moss. (read the rest from the link above...)

Having lived in the US for seven years now, was I surprised at the above incidents? Why do I then blog about this? No answer really, but something compelled me to record this. Red Communist flags of the ruling state administration and tricolor grass motifs of the recently victorious Trinamool (grassroots) Congress fluttered around shop tops made of sooty tarp or tin. But no one seemed interested in a party-based blame game really. All that was registered was protest. Peaceful and persuasive. Despite the summer heat and remnants of the furious cyclone strewn about.

What we, those alien to the system or a visitor after a long time, would categorize as madness had a method of human quotient that I would probably not witness in ordinary circumstances gone awry even in most countries I have visited in Europe or America.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Arisen of Wood

Arisen of Wood

I walk this road with you Mausam
in hot cold weather the same route bus
covering our heads with the dupatta
yours purple mine night queen pale
and through the sheer spidery weaves
we look at each other Mausam, quick
I stop by Mehrauli's seam to quench my
thirst after summer's sudden squall
dust in our eyes; you too stop Mausam
point with your frangipani fingers at
pale lemons the nimbupani man cores
we sip almost together at an even pace
embarrassed at the last glottal sips we
draw, look at each other, my bindi alight
your jhumkas nestling shy by the cheeks
Mausam were you scared my brother
wore a saffron-red bandanna of faith
your cousin guarded the green mosque
while we both shivered under cries
Did you notice Mausam we both held
only prayers in our hands, right when
our homes became fireballs our bodies plain wood

-- Nabina Das

Image from the Internet: Changing Times; painting by Arpana Caur

Monday, May 18, 2009

Guntur National Poetry Festival, Quay journal, Liberated Muse Anthology

Poetry Festival, Guntur
Some poetry news. Had submitted two poems for a poetry festival to be held in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. "Finding Foremothers" is one of them. The other was "Europe" but I had to withdraw it realizing there might be a copyright problem. I had submitted EUROPE elsewhere having renamed it "Outsiders". Anyway, since the Guntur folks were kind enough to accommodate my late realization and the subsequent request, I sent off a replacement poem titled "When Langston Hughes Visited My Home".

The festival people actually really deserve my thanks. The festival anthology apparently was already over in the press and they made special arrangements to include the changes. Thanks to Nagasuseela and Gopichand for this gesture.

I am invited to Guntur for the festival where the anthology will be released on July 2. And participating poets are to read their work. But still thinking whether I can make it. I am traveling to Kolkata and Guwahati to see family and then come back to Delhi in mid-June. Thereafter I have some other engagements in Delhi. So, we'll see about Guntur. But indeed what a nice thing to be invited there and if I cannot go, I sure will miss meeting several good poets.

Blogger-poet friend Tikuli Dogra is invited to the festival as her poems have also been accepted for the anthology. Congrats Tiku!

Ruba'i in Quay

Quay journal of poetry and arts published from Texas has been delayed a couple of months. Karen Terry, their poetry editor, wrote saying they are ready to go to press. She sent me the galley proof of my THE FIRST APPLE SINGS A RUBA'I, which I sent off promptly after checking. Hope to see Quay soon.

Liberated Muse anthology

Another delayed project has been the "Free Your Soul" anthology from the Liberated Muse Productions, Washington DC. Three poems of mine -- CHAKRA WALKING; RELEASING RITES BY WATER and AN IMMIGRANT'S TUNE are going to be featured there. Khadijah Ali-Coleman, editor and coordinator of the project announced recently that finally the stage is all set for its release in a program marked my reading and performance of poetry and music by artists.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Now look at the results of the General election in India. None of the media pundits, psephologists (sound they are constipated) or hobnobbists (my term) managed to predict close to even a fraction of an inch of what the results are. i won't cite links here. Just google up and/or read BBC even.

Manmohan is the man. Advani has no advantage. Maya is dismayed. The Left is left huffing and puffing especially in Bengal. Darn! Who knew the UPA will have such a victory. Lanslide is an old word. It is Lord of the Rings all the way for Congress.

I'm blogging nothing practically because I'm traveling. Haven't written any poetry either. Have poetry news though and will post later.

What do the people of India say? Pretension is harmful to your stomach. Because those who suffered losses in these polls gotta stomach a lot.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May cross-post: Tanuj Solanki

So, after all the merry madness of the poem-a-day April has settled down and now that we are May-ing, I continue with my cross-posting of blogger friends' works. For May it is Tanuj Solanki, IIM Grad student '09, Ahmedabad, India. Poet, blogger and to me a dreamer, this is what he says:

"That is the thing with poems;
they grow on a conscience,
like a fungus,
as children"

The poem I am showcasing here, and the rest are equally good, for you to read is:

' Missing Us'

Andy Warhol paintings
Jewish cookies (or something else)
Crépes with chestnut cream
21° Celsius
Chablis with friends

Online amateur poetry
Priyagold biscuits
Dal with chawal and dahi
42° Celsius
Spurious daaru with morons

I tell her how much I care--

'Did you put that eyedrop in sweetheart?

Do you have a good mood?'
When all I think is--

'Now love, tell me how to live.'


Read also WHY PARIS (http://dotcommedtanuj.blogspot.com/2009/04/why-paris.html)

"But we don't know Paris
its towers and arcs of us unaware
the ladies and the museums without our stare."

and SMILING SLEEPS (http://dotcommedtanuj.blogspot.com/2009/02/smiling-sleeps.html)

For the whole haul go to TS' blog Sense

Sunday, May 3, 2009

3 Poems of Irreverence in DANSE MACABRE

Nevada's first online literary magazine DANSE MACABRE is a cool watering hole (that's a redundant expression, right?) to quench your reading thirst. Diverse writers, sparkling writing and embedded music ... so what else! Editor Adam Henry Carriere, a poet himself, shows how literature and music joins "the South Side of Chicago to Italy's Adriatic Coast, Southern California to Beijing's Arts District; from across the great state of Nevada to Great Britain, Mexico's Pacific Coast, and incredible India;..."

I am so darn pleased to be a part of the zine for the May issue "Danse Macabre XXIII -- une nuit à l'opéra".

Read my 3 Poems of Irreverence (...It’s Showtime Now; ...Writing Vaudeville; ...A Few Things of Consideration )

Check out the embedded music at:


I know you will go and read but in any case, here's one of the "3 poems of irreverence":

...It’s Showtime Now

You mustn’t worry whether the weather
Is fine or muggy in our cities these days
We’ll be inside the box, special seats
The Stateroom all to ourselves, we can
Sing in abandon in Jacques Brel‘s voice
No wonder I hear people discuss Le Gaz
And this all when we can all have fun in a
Bunch, say yay to Hercule Yakko while
Crowding above our pothole of jibes and
Cramming into neighbors’ shoes spilling
Ammonia with love, only love, but wait!
Will someone say we wanted to spoil the
Fun? No, not when we sing and chant: Take
Me Out To The Ballgame! The rest will
Follow your imagination, call it chaos or
Disdain, it’s never too crowded to catch a sham.

Image borrowed from DANSE MACABRE (http://dansemacabre.art.officelive.com/default.aspx)