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

Friday, July 3, 2009

Finding Foremothers

So, the "2nd National Poetry Festival" took place in Guntur, India, on July 2. And although I am one of the participants -- my work features in the festival anthology as does poet-blogger friend Tikuli Dogra's (http://tikulicious.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/detritus-my-poem-selected-4poetry-fest-anthology/) -- I couldn't go down there. I am in Delhi, but down with what one calls here "Delhi belly"! A friend said, America's softened me, six years of stay... To be frank, we came back to Delhi for the first time in summer in all these years. Well!

So at Guntur, according to the organizers Suseela and Gopichand (both of them English teachers and literature enthusiasts), 100-plus poets were invited from all over India. Must've been a fabulous experience for all who went there.

Here is one of the poems, a personal favorite of mine.

"Finding Foremothers"

This is a day the family sits down
to a dinner for a festival remembering
ancestors they say hover disguised as
birds and animals – on the lawn, on garden boughs.

Is my grandma among the cows?
I knew she was feisty! Maybe
a crow then. And her own mother
was she there too with her broken
teeth and sad robes yellowed with
age in a photograph some gora had
clicked at her rich spouse’s gracious permission?

The sweetened tomato chutney on
my banana leaf plate seeps away like blood
dark dark red, blood of aunts, wives
who cooked and cleaned, sucked
blood from cuts, bore kids and bled till
they stopped; bled in their hearts when widowed and denied.

A few grains of paddy, holy water, forefathers still
flocked outside; on the television a woman wails.
I flip through an old photo album. Sepia, forgotten clutter.

In other news, I am out of the contest. Stuck around for about three rounds I think. But of course, the worthy would carry on the battle whereas I am hoping to hop on to more scintillating stuff! Thanks Kristen McHenry for leaving a comment on my blog, it encourages me a lot! Do keep visiting.
Image from the Internet: women gathered for a party in Bombay, 1910


Anonymous said...

Hi Nabina
Congratulations sweetheart you deserved it. The poem is beautiful It is so visual and I could see the whole family and the birds .. loved the last line "I flip through an old photo album. Sepia, forgotten clutter.":)very apt. Yay!! march on ..lv and hugs

priti aisola said...

Nabina, this is so beautiful, so heartwarming, as Tikuli rightly said, and the subjects you choose are so different from the routine. And the last line - poignant and says so much. The very best for all present and future writing. I have a lot to learn from people like you.

Bhaskar Pitla said...


I liked this one..deserved it place in the anthology. Liked the way u bought out this indian myth playfully without making it too Emo"..its very fresh too.

Thought it was a bit longer..enjoyed it though :)

fleuve-souterrain said...

Tiku, the last line is really the 'beginning' of this poem although I like it the way I placed it! Thanks for the lovely words. I loved ur work to and put a link on this post soon...

Priti, we are lucky to know you and share our work together! thanks!

Bhaskar, so kind of you to drop in. Your comment means a lot here :)

The Wizard said...

Good one!
The poem is beautiful :)

The Wizard said...

Good one!
The poem is beautiful :)

anu said...

Lovely! get better soon.

Tim Buck said...

Hi, Nabina.

Having read this poem several more times, I must report a strange phenomenon. The first time, as I commented on your Facebook page, I was caught up in the imagery and rhythm...and that delicious sense of something alien, of a different culture.

But this evening, each reading of “Finding Foremothers” was like an emotional “photographic negative” coming gradually into sharper focus. Each time, the art receded somewhat into a background layer. And the psychological elements came more into view. I feel that I failed as a reader, not to have been more sensitive to this passionate, soulful aspect, when I first took in the poem.

Now, an understated bitterness moves amid the rhythmic and the picturesque processes driving the lines. A bitterness subtly fused with melancholy. The weight of patriarchal centuries presses down on the speaker, and she must push through the entropy and must resist acquiescing in fatalism. She attacks the unjust past with irony. And irony occasionally turns to sarcasm, when confronted with angering waste. Two metaphors surge at just the right spacing to keep the poem charged and pulsing with artistic energy: “sad robe yellowed with / age” and “seeps away like blood /dark dark red”.

Thank you for making this poem.


jayshri said...

i just loved the humorous imagery.. can u edit this very poe fo r my nagaland audience needs?helpp i need humour coming from NE not grim stuff..

tanuj solanki said...

extremely well written... I am delighted upon reading this...

the gora taking the photograph and the ending with the Sepia quip are priceless!

Rhett said...

I like the idea of the poem which is age-old and fabulous. But the execution I didn't like... somehow... I think the poem should have been better... longer may be.

santre said...

Nabina, loved some of your poems. Would request you to visit www.sanjaytrehan.com to see some of my poems. Would really appreciate your feedback. Thanks.