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, September 30, 2009

Reading at Poetry & Pastry, an Evening of Near Eastern, Mediterranean and Ithacan Poetry

The poetry reading at Poetry & Pastry, an Evening of Near Eastern, Mediterranean and Ithacan Poetry at Cornell University on Sept. 29, went off very well. I read quite nicely despite my initial nervousness. The Guerlac Room at A D White House was full chock-a-block! Here are some pics.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Translations of "Moonlore..." and "Wasafiri" into Bengali and Assamese

These are the Assamese and Bengali poems, translations I did recently, that I'm going to read at a small poetry gathering to be held in Cornell University on the 29th of this month. The Bengali one is a translation of "MOONLORE FROM THE EAST", first published in The Toronto Quarterly. The Assamese one is a translation of "WASAFIRI", first published in Muse India.

These are scanned images, hopefully clear. My handwriting is pathetic of course!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Years With Rabindranath Tagore

Activist and poet Dustin Brookshire's Project Verse gave us this assignment in the initial round -- "your first poet". This was my contribution, tell me about yours:

My Years With Rabindranath Tagore

Little Boy Courage. The Old Banyan tree.

You came to me Rabindranath
(tough name for a kid)
as playmate Rabi

On a horseback through our
childish woods of romance
mixing the monsoon rains with tunes
of leaf floats making off to the Seven Seas
between homework of grammar and spelling.

Here, Rabi, hold my hand
write that stanza
I’d read even years later
for every year the drummers are out
(still underpaid, they now sell
fake branded accessories)
teasing absent-minded autumn clouds.

Tall palm with winged-desire. Camelia my Girl.

So who said he wore a solemn beard?
Not on my book cover!
Duping the elders we must remain green –
exactly the way he called out:
My little greens, my little young shoots
and those lines are still the first to ring
the way it once did
candle-blowing sleepiness on
a power-outed summer night.

Reading Tagore in bed, living inside
the crumpled book leaves
I frolicked with my playmate Rabi
soared above static and din
(father loved Tchaikovsky
on old Radio Moscow)
also cried when
the Pilgrims drowned at sea.

Here, Rabi, take this line
let my first eyes remember that time

A drop of water. The leaf shivers.

Image from the Internet: Tagore and Einstein

Sunday, September 20, 2009

inside the body of the verse - a Poem

A poem from a set of 5 words -- "zany, velvet, debonair, limp, & exculpate". Activist and poet Dustin Brookshire's Project Verse, now reaching its end, is where I first wrote it. Here's mine, write yours!

inside the body of the verse

Bring, the velvet and the
Mousse of your hands, tell
My verse yes we are
In love with this body
Yours and mine, with our
Zany nights that jerked off
Emotions and plights

Hold, just hold tight on
To the limpness of rhymes
Before we arouse slowly again
This turn of flaccid limbs
Your flourish into the dawn
My frenzy hay-rolled just
As in old-fashioned silver-
Screen tales of our body
Our verse so debonair

Give, give me that strophe
Stroked by your lips and set afire
This song of Moulin Rouge
The body of phones in sweet pangs

Say, just whisper into my ears that
You exculpate this ecstasy spent, so
Free from glare, you and I can curl
Up in pleasure and love the words
Off pages growing on our chests.

Comments/suggestions/critique welcome!

Image from the Internet

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bollywood Belief System - "New York"

I watch films and read books mostly when the euphoria and the spate of reviews are over. And I watch Bollywood too, because those creations are sometimes useful to see how certain belief systems work, to my surprise or chagrin.

One such recent view was New York (2009).

Two things:

1. Suddenly Bollywood's "overseas" interests have started including the 9/11 commentary, after these many years have passed. While New York seems incapable of any analyses about 9/11 as an event in history, the Naseeruddin Shah-directed "Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota (2006)" presented a deeper psychological insight into the people who might have unfortunately been caught in 9/11's turbulence. New York simply seems to be another chance to shoot in New York City, with the campus scenes resembling Chapel Hill (how quaint we never see such flora and fauna in a "state university" in New York) and the cobbled city streets incorporated from some Upstate town topography perhaps...!

2. In New York, Muslims take charge of their own "involvement" or "implication" in 9/11. This has become such a popular notion with the Hindu, upper-caste, middle-class majority (why blame the rightwing?), as pointed out by M. They should, it is argued eloquently, sort out their "own mess". Even a well-known newspaper editor went on to argue recently how secular, liberal Hindus can no longer defend the credentials of the Muslims. And so on and so forth for Dalits, Tribals, and the "others", following a similar logic. Reminds me of Martin Niemöller's lines!

Postscript: In the very last portion of New York, the 'self-absolved' Muslims (the government-appointed one who has helped terrorists see the path of nonviolence and 'we-are-globalized-type oneness' through his own experience of interrogation, torture, and killing, and the independent one who had probably seen the path, but couldn't quite get on to the globalization fast track fast enough because his girl was taken away, because he had to kill, etc.) keep fawning upon the orphan kid (the dead terrorist's child) as the "new Muslim" kid laden with virtues like love for eating pasta, excelling in American football, tolerance etc. Made me laugh. Where did Bollywood get the notion that this "breed" is breeding only NOW, after thorough 'self-absolving' by the older offenders? Talk about belief systems and a sense of historicity!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Poems in Mascara Literary Review

Australian journal Mascara Literary Review has published two of my poems in its latest edition in a section titled NEW WORLDS. You can read the poems ALEPH and LIVING ROOM HOMILY here: Nabina Das

NEW WORLDS is a new section to showcase writers from the "neo-antipodes and diasporas".

Editor Michelle Cahill writes in one e-mail:

"We are really delighted to be publishing your fine work in Mascara Literary Review. It will be as part of a section titled "New Worlds", featuring work from the states/northern hemisphere."

and in the other:

"Your poems are wonderful. Do keep in contact. You may wish to consider writing a review in future."

In the main Poetry section, there is my favorite Indian poet Keki N Daruwalla's poems and Sukrita Paul Kumar's work as well. Really feels good to be in Keki's company! My friend on Facebook, Anuradha Vijayakrishnan's excellent poetry is also there.

I love ALEPH and so let me reproduce it here too:


The first sound uttered is always forgotten
Possibly it is never even a word. Just
An interjection that derives from faraway
Fears or an anxious rhythm of speech.
The first sound can be heard quite clear
When groans and grunts are taken care
Of with mighty sweep of authorized
Hands that also stifle songs and smiles.
If you were a baby or a doddering pair
Of legs, your first word would be despair
Not a calligrapher’s delight in dusky ink
Blinking away in the heliotrope night.

In one little fable the first letter was
Meant to be the first word of wonder
But no one wrote it down and so later
The ocean took it with fish and dead matter.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Danse Macabre journal has my review of Yuyutsu Sharma's collection ANNAPURNA POEMS in its latest Totentanze issue.

So, entrée à Danse Macabre and read the review at Trek with the Buddha Bard or at Nabina DAS where you can also read my response poem "THE QUATAQUATANTANKUA" and enjoy the art by Tyson Schroeder, reproduced here.

You can find some of my other work that appeared in Danse Macabre earlier at DM 23 Une Nuit à l'Opéra.

Mnemosyne Lit Zine Features My Poems, Q&A for Extra Fun

Jen Pezzo-Kerowyn Rose's *Mnemosyne* Literary Journal is a cool place to meet emerging and well known writers and read their work. Jen and her co-editor Christina Brooks recently featured some of my poems you can find on http://mnemosynepoetica.blogspot.com/2009/09/nabina-dass-feature-links.html.

The featured days were:
Day 1: Intro / Bio / Poem: "The First Apple Sings a Ruba’i"
Day 2: Poem: "Othello's Path" / Interview Question: "When did you first have an interest in poetry?"
Day 3: Poem: "Moonlore from the East" / Short Q&A
Day 4: Poem: "A Few Things of Consideration" / Short Q&A
Day 5: Poem: "Finding Foremothers" / Short Q&A
Day 6: Interview Questions for Nabina by Tim Buck

I enjoyed every bit of my exposure and interaction on Mnemosyne, made good friends and read wonderful writers. Check out *Mnemosyne* Literary Journal