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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

CITYSPEAK -- a Poem (for once I thought I became a city!)

This was my last contribution to poet and activist Dustin Brookshire's Project Verse. Something that I wrote in a tearing hurry between power outages and a summer of 100 F + heat outside in Delhi. While I sweltered and wrote, my mind went back to New York and Chicago, mostly experienced in cooler climes :), and what they appeared to my not-too-accustomed eyes in relation to my six years of residence in the US. Actually I cheated a bit. This poem is written from a sketchy draft I already had in my mind, had probably even written down somewhere... I just resurrected it. The exercise was about metaphors and similes.

Why is the speaker a city? Why is there reference to cities as siblings? You tell me. I'm an unabashed city-lover and dweller so my opinion may be biased! Here is the poem:


I didn’t have half brothers or sisters, now I do

Siblings in angst, about who grew up faster, smarter.

Macadamized heartbeats, belching, lying in the sun

bristling in the smog of hyperventilating rush hours

toenails curled inwards. That’s how we are.

Brother Chicago, from my labyrinth of freeways

I’ve seen your billboards flashing its psychedelic lure

your finger slow-motioning from the cloud tops

entwining me to your belly button deep and bright.

Your other brother or sister – that gushy half-sibling

New York is Woody Allen. Worried, glib! It arcs

a sharp tongue across Manhattan’s cacophony

rips off the rootedness of our shared metro mangrove.

Laying with its jaunty back of a brooding T-rex

Chicago squints at the waterside, not ready to budge

polishes its towering whiskers – unperturbed even in the snow.

New York slams me for calling out its name

for even thinking I could write these words –

its skyline a lost ship that hopes someone will come

anchor in its teenaged grudge. Well, let it gnaw!

Listen two cities. Don’t tell Kafka, I’ve turned into a city

unyielding, aching and stymied. Forever looking inside.

A silently gregarious square tucked into my seams.

Image from my computer: Downtown Chicago


Tim Buck said...

Nabina! I like this. It is good. It is dandy and sort of fun (can serious poetry be fun?). I like all of it, but the NY stuff jumps out. This is marvelous! --

New York slams me for calling out its name
for even thinking I could write these words –
its skyline a lost ship that hopes someone will come
anchor in its teenaged grudge. Well, let it gnaw!

And any poem that name drops Kafka is A-OK in my book! :)

fleuve-souterrain said...

hey thanks Tim!
I had a feeling you'd like it although you seem like a far-from-the-maddening-cities type of person :)... but the best one to understand my city 'angst'! The ciritque tha tI got on this poem elsewhere is why Chicago and NYC? Why not SFO and NYC or Chicago and SFO or LA or NYC.... sort of thing. That's all redundant. What matters to me is this is how I related to 2 big metros I've experiences a little more than the other ones, and got them entrenched in my system a bit. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Though I don't know much about the city of NY but I loved the poem. Guess I can share and move with your feelings and be one at times. cities fill you up with so many different emotions ..I am tempted to write one too .. excellent .

denny hoffman said...

Beutifully done Nabina. Thank you for bing my Friend and inviting me to read your wonderful poetry. Hopefully we share many more poetic moments to come - dammit.

fleuve-souterrain said...

@Tiku... thanks dear friend! Every city is so unique whatever continent they are in...

@Denny -- very very glad to have your here. Yes, more to poetry and friendship!