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, October 21, 2009

Vanaprastha 2009 - a Poem

"Vanaprastha 2009"

Lenin’s angular profile studies the ceiling’s corner
Raised stiff, suitably elegant and intellectual
Photo-framed on the freedom-sky-blue wall

Lacquer bowls, Russian, with puckered faces not
Able to see their own paint-smeared smooth bellies
In a melee of scores of seashells nestling in them
Short changes from long-ago family holidays

An office union calendar, don’t know who got it
Hangs urgent and fluttery in the semi-spring breeze
Mondays, Sundays, paydays, all days organized well
As in a spreadsheet, boxy dates to enable scribbles
About meetings, reviews and occasional lockouts

My parents did not have the heart to change the TV
The color tube’s a bit busted, spills green more
But the screen beams in Nat Geo & History they watch
In a silent slump from re-painted couches of Assam cane

The brass xorai is not for praying. "True is it, your dad’s a
Red?" A neighborhood uncle had asked me, "doesn’t pray."
Do I know? I also know dad waited with us for prasad
From mom’s puja evenings of camphor, Lakshmi’s calm

That’s her favorite chair, those his books, cobweb
Under curtains long unwashed, my embroidered
Dancers, brother’s rickety racket, the portly phone
Awaiting the ring of our brawls. Where will it all go?

We all laughed, sang, ate and told each other stories here
One of those about this house of memories now on sale.

Images from my computer: "The House of Twining Roses" where I spent my teenage years


anu said...


Tim Buck said...

Nabina, this is superb. I was entranced, just lost in the rhythm and images. And how the subtle melancholy built gradually.

I love the "bit busted, spills green" TV. That's the kind of "electric image" that lights up the bulbs in my head. :)

Oh, I must ask you...about something I seem to notice generally. Something I find quite odd. Atheists seem to be automatically thought of as Reds over yonder. WTH? Can't a non-praying person just be a non-praying person? Why the knee-jerk political angle?

Rumjhum Biswas said...

Very beautiful and evocative poem Nabina. Loved the way it came to a halt in the last two lines. Also made me miss my old home.

@Tim - It's a cultural thing; in India most atheists are left oriented or leftists (leftists/reds are often more well read and intellectual, philosophical as well!). The two go side by side; and the leftist/atheist family member and/or friend will happily accommodate the pious members and friends, often participating in the religious celebrations without praying/being involved in the puja. We are so used to it here, that it never stuck me as odd. So thanks for this perspective. :)

Tim Buck said...

Thank you for the insight, Rumjhum. After considering your remarks, I realize that my "quite odd" is quite odd. Even in the States, most atheists are leftist, left-leaning, or liberal. I suppose I wish that weren't the case. I wish that metaphysical considerations were approached on the intrinsic merits, rather than as an outgrowth of or tangent to political orientation.

I guess the word "Reds" still does strike me as odd, though. "Socialist" maybe, but "Reds"? That hits me as a bit humorous, almost anachronistic. :)

priti aisola said...

I loved each bit of this home and each object that you describe here with affection and an understated sense of loss. The sadness of having to give up a home that has meant the world surfaces towards the end and leaves the reader full of a subdued pain.

priyabrata das said...

This could be one of the best poems I have read. My personal involvement is hardly a factor. The poet herself has rendered ordinary things and events into extraordinary by her easy effort. As for scraps of metaphysical or political things appearing in the appraisal of the poem I can only refer to Paul Lafargue's biography of Marx where you find Marx joking and talking with his small granddaughter like any grand fater of the world.

Anonymous said...

It brought tears to my eyes Nabina. It filled me with echos. My Grandma's home in Pune. The beautiful memories. excellent poem.

Anonymous said...

Wanderful poem. I think only Nabina can write such a poem. Made me nostalgic too.

Rhett said...

Delightful... The primary difference between others and you is that....you know how to write!