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, November 20, 2009

PARISCOPE -- a 2-part 'city' essay in Troubadour 21

My 2-part essay PARISCOPE is published in "Troubadour 21". Click on the post title or on "PARISCOPE" to read.

Here's a sneak peek:

The Notre Dame looks proudly clean in the summer sun of 2006. The rose window stares at us with a Da Vinci Code wink.
We have just finished learning how to make a baguette inside one of the tents that dot the precincts. This is the Notre Dame fair, unleashing midway on and has kids and adults yelling at each other in French. Of course, this is Paris. A
two-toned pavement, the city elongates and vagabonds with our bohemian tastes.
My partner counts the concrete blocks, I mentally color those that seem plain.
An hour ago, while I rolled the dough, the baguette-master (that’s what I name
him) urged me to fist the plump white elastic form hard, even harder. His
rambunctious “Allez-y” had already allayed my fear that I would remain
forever uneducated in bread-making skills, es
pecially, of this kind."

and from

I tell her goodbye at the turn of Canon de la Nation. Folks still eat there at 11.30 p.m. Mint tea pours to tingles and trickles. Granny’s golden-white hair and the pup’s coat match, tells the light.

“Say ‘bye’, come on, say it Kiki! Give her your bises!”

The whiskered one doesn’t, instead she whimpers. It is too late for her on the road, so what we remain night walkers. It is another night that has crescented over the road."

As far as writing is concerned, the essays came up rather fast but they had been cooking inside my head for a very long time. I have written a few "Delhi" and "Upstate" essays under my proposed CITY series. "Paris" was a pretty logical punctuation in that bunch. So far, two parts. More might be added later, we'll see.

Images from my Paris album: Notre Dame cathedral fair; SIDA rally at Bastille; at Cafe Kleber in Bir Hakeim

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Message Tree- a Poem Inspired by "Ijaazat"

The November 09 issue of Muse India is out. My poem "THE MESSAGE TREE" is published in the special Hindi/Urdu Literary Cultures section. Do take a look, click on the title of the poem (or the post title)!

Sukrita Paul Kumar, the editor of this special section, writes:

"…Thus the focus on Hindi-Urdu in this issue of Muse India. The continuum of the beautiful attraction between the two justifies the ongoing debate on the kind of relatedness Hindi and Urdu have. Their origin and development, the quarrels between them as much as their marriage engage the attention of many a scholar. In this issue therefore, we chose to offer also a glimpse of this debate. Writers, translators and scholars working in these languages often discuss this ever-engaging subject.


And, Nabina Das is motivated to write poetry thanks to her reading of Hindi and Urdu poetry. Bollywood plays a big role in popularizing the Hindi-Urdu-Hindustani language across the country and abroad. Don't we, the people, speak in reality that very language, and not Sanskritized high Hindi or highly Persianized Urdu?"


Well, now, if you still haven't read the new poem here it is:

(From a series inspired by Hindi/Urdu poetry and 'Bollywood' movie songs.)

The Message Tree

You'd passed on some words to me that
quickly got splayed on sunny clotheslines
washed crispy clean like new handkerchiefs
stiff at first, starchy, then sudden wind floats

kites that were eyes, your eyes.

I tied words around your wrist, threads from
archaic ceremonies, unknowing how I tied
up nerves in jasmine bunches hanging over
our garden shades as you casually chewed
sugarcane sticks taking back lost letters or
words that meant a new beginning for us
Our love story was like growing up in a
house with no telephones just soft knocks
true, I had a home like that far away from
glossy shop magazines, no sudden ringing
tones of familiarity that jolted my listless-
ness when I rested under a pool of sleep

tasting sweat with my swoon.

Look, I've grown branches now like it
happened in a Bollywood tale once upon
a time! I'm a message tree, my twigs just
hang where white post-its make a beeline
at the showroom flat-screen that belches out a
song and we dance around the message
tree talking in un-said tones.

Image from the Internet: movie poster of IJAAZAT (permission)