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

Monday, December 14, 2009

3 Poems in Unsere Winterreise -- A Danse Macabre Poetic Collaboration

Did you read my poetic takes on Wilhelm Müller and Franz Schubert's grand collection known as Winterreise (Winter Journey) which is a cycle of 24 poems in all?

Well then, rush off to Danse Macabre literary journal to read about this wonderful collaboration between several poets to write along the themes in those 24 pieces.

The themes on which I wrote 3 poems were (harking back to my dear man-river Brahmaputra in Assam; my first snowy winter in the US, and an interesting look at ravens/crows that behave absolutely the same way anywhere in the world... !):

-- Auf dem Flusse (On the Stream)

The river, usually busy and bubbling, is locked in frozen darkness and lies drearily spread out under the ice. He will write her name, and the date of their first meeting, in the ice with a sharp stone. The river is a likeness of his heart: it beats and swells under the hard frozen surface.

The River on a Pyre

Eyeing the Brahmaputra flowing with its whale-body

and the faraway banks smoking

she thought death stood quiet

quietly performing the ritual

of mouth-fire for her own,

the bodies that once talked

laughed and spread guile.

Eyeing the strong-arm river’s sweep of red ripples

carrying unsuspecting dolphins

and last night’s smoky limbs

from the pyres she watched

across her verandah over the

winter’s damp dribble.

She searched out the smell –

ashes in the wind stuck like the stunned river’s pride

the look of a living face smoke-screened in the twilight.

-- Einsamkeit (Loneliness/Solitude)

He wanders along the busy road ungreeted. Why is the sky so calm and the world so bright? Even in the tempest he was not so lonely as this.

Wintered Hourglass

First a feather floats in

does a swirling dance around the lawn

then it drops, softly in my foreign home

one by one

they come to invade

the throbbing serenity

around the little playground, swings and all

knowing kids are asleep, dreaming of riding over white slopes

And they tiptoe, little elves

remind me of the lanky cotton thrashing man who

traversed our hometown streets in summer’s white heat

when called, he set up

a white storm with

cotton for quilts

We loved the magician’s ruse

soft downy puffs flew out

helter-skelter from his old brown gunny bag

with musical whippings he caught hold of each –

one by one

then they swirled and swept

tamed tots

his veined swarthy hands twanged on

The rhythm sang an ode to the floral dance

white and careless, while they dropped

kittens on the loose, all over

the roof, a fidgety fleet

now outside my

lonely doorstep it is all fluffy, full and laden

Wait, the next eager batch rushes in

around the porch, driveway, my little garden seat

they take over the yard

beckon me in this cool shale-

colored noon

where the only music is their descent

they drop float fly

one by one.

-- Die Krähe (The Crow)

A crow has followed him all along the way from the town. Is it waiting for him to die, so that it can eat him? It won't be long, let it keep him company to the end.


Ravens talking in earnest is wondrous

The way they don’t want to share food

And are hyperbolic about their flights

Across fallow farmlands, brown fields

Of spent ammonia, and gassy old bogs.

They have compass heads, curt motions

When they talk, ignoring the mauve sky

Of the thunder-bound clouds over a lawn.

Ravens like a drink or two with a peck

Here and there while the light dances

On their twisty heads, darkening against

A screen of sunset silk with no outlets

For ravens to fly out. So they just spar over

How many worms each of them clinched

Or how long then can keep me company

The ravens talk through my unvoiced gaze.

A familiar sight, but who’ll question them

About melting as silhouettes on our eves –

Not a good thing confronting those beaks.

Ravens herald guests. So for my granny’s sake

I have to wait and watch, although all I see

Them dropping from their mouth’s corners

Is rotten stuff in their callous cawing prose.

Read my friend Priti Aisola's X-mas essay in Danse Macabre here.

And NEWS! I am to be Editor (India) at Danse Macabre, and work to promote the journal's broad international appeal.

Image: River Brahmaputra in Guwahati, Assam; pictures from my computer.

1 comment:

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