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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Blogger Friends' Haikus from 2008

Last year, not too long ago, I was dabbling in Haikus, that poetic form much tossed around in elite poetic circles! The responses I received absolutely overwhelmed me with their beautiful thoughts and humor. So, 2009, in my opinion, should see these poetic gifts that 2008 got... Here they are:

Rhett said...
Winds wail high and low
It rains like no tomorrow
Nature puts such a show!

Ritu said...
Yeah she's in love with me
Now she is, Now she isn't
Adolescent Romance!!!!

tikulicious said...
crows they fly in the sky
like pieces of black charred paper
drifting from a fire

Too much to lose said...
The spring came,
Colors so bright.
A mortal's end.

tanuj solanki said...
Hot and humid weather
makes you sweat and me sweat
And a picture melts

Mys Lyke Meeh said...
red petals fallen
and the wind whistles.
It landed in my garden.

anu said... trickling words
gnawing at worlds morning
birdsong for all or just me

Note: "Roger's haikus" are already in a separate post I had put up earlier.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tikuli Dogra's Blog: Intimate Betrayal...

It's a pleasure starting my cross-posting venture with Tikuli Dogra's blogpost "Intimate Betrayal... The Untold Trauma"
(http://tikulicious.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/intimate-betrayal-…the-untold-trauma/?the-untold-trauma/). The topic of marital rape is relevant for all times and all places, and gets little attention though.

She writes: "I had wanted to take up the issue of Marital rape for a long time now .The movie DAMAN by Kalpana Lajmi where Raveena Tondon plays the role of a marital rape victim, made me write about this heinous crime against women."

Read more by clicking on the post title or the link above.

Tikuli blogs at http://tikulicious.wordpress.com/ as tikulicious. Do check out her poems and other articles.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cross-posts from Blogger Friends

I have earlier cross-posted poet Joy Leftow's work on my blog (and would love to do some more...). Now, apart from poetry, quite a few of my blogger friends write wonderful commentaries, essays, stories and memoir pieces. So I thought of doing this exciting thing in 2009 -- post my friends' blogs, anything they consider important or special, on my blog with a link to Facebook (for those of you who are on my Facebook contacts list). I'll be starting with Tikuli Dogra who writes poems, stories, and articles on parenting/travel/nature/social issues. Monday evening, Eastern Time, Tikuli's post will be there to read. I am excited. Aren't you all? See ya Monday then!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Presidential Poet

Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander became the fourth poet ever to be commissioned to write and recite a poem for the American Presidential inauguration on January 20, 2009, when Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in. New York Times has this:

The following is a transcript of the inaugural poem recited by Elizabeth Alexander, as provided by CQ transcriptions.

"Praise song for the day"

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."
We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Read her bio and a few poems at http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/245

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Narcissism, Blogging and a (not-fainthearted) Resolution for 09

What have I been writing in this blog mainly? Pretty self-centric stuff, I admit. Then, what's wrong in that? Nothing. But it's true, I also wanted to write more about other issues than my own life and writing, and post more of other's works of which I've done just a little bit. Okay, no handwringing though. 2008 is over and 2009 marches on breathlessly. And I'm not the one to wallow in self-pity or whatever. I am angry about the Mumbai terror attacks, the bomb blasts in my homestate of Assam in northeastern India, and also about the reckless plundering of the Palestinian territory by Israel (the "only democracy in the middle east"? Ha!). I am worried about my parents' failing health, about getting jobs for us whether in the US or in India (need money to eat, right?), about whether Obama as the new US President will become a magic wand at all for the world's agonies, about the environment, hunger and other age-old stuff like the blunders of Capitalism that don't go away unless we work in an organized manner to keep these at bay.

I am also happy. I made new friends who give me courage; around me I have motivated people of all ages who motivate me no end, and the world is still a lovely place with its offer of love (platonic or otherwise!), trust and bonding. On a narcissistic note, I've been published in quite a few North American and Indian journals -- more poetry, a bit of fiction. This gives hope that I can get what I want. So, it might interest my blog readers to recap that:

In 2008 I have read my poetry at CSMA gallery, Ithaca, with former Tompkins County poet laureate Katharyn Machan. Probably I'll read again on January 24. I have been featured on the sites "And So I Sing: Poems and Assorted Flotsam: http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.com/2008/09/my-poem-vertical-footholds.html", "Poets who blog: http://poetswhoblog.blogspot.com/", "Birthdays of Poets: http://birthdaysofpoets.blogspot.com/" http://www.blogger.com/www.sulekha.com, and "Joy's Poetry Blog: http://joyleftowsblog.blogspot.com/" and my credits have appeared on Flor Del Concreto: http://flordelconcreto.blogspot.com/". Search by my name. Ooh, so much for self-love!

I have to thank some special people for all the help and encouragement they have lent me, sometime even without their own knowing: Joy Leftow, DubbleX, Roxanne Hoffman, Bernard Alain, Debra Castillo, Ted Wheeler, Rati Saxena, Eileen Moeller, Abhinav Maurya, John Burroughs, Farahdeen Khan, Roger DuPuis II, Tikuli Dogra, Ritu Lalit, Meena Kandasamy, Tanuj Solanki, Rhett, TMTL, Arvind Joshi, Gulnaz Sheikh, Mukti Lakhi, Aniket Alam, Sunita Bhadauria, Andrew Christ, Katharyn Machan, Anu Pujar, Parsa Venkateshwara Rao Jr, Don Coorough, Sara Marie, Subir Ghosh, Mary Gilliland, Laurie Stone, Sunil Poolani, Priti Aisola, Visi Tilak, Poonam Tanmayo, and of course my family.

Coming back to the world around, my resolution this year is to listen more, understand better and celebrate creativity from all quarters. Also, blog more meaningfully, an old promise. If I've forgotten someone or something, please remind me, please.

Monday, January 12, 2009


MUSE INDIA journal is a great reading for poetry, fiction and commentary from writers living in India and elsewhere. Reading it for some time now, I was glad to be finally a part of this excellent lit zine published from Hyderabad. In fact, when GSP Surya Rao solicited contribution for the Diaspora section of Muse India, I was absolutely delighted!

My poems "WASAFIRI", "TWO GARDENS IN TWO HEMISPHERES", "ALL SOULS SAVED", and "ANOTHER EVENING" are featured in the Issue 23, Jan-Feb 2009 edition of Muse India. Read them at: http://www.museindia.com/showfeature12.asp?id=1141 or Das, Nabina

Diaspora section editor Usha Akella writes: "I am hugely delighted to share with you the poems of Ravi Shankar, Reetika Vazirani, Ralph Nazareth, Pramila Venkateswaran, Soham Patel, Saleem Peeradina, Pireeni Sundaralingam, Meena Alexander, Goutam Datta, Kazim Ali, Ro Gunetilleke , Nabina Das and Rajarshi Singh. (For various reasons, I was unable to include the work of Vijay Seshadri, Prageeta Sharma, Sana Mulji Dutt, Amitava Kumar and Agha Shahid Ali which to me would have rendered this issue 'complete.')" Read the full editorial at http://www.museindia.com/showfeature12.asp?id=1137 or Editorial Comment: Usha Akella.

Also, my friend Priti Aisola's fiction can be read at Aisola, Priti. Priti's fiction is an excerpt from her to-be-published novel by Penguin some time this year.

London-based Biman Mullick's graphic art from his “Ragamala” series depicting Indian musicians and musical instruments, rendered by him over a span of 4 decades, adorns several pages of this issue's Muse India. Check this issue out!
Photo from Internet (I chose Manhattan because my poem "Wasafiri" refers to that place...)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Being featured in The CSR's poetry forum with The Ink Blot

My poem "in Perspective" is in the spotlight on The Cartier Street Review's poetry forum with The Ink Blot.

Editor Bernard Alain writes: "The latest edition of the review is out, features Nabina Das in the spotlight. The review has merged with The Ink Blot poetry forum to create a more dynamic element to the site. Please check it out here.
Also, click on top left hand corner under the CSR logo "page 2" where two more of my poems "A Town in Catskills Summer" and "Essence of Exhibits" are featured alongside two of my favorite poets Dubblex and Joy Leftow. Scroll down for Editor Bernard Alain's poem, it's a lovely one (http://thecartierstreetreview.blogspot.com/2009/01/january-2009-page-2_02.html).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My poetry commentary in Kritya

Kritya poetry journal (www.kritya.in) has published my poetry commentary in its current issue. Not meant to be any erudite analysis, the writeup touches on my take on poetry emanating from simple observations. Also, my notes on Tagore and Ryan is purely incidental. There is so much more -- and so many more poets -- I could perhaps come back and talk about on this theme alone... For those who might want to read it right here, the article is pasted below:

Poetry As Observation: From Notes to Lyrical Creation(http://kritya.in/0408/En/name_of_poetry.html)

It is tough writing about poetry. Our understanding about poetry is diverse and always evolving. From ancient theories of Bhartrihari’s “Sabdatattva” to Derrida’s “différance” in spoken and inscribed language, poetry has shown possibilities that we are still exploring. As our observations about the world around us gets stratified, condensed and co-opted, our poetry grows like vines over old or new structures, whether as part of our conscious landscaping or willful neglect.

What can we do in the name of poetry? Very simple things, almost un-esoteric and rather commonplace until it turns into a rhythm guiding us deeper inside our own selves and making us see the external world as a magnanimous companion to our variegated existence. Here’s a list I once made about what we could or I could do in the name of poetry:

Sing a song/Recite a verse/ Chant a mantra/Do a jig/Wield a pen/Raise a slogan/Stretch a hand/Draw a line/Demolish a wall/Ask a question/Name an object …

All this is certainly poetry, because these actions arise out of observations and commentaries on life surrounding us. Happiness, sorrow, protests, challenges and doubts work as incentives. For me they do as strongly as hills and dales and flowers and moonlight.

Not going into any erudite discussion, something elemental comes to my mind as my own experience of poetry as observation. The short poems of Rabindranath Tagore, said to be influenced by the Haiku style during his stay in Japan, are memorable in their recordings of observations and the mystical shapes they took in the poet’s mind:

Stray birds of summer come to my window
to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn,
which have no songs,
flutter and fall there with a sigh.

Tagore’s stray birds and yellow leaves of autumn, the animate and the inanimate, both flutter with a melody of resignation that the season bears. When he says:

I sit at my window this morning
where the world like a passer-by stops for a moment,
nods to me and goes.

He has brought poetry into the realms of his daily occupation. The cosmic scope of these words delights us, literally, with his observation of life and its simple pace.
In the poem below:

The light that plays, like a naked child,
among the green leaves happily knows not
that man can lie.

Here words and objects the verses relate to have played with the external world and turned shapes and meanings to reinvent another life for themselves. The observation about “light” imagined as an animate shape broadens the scope of such imagination in our minds. Linguistically and otherwise, the poet’s observation here has taken a leap towards the metaphysical from being compared to a physical human child. We look at the poem like an object under the focus of a stage light, an observation bright and beauteous.

Anyway, observation leading to poetic creation is perhaps well-known from eras bygone. The Vedic people had created poetry seeking safety for their livestock, strength to counter invaders, more rain and food, and in awe of nature. The essence of the verses have lived on and adapted to changing history and time.

Of late, reading Kay Ryan, the current US poet laureate, was a great insight into a very 'tongue-in-cheek' and angular quality one rarely finds in poems that are also highly lyrical. Her poems – observations about words, categories, objects and nature – open up amazing sounds in their twists and turns, indignantly flavorsome phrases and a fable-like prophetic capability, a condensed recollection of quaintly impressionistic images presented in compact little forms glittering like fine Persian jewelry! Consider:


Among English verbs
to die is oddest in its
eagerness to be dead,
immodest in its
haste to be told --
a verb alchemical
in the head:
one speck of its gold
and a whole life's lead.

For me, Ryan's etching of just one "verb" sums up her prophecy about all other verbs -- "to die is oddest in its/eagerness to be dead" is the unpredictable element and resplendent in poetic beauty. This is a spectrum within which she speaks of all other actionable acts that life may hold. And yes, that verb is alchemical. It literally and physically is in a haste to be dead, to be over with, to be told. At the same time it sums up a life and the material and moral quests that accompany it.


Their green flanks
and swells are not
flesh in any sense
matching ours,
we tell ourselves.
Nor their green
breast nor their
green shoulder nor
the languor of their
rolling over.

The reader can see here how Ryan's topography, is a continuous changing, rolling, engulfing entity quite akin to the anatomical flexing of human or rather, animate forms. Ryan nature, as well as any other topography she considers, is a thoughtful, sometimes erratic, actionable entity that competes with her own declared sense of compactness and prophetic conclusions (fable). In THE LIGHT OF INTERIORS, this relationality comes alive when she writes:

... But, in
any case, the light,
once in, bounces
toward the interior,
glancing off glassy
enamels and polishes,
softened by the scuffed
and often-handled, muffled
in carpet and toweling,
buffeted down hallways,
baffled in equally
by the scatter and order
of love and failure
to an ideal and now
sourceless texture which,
when mixed with silence,
makes of a simple
table with flowers
an island.

I'll not point to the lovely and obvious alliterative craft at work in this part of the poem. What strikes me is the kinetic force of her words embodied by the description of 'light' that lights up her topography almost meandering and running through a clutter of objects, finally to rest upon the final poetic imagery of a "table with flowers/an island", so Vermeer-like, a static image throbbing with calm energy. Such is Ryan’s observation, where notes turn into lyrical creations.