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, April 30, 2009

Day 29: “Never Touch This Poem”

Here was the Day 29 prompt (whew!): "For today's prompt, I want you to title your poems "Never (blank)" with you filling in the blank with a word or phrase. Then, write a poem based off your title, which could be "Never look both ways when crossing the street" or "Never blush in public" or "Never ever" or "Never write a poem with the word never in the title." You get the idea, right?" Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 29

“Never Touch This Poem”

Hear. If you can from there
Wispy flutters inside the ears
A bug stuck, wings of sheer
Silk dying in a verse-like throb

So, be my rhythm lub-dub love
Heart’s step, stopping clear
Of un-penned words and lines
Don’t ask to see or touch them

See, come see my womanly tree
Wild strophes, fruity poetry
Growing off the dusky bark
Sniff the resin, let the thorns be

Don’t give it a name, rather sing
To it. Bring it no prizes, ribbons
Blue. The meters easily change hue
So wait. Outside the gate and see

Touch. Only when it has asked
Away from the learned newsprint
Suave tomes and video screens
Even if it seems a blotch of ink.

Image from the Internet: "Three Worlds" by M C Escher

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 28: "A Vacation" - A Sestina

Here was the Day 28 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a sestina. (Click here to find out the rules for sestinas.) So start figuring out your 6 end words and get writing. But wait! Today is Tuesday, so you have one other option. You can write a poem about the sestina (your love, hate, frustration with, etc.). Whether you decide to write a sestina or write about sestinas, remember to have fun. We're almost done!" Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 28

(My first Sestina!)

“A Vacation”
We were at Kasauli’s old market place
Colors sashayed from myriad stands
We met friendly vendors, bought crafts
Baskets, shawls, dolls, wooden frames
Eager faces called us more, hands waved
Knowing we tourists can usually spend.
We wanted to trek out, not spend
Too much time at the market place
Although voices pleaded in waves
Hands tugged at our wallet strands
The evening sky looked it was framed
So we ran, to see that fairyland’s craft.
It seemed we walked on a swift raft
Saying thanks and no, all words spent
For these beautiful people with eyes like gems
Who called out from their shopping space
The market street an oasis in the sand
We hurriedly left with quick hand waves.
The mountain path outside Kasauli braved
Climbing atop misty peaks rising in tufts
We lost its sight as the hills ran errands
‘Ah, forget shopping, look at the lovely bends’
We said, standing where time stays
Still, watching nature’s photo frames.
In the sunset valley below, we saw flames
Heady smell of wood fire someone saved
For a chilly evening. We peered at her face
A shadowy figure the dusk had crafted
An old scavenger whose days were spent
Beneath tattered old tarps and stumpy stands.
There she was lighting a fire and standing
By her lonely shanty home of fragile frames
Of twigs, scraps and the time she spent
Her resort that saved her from tidal waves
Of time, furies of nature, all forces drafted
By vagaries of this eternally peaceful place.
‘You new to the place?’ Her voice rose to where we stood.
‘Don’t miss the craft crash site, right here. My home was rammed,
A military exercise they said.’ Waves of silence. Our breaths spent.

Image from the Internet: Kasauli market place; panoramic view of Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh

Monday, April 27, 2009

Day 27: "A Name As A Place Name"

Here was the Day 27 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem of longing. You or someone (or something) else should be pining for someone or something. Maybe a cat is longing to get outside the house. Maybe a teenager is longing to get away from his or her small town. And, of course, there's always the longing poem of love."

Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 27

"A Name As A Place Name"

I have heard it’s like heaven on earth not so craven
Despite moth-eaten muslin faces burnt ovens homes
I have heard there they eat curried potatoes, lamb
In yogurt spices cooked by cottage cheese hands
Saffron rice and minced meat balls in tomato sauce
I am told the wazwan is when you cannot say no
Although alcohol’s a no-no, beef perhaps for the raven
I have read their grief, dyed-wool sorrow like vests
Under flowing coarse pherans over chests of veins
In newsprint, sound bytes and stories like faraway
Tales of noisy sips from cups of nun-chai, salted
By fiery tears of Pandits, Buddhists, Persians, Af-
ghans, handsome locals of many ancient fames from
Peaks to forests colored by the kahwah and hard-
Resined pines while I’ve never been there… ever
Never seen Kashmir, only on the dreamy silver screen.

A click and a tick of the patient mouse beside my keyboard
Message sent: 'Rehana, will you write to me from there?'

Image from the Internet: Pupil monks at a Kargil monastery. Rehana Batul, my friend from JNU, hailed from Kargil district. I am yet to hear from her.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 26: "Smart Exchange"

Here was the Day 26 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem involving miscommunication. It can be miscommunication between two people or misinterpretation of some sort. I will leave it up to you guys to deal with it however you want." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 26

"Smart Exchange"

The soldiers shook hands, they held out theirs
Still the hummers and tanks packed goodwill home

The Private drank his sweet tea, his kids took candy
Yet a rifle got the swarthy man’s brother fleeing the night

Our boys never swore, the locals knew English after all
The cry for war and blood got 'em, clotted their tongues

The fatigued pocket had the culture ‘smart card’ tucked in
The chest was shattered, from some unsaid lines unknown.

NOTE: The Marine Corps has been equipping troops with a sort of abbreviated Emily Post-style guide to etiquette in Iraq. The laminated "Iraq Culture Smart Card" consists of 16 panels and can fold down into something you can slip into your breast pocket. "It seems late in the day for such niceties," observed Steven Aftergood in Secrecy News, a Web log maintained by the Federation of American Scientists, which posted the Smart Card online. http://www.scribd.com/doc/3762214/US-Military-Iraq-Culture-Smart-Card

Image from the Internet

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 25: "The Meeting"

Here was the prompt for Day 25: "For today's prompt I want you to pick an event and make that event the title of your poem." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 25

“The Meeting”

Because it’s noon
Because it’s hot
With high sun
Because he’s here
Because I stare
We say hello

His hands terracotta
His forehead balsam
His mouth lemony

Sing La Marseillaise
He whispers slow
Sing with me
Painted letters red
His hand holds
This bold placard
Swift and sad

The cafeteria hums
The sun thumps
On still windowsills

We feel together
The rebels inside
Let them speak
Song to song
Hand to hand
Words of meeting
Words of passion
Watch how then
We melt inside
With phrases pure
The magic minutes.

Image from the Internet: Rouget de Lisle, Composer of "La Marseillaise", sings it for the first time. The Marseillaise is a song written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg on April 25, 1792.

Day 24: “Song of the Road”

Here was the Day 24 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a travel-related poem. It can be human travel, the migration of swallows, the trafficking of drugs, etc. Some sort of movement from point A to point B." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 24

“Song of the Road”

We were two or four
The abacus did not say
The road said our cooling
Points were few, so we sat
Crammed in that three-wheeled
Wonder they call a “Tempo”
Tempo it was, one of our disparate
Lives, cradling us, two or three from
Mangaldoi, Mungher and Mughalsarai
The song of the road was split
Into a hymn, an FM pop and
Something that sounded like
A mumble for getting home soon
We were two, who knows, four
Inside a jumpy vehicle with angry
Wheels that didn’t sing much, roared.

Now I have not taken that road
For a long time, indeed a long time
When songs used to be in notation
Instead, I fly over the route now
Don’t hear voices or hum lines
I just loosen my seatbelt, yawn
Walk out in my lazy loafers

The last time we were three of
Us, seated side by side
One tapping into her blackberry
The second mildly swaying to
His earphone euphony
And this one searching
Google Maps on the laptop
For the next stop home.

Image from the Internet: Tempo, (also known as Vidal & Sohn Tempo-Werke GmbH), was a German automobile manufacturer based in Hamburg. The company was founded by Oscar Vidal in 1924. The company was well known in Germany, producing well-selling cars and vans like the Matador and the Hanseat, But Tempo also produced small military vehicles during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. In India tempos used to be a common means for small-town and rural public transport and may be found even now...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 23: "Jeanne Moreau’s Song"

Here was the Day 23 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem of regret. Get creative with this one, but there should be some form of regret either expressed or hinted at (even if ever so slightly). You do NOT have to use the word "regret" in the poem, though it's fine if you do." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 23

"Jeanne Moreau’s Song"

Written on the body
The whirlwind hits the car after
The three of them visit a park

The spinster Saraswati, a jaunty scholar
And a bard called Purnadas
The men eat lunch, wink at her
We don’t know exactly who gets into her car

One does because she has something to show him
Either a song for Purnadas
Or a book for the writer-scholar
One of them keeps watching
As they ride
And he hums the song she sang once
In her forked tongue so mischievous

I finally finish writing this letter:
So you know why after songs are sung
We separate and forget yet reunite
Why we don’t go home while we
Still remain friends under a vanilla sky.

Image from the Internet: Scene from "Jules et Jim", a 1962 French film directed by François Truffaut and based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roché. Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 22: "My Work"

Here was the Day 22 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a work-related poem. Work doesn't have to be the main feature of the poem, but I want you to "work" it in somehow. And remember: There are different types of work. Of course, there are the activities that gain you fortune and fame (or not), but then, there's also housework, exercise, volunteering, etc. I'm sure you'll "work" it out." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 22

“My Work”

My work you may know by now
Is all about reading, writing, words
All of it tough as Barthes’ bark
More intriguing than embedded quarks
Willy nilly wild as the unimaginable Snark!
It’s all about dirty pretty jaunty words
When they split into sharp-edged shards
They frighten all the evil sharks
Of this real world to hide and duck
From my little job, pen and paper work.
Work’s worship? Yeah, it even stops warships
Awesome, right? So I love my work!
I live inside my meta forests of words
Dive daily into the alphabet soups
Though never for a wee moment stoop
To conquer the power of them stark.
The book’s my work, the journal’s my ark
This printed page and those lettered barks
That shake the world of ideas, but hark!
Not an easy game of dice this word-ful work
It pays so damn little for all your luck
To finish it I’m sometimes up ‘fore Foucault’s lark.

Image from the Internet: Ford Madox Brown, "Work" (1852–63), Wikimedia

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day 21: "TRILOGY"

Here was the Day 21 prompt: "Here are the two prompts for the day (you only need to choose one, unless you're all about pushing yourself to the limit): 1. Write a haiku. The haiku is not just a form but a genre of poetry. (Click here to read more about the haiku.) People sometimes go into writing a haiku and end up with a senryu or a faux-ku, but it's all good (and all poetry).
2. Write about the haiku. I know there are some poets (in this very group even) who are anti-form. So, I'm giving them the option to write their anti-haiku manifestos. Of course, if you pay attention to this 2nd prompt, it doesn't need to be anti-haiku; your poem could be questioning or even praising the haiku. Or something." Read more at:
April PAD Challenge: Day 21


1. “Bloom” (Spring)

Daffodils will die
Drinking spring’s frost
An annual sacrifice.

Right: Daffodil art

2. “Memories” (Autumn)

Kids’ running shoes
Squeaky clean soles
Autumn of an empty house.

Right: Haiku Hut

3. “Portraits” (Winter)

Lines of zigzag brown
Wintry muddy pools
My parents’ aged faces.

Right: Old couple with umbrella


“Booing a Haiku”

Heave hi coo!
Low life, lo!
Love hate, boo!


Hackneyed hack
Haiku’s Jane & Jack
I’m not one of them!

Images from the Internet: Daffodil art; Haiku Hut; Hakata Urasaki Old Couple Ceramic Doll. 20th c. "Old couple with umbrella".

Day 20: “Made Flesh Again”

Here was the Day 20 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem of rebirth. There are many different types of rebirth available, including the changing of the seasons, the beginning of the day, religious or spiritual rebirth, a reconfirmation of good in people, re-learning how to love, etc. So think on it a bit, and create a stellar rebirth poem." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 20

“Made Flesh Again”
(Dedicated to those thousand hands I would always touch and hold)

Her visit made everyone run
Fetch her special seat, water glass
A special plate, later scoured
Separate, after her after-work snack

We kids ran in a tumult to see if
Her teeth were different in numbers
Than the last time, slurpy betel
Juice soaked, scary monster red

Mother made chitchat, served her
Coconut candies in summer
Black sesame ones in winter
With jaggery or handmade bread

Aunts poured her water slowly
Careful not to spill, not to mop
Once she cleaned the outhouse
A relic from an unknown rural life

Once she cut the shrubs, weeded, threw
The dead skunk in a ditch and cleaned
Up, we kids asked her to pick a name that
She’d like to be in her dreams so she
Could be allowed to play with us
Make us clay dolls of earthly shapes

Her dark forehead gleamed, no sindoor
Her sari-end bunched at her sagging breasts
Don’t know how to call that luminous one by her name,
She said, but I’d like to be made flesh. Touchable, human, again.

Image from the Internet: "Not a Pretty Picture" by Sudharak Olwe. Olwe is an award winning photojournalist, based in Mumbai. See and read at http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-photography/article_1742.jsp

Monday, April 20, 2009

"THE FARRIER": Short fiction in The Cartier Street Review

My short fiction THE FARRIER has come out in The Cartier Street Review, April 2009 edition. Read at:


Cover Image by Chris Labrenz, The CSR, Apr 09

Bernard Alain, Ottawa, Canada, is Principal Editor (blog site). Joy Leftow, New York, NY, is Production Editor (blog site). The Cartier Street Review is a not-for-profit magazine. 50% of all net revenues go to a children's charity.

Please support this month's charity by downloading a high resolution print quality PDF file at: CSR April 2009 Edition

Excerpt from my story below:


"The Farrier "

Was Russet to live her life between the legs of horses? She could get kicked sometime, although I’m sure Russet never expected that. It’s a job she had for a long time. Russet had big hands. Her hair cut like a duckling’s tail caught in a twister. She was a farrier. With an uncommon but musical name – Russet.

That’s what she told me.

We spoke while rummaging through old books on sale downtown where they’d let us take a bagful for a dollar. Shivering in the line outside on the cold concrete, for it was late November in this little Upstate New York town, I rubbed my bristly palms inside fleece gloves to a frigid drop falling from above, listening to the drone of a man explaining to someone the intricacies of a Russian fireplace. Once inside, we rummaged and I saw she held this Alberto Moravia I wanted, Two Women. Like a predatory animal I eyed her. Silently pointed towards the Moravia. She eye-browed towards the flat thin book I was holding.

“Horses.” She said. “You like horses?”

“I don’t mind them.” I said. Why talk of horses? This isn’t a farm fest. It’s a book sale.

“You’ve a horse here,” she said, leaning over and touching the book I was holding. Tock tock. She knocked on the cover twice.

The flat thin cover indeed had a horse snorting in a yellow-green cornfield. I had no idea if horses liked corn. Suddenly it hit me why horses were the topic.

“Okay,” I said, sheepishly. She handed my book to me. “This is about women,” I explained.

“You like women?” She asked the same way she had asked if I liked horses.Yes. No. What do I say? I’m a man! I nodded. I liked women only because they are there, all around. Not in the same way I’d adore a race car. It was tough to explain.

Read more at Current Issue (April 2009)

Day 19: “How Anger Comes to Me”

Here was the prompt for Day 19: "...today's prompt is to write an angry poem. That is, a poem about someone or something that gets angry. Could be a person, animal, or even them there angry clouds. As usual, I'm excited to see which unexpected directions y'all take with this prompt." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 19

“How Anger Comes to Me”

It comes to me scowling

A leaping cheetah

Over my picket fence

It shakes me up like madness

By my shoulders

Rolling its red-coal eyes

It kicks me about violent

With boots at my butt

Deadening my hard skin

It bares the fangs of poison

Bites and claws

Spilling blood at my temples

It comes trampling my poetry

Wringing hands wiping its brows

Stretching the livid vowels in 'angry'

A and Y as if nothing mattered in between!

Image from the Internet

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day 18: “A Death Row Inmate Sings A Ruba’i” OR “The Last Interaction”

Here was the Day 18 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem with an interaction of some sort. The interaction does NOT have to be between people, though it can. For instance, you could write about the interaction between a bee and a flower; or an owl and a field mouse. Or just write about a traffic cop getting into an argument with a speeder. Just as long as there is some sort of interaction going on." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 18

“A Death Row Inmate Sings A Ruba’i”
“The Last Interaction”

A night that held my hand and promised a day
To you, to field flowers and the sunshine of May
Is witness to my vice or folly
Uncommitted. So take this last petition and put it away.

Image from the Internet: Yama, the God of Death in Hinduism and Buddhhism

Friday, April 17, 2009

Day 17: “All I want is You”

Here was the Day 17 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem with the following title: "All I want is (blank)," where you fill in the blank with a word or phrase of your choosing. Some example titles, then, could be: "All I want is to eat fried chicken"; "All I want is world peace"; "All I want is for everyone to tell me I'm beautiful"; or "All I want is a handful of quarters." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 17

“All I want is You”

On the sepia pages a never-ending story
On my cherry desk an ink inscribing only deep love
On the swept porch a wind-chime speaking your voice
On my head, a swear word, a mouthful, I’d never want to forget!

In the placid shower a purer Ganga streaming
In my photoshopped dreams a bright collage unpainted
In the night sky a foreign moon crafted of unknown softness
In the mornings a ray bright enough lighting up all three worlds!

By my running gear the throb of your heart
By my coffee cup an addiction stranger and darker
By the roadside a pretty pebble for my diamond-less ring
By my side your face, a legend that says Shakespeare’s never been in love!

All I want is you.

Image from the Internet: Girl Before A Mirror by Picasso

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Day 16: "Redness"

Here was the prompt for Day 16: "For today's prompt, I want you to pick a color, make that the title of your poem, and write a poem that is inspired by that color." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 16


When the summer storm rose from an eastern sky
To us the west looked red
Roses of anger heaped on a bush stuck in its thorns
Smarting faces, hatred.

You were watching Caché in the living room TV
Blood squirting from a slashed up neck
Headless chickens scattered in an ungainly race
Backwards, forward, again back.

My finger touched a tomato skin shedding light
Of a red ink, darklike –
Wasn’t this what my father’s Opaar Bangla comrades
Brought in, a newspaper wrapped tight

So not everyone would know how words tumble
Red and angry on our roads?
I thought I saw a word flutter open again, a hue,
Not a name or mundane things like odes.

You thought we had lost our tongues, our attitude
Piled under the redness of shame
Peripheral to storms, deaths, news of constant ruse

And I realized, a color did not need a name.

Image from the Internet: Petrograd Red, 7th November, revolutionary poster depicting a Russian Sailor, 1919

Day 15: “The Woods In Ithaca”

(Above, Hemlock Gorge, Ithaca) Here was the Day 15 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to take the title of a poem you especially like (by another poet) and change it. Then, with this new altered title, I want you to write a poem. An example would be to take William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" and change it to "The Red Volkswagon." Or take Frank O'Hara's "Why I Am Not a Painter" and change it to "Why I Am Not a Penguin." You get the idea, right? (Note: Your altered poem does NOT have to follow the same style as the original poet, though you can try if you wish.)" Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 15

“The Woods In Ithaca”

Kaya knew how to chart her trip, she traversed all beaten
Paths and journeyed beyond the boundary where the locals
Said strange sounds came from unknown brooks where
Shadows rubbed shoulders with each other, and merged
Into a gigantic darkness, unshaken, unseeing, still. Kaya
Followed a songbird’s trail, walked the path drawn by it
Sweeping rainbow wings across a forgotten territory, beyond
The four humps of a camel’s body. She went where she indeed
Heard the droning noise of the flat-bowl slowly grow quiet,
Wilt like mushrooms in the sun, fall as scattered debris
Of an old crashed plane. ‘Neath the town weather rooster she
Saw women with hair colored pink, sipping bitter coffee
Brewed in the square, men harrying with news that was old
Children doing the usual; nudge and fool each other, beg for
Money from elders. All of them tin dolls in a dumb charade.
Kaya knew and saw ‘em all, but heard less din, a calm over her.
The songbird flew on, led her to the camel’s eyes, recounted
All the tales it knew, of people, lives, pebble paths, lost loves.
Giant shadows cracked their roofing at the song and let rays
In; incoherent sounds from unknown brooks became a babble
Welcoming, happy. Clouds soared up inviting more light and
For the first time, Kaya saw all the humps together, a vision, in
Falling daylight: four domes of a citadel, quaint and outdated, a
Blurry green no Google Earth could capture on that maple brown.
Tree stumps truncated, eaten by oafish white ants roaming free
Post rains. And so much else rising from the forest lake, engulfing.
The songbird’s voice, her feathers of story layers, told of imagi-
Nations of centuries of sensations, a native relic unnoticed that
Winged past like whispers, like dreams, like sighs from catacombs
Dusty, dry riverbeds, long sandy stretches. Kaya’s was a trip to the
Moist mulch in dawn, the camel’s eyes resting on the glacial soil
With the knowledge that woods and skies and touches would be
Enriched, carved on its ancient forms of love and toil. On the bell
Towers, buildings, bars and homes. On its body, a form or a being
Called Kaya, land or life. The moody rooster meanwhile woke up
To announce a new day, eyes abounding in the light of a story just told.

Original Poem: "The Woods In New Jersey" by Robert Hass

Images from the Internet (Ithaca woods; Taughannock Falls)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Day 14: "A Ghazal And a Ruba'i"

Here was the Day 14 prompt, a special one: "Today is Tuesday, which means two prompts. First prompt: Write a love poem. Second prompt: Write an anti-love poem. Simple as that." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 14


1. Ghazal: “Love Labored, Not Lost”

This my fiery desire, my passion, my frustrations are new
Please understand because this trembling love itself is new

You who smile at my impatience, my eager foot-tapping
How’d you know: for me you and for you, yes, I am new

There was a time, silly, when moonlight seemed out of focus
As soon as I saw your face, after long separations, anew

See, the morning again has dawned abashed with such pleas
Facing the ray of your lips, arms, throbbing blood and sinew!

Remember that first rendezvous in the dark movie theater –
I still have the browned dog-eared tickets as if they are new

The first exchange of words that mostly meant nothing then
They come back to me like precious jewels shining and new

You do hear me speak but don’t hear what my heart sings
Go on, trick me, your stance is something I always knew

So if love is my forte and sweet ignorance is your clever ploy
Tell me “Navi”, what’d you achieve with ballads old or new?

2. "The Wife Sings A Ruba'i"

Wish it were two homes side by side
Us, meeting and loving at will, any woe denied
A sherbet glass, wood apples and Megh Malhar tones
Is it not love’s best flavor picked and tried?

Images from the Internet: Rajasthani miniature & Persian art

Monday, April 13, 2009

Day 13: "His Kitchen Garden"

Here's the Day 13 prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem that incorporates a hobby (either yours or someone else's). That's right: Now is the perfect opportunity to write about your comic collection or your scrapbooking activities. And for the purposes of this challenge, I also think activities such as fishing, running, bowling, photography, birding, and gardening count as hobbies." More at: April PAD Challenge: Day 13

"His Kitchen Garden"

Come summer, he spends nights in exhilarating anxiety
Would the shoots show up or not, he dreams aloud
Several times; on waking tells me of his Dream Garden
Happy and laden with every possible food and fruit

When it begins, he spends hours hoeing the dry soil
Smoothing out lumps and bumps, chucking off bits
Of pebbles surprisingly found as if they belonged to
Ancient monuments bulldozed at someone’s whims

He courted squashes, zucchinis, cucumbers, spinach
Pesky peppers winking at the sullied sun of a cloudy sky
When they showed their eager faces, tiny pale shoots
Creating a ruckus among weeds and the fungi to rule

He quickly made space for young rowdy pop-ups push-
ing taller each day, stubborn green delights! Then embark-
ed on gathering twigs for a lattice frame, to hold hasty
Green climbers: wriggly blue bean vines, clamoring cukes

He worked all dewy summer mornings, in musky dusks
Watering the blossoming patch, his lovable food court
At nightfall went home after inspecting the merry rows
Pleased at swaying tendrils singing from the lattice roof

Oftentimes I know he just stared and smiled quietly on
At the doggone yellow squashes that kept pushing out, at
Pontificating pumpkins or ruby red radishes cool and coy
Spoke softly. Humored the jealousy the fruits bore to greens

I know he mostly loved the green peppers that grew sans
Care, dangled and never at all wrangled unless a raccoon
Came to chew on them and ran away quick scared of their
Fire-filled bellies, stunned absolutely by the seeds of wrath!

He worked real hard to keep off a bugging bunny though it
Often shook its brown storybook ears in sheer delight when
We didn’t watch; then romped and promptly chomped off all
Henceforth, a rabbit fence blocked the flap-eared terminator

Alas, more hard work was there! A handsome deer made
A joyful feast out of sunny pumpkin blossoms between
Constant tending, joining hooves with reticent weeds as
Our constant gardener worked like an angry earthworm

One sultry evening, while the animals still reaped our
Food, he resolved. “Forget bites claw rips muzzle licks,
Let’s join the harvest in our kitchen garden!” He tossed,
A juggler, tomatoes to be nibbled by incisor-happy friends

So, fresh salads, crispy veggies, peppered gravies for us
Squash buds for the deer, crunchy seeds and more for the
Rest that hopped or crawled. True, the patch was a boom for
Deer, raccoon, rabbit, human, coveting summer’s wealthy bloom.

Image from the Internet

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Day 12: "So We Decided To Tell A Story, Almost Forgotten"

Here was the prompt for Day 12:

"For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "So we decided to (blank)" and fill in the blank. Make that your title and write a poem. Some possibilities include "So we decided to plant a tree" or "So we decided to burn a hole in the sky." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 12

"So We Decided To Tell A Story, Almost Forgotten"

So we decided to pack our duffel bags for that long trip
Not missing the favorite music on stations that sang us
Wisdom lullabies on birthdays and paydays, and decided
Not to forget hugging dear momma, a father, once fathers
Were gone for quite some time to imagined battle fields

So she too decided it was the only way she’d pay for college
So she whistled like she was off on her first date, was wise
To leave her brother the new camcorder burying their silly
Feuds, saving happy memories before a whistling bullet got her

So he too decided, the homesick private, to blow kisses over the
Shrapnel on a Valentine’s video, called the friendly desert back-
Drop a sunset point where he hoped, sigh, this day would not
Present him another bouquet of limbs, the evening would not
Spray him with the bitter champagne of sweaty blood and bile

Before the goats and sheep came home with the boy who
Mistook cannon for merry fireworks announcing good tidings
Of Ashura, before the girl who sold lime juice to beat the
Fahrenheit saved her green merchandise in her soiled apron

Before faraway villagers met dusty soldiers combing fields for
Strange harvests: Have you seen any enemy combatants? Yes!
Pat came the reply: Like you, you mean? Or perhaps, like them
So, we decided to tell this story before most of you forgot our names.

Image from the Internet: "Noah's Pudding"; The Ashura celebration is a common practice among Muslims and Christians in the Middle East.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 11: “New Seedling”

Here was the prompt for Day 11, read more at April PAD Challenge: Day 11:

For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about an object (or objects). Though you don't have to confine yourself to straight up description, I do want you to focus on object and/or make it a central piece of your poem. One of the more famous poems of contemporary literature does this wonderfully in William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow."

“New Seedling”

A fallen racehorse
Mauve or brown


Tucked in between limbs
Still life metamorphosing


A sight-deterred seed, pale
Unmoving in the damp silky


To a green-eyed canopy unfolded
Voodooed into living the

Life of an

Image from the Internet

Day 10: "Don’t Thank God ‘Cause It’s Friday"

This was the Day 10 prompt for April PAD:

"For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about Friday. Do you like Fridays? Despise Fridays? Of course, you can also write about something that happened on a Friday--or write an ode to Fridays. Or, as you know, I'm all for seeing you attack this from an angle I haven't thought of yet." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 10

"Don’t Thank God ‘Cause It’s Friday"

Those stinky rugs need vacuuming
There’s laundry piled up in the corner
The grocery, half done, is still in the cart
These geraniums need pruning, watering
That study is a mess because he clutters
Those friends need a drink and they hound me
There’s work to be ended before 'tis “weekend”
The taxman knocketh, returns to be filed, darn, it’s April!
This is a poem that HAS to be written, so what I am dead.

Image from the Internet

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Day 9: "Viewing Kanchenjunga"

This was the prompt for Day 9:

"For today's prompt, I want you write a poem about a memory. The memory can be good or bad. The memory can be a blend of several memories. I suppose it could even be a memory that you're not sure you remember correctly. Take your time finding a good one (or good ones)." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 9

"Viewing Kanchenjunga"

He and I, uneven, would go up the winding path
Streaming from the front of that sleepy house
He tall, me very short and running to catch up
With long strides of my uncle’s morning walk.
“It’s the third highest mountain peak you’ll see
In a while,” he lectured, and I half heard, busy,
Too busy tweaking dew drops off crisp arum leaves
And a taut red hibiscus straining to see the sun.
He would climb the little hillock easily, quick,
I scampering off like a poodle on a tight leash.
More scholarship booming at the blinky sky would
Have clouds yawning faraway. “Know what are the
Gold, silver, gems, grain and holy books? Ah-ha,
Treasures! Five Treasures of Snows!” I would
Count birds waking, then fleeing the din at dawn
And the wave of his walking stick, jaunty laugh
To see the peak wake up and then he would leave.
I stayed a bit longer on the shiny hillock’s crest
Before tumbling down. The treasured peak had to
Rise as high as my teeny scrawny dark head with
The sun, so I would finally see that thigh of gold bark.

Image from the Internet: Kanchenjunga Rising

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 8: "Everyday Road"

This was the prompt for Day 8:

"For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about either a specific routine or routines in general. Maybe something related to taking out the trash each week or washing the dishes every night--or something more bizarre (yet still a routine)." Read more at: April PAD Challenge: Day 8

"Everyday Road"

I know him and I know her, I know
the lopsided post-thaw twigs on the
trees lining this road, know when
they might fall on the sidewalk, I
know the gentle old men with eager
dogs, strawheaded middle-aged women
in arrogant walking shoes, unstoppable
all-weather joggers, weary undergrads
with backpacks, young mothers with
kids back from school, even solemn
drivers of cars and buses that always
take this road: rumble, tumble, juggle
The road goes where I go, strolls in
the morning, scurries like a chipmunk
to the library, returns home with heavy
trudges in evening, strides to a concert,
a café or a late meeting. I know, I know.

The young man wearing a mint-hued
coat that never waves, talks or smiles
knows I have long dark hair, sparkling
eyes and a knack for floral shirts. He sees
me trudging, walking, strolling, hurrying
his brown cheeks tanned, khaki trousers
frayed at the bottom, his fawn shoes
darker in tone day by day. He notices I
notice and becomes awkward. Glances,
wasted chances, mothballs, smell of mint
freshly picked. And there’s a schoolgirl
at the bend over the spring. I know she’s
three inches taller in the past three months
Her cheeks getting plumper she’s now
careful to look well-dressed, has choices
in color and clothes, at times red, at times
green and sometimes a wild Aragula mix
She’s unpredictable. I can predict she’ll
wear a new outfit the next day at the bend
She knows I notice her. She frowns, I smile.

One day he’ll be gone, get a job, get
new clothes, shoes and invite someone out
One day she’ll be gone, for college, change
boyfriends every semester, still sulk and frown
The road will lose me too, one day. Maybe I’ll
be gone to a new town, by a new spring, walk
a new road lined by other patient trees, still
count the pebbles, the sand grains, and know
the turns, know the bends by heart, and know
other passers-by. I’ll stroll, stride and run, I’ll
sprint down on my toes, catch a breeze, I’ll
write another piece for that everyday road.

Image from the Internet: "Road with Cypress and Star"; Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day 7: “My Good Clean Luck” and “Grim(y) Fairy Tales”

This was the Day 7 prompt for April PAD Challenge:

Prompt #1: I want you to write a clean poem. Take this however you wish. Clean language, clean subject matter, or cleaning the dishes. Of course, some twisted few will automatically link "cleaning" with hired hitmen. That's okay, as long as your poem is somehow linked to clean.
Prompt #2: I want you to write a dirty poem. Take all that stuff I wrote in the first prompt and twist it upside down. The opposite of clean is dirty; so, do what ya gotta do to produce a dirty poem. (Gosh, I hope this challenge doesn't get too messy as a result.) Read more at
April PAD Challenge: Day 7.

NOTE: I wrote 2 completely different poems on the 2 prompts provided. Tried a comic voice, didn't succeed. What the heck!

1. Clean

“My Good Clean Luck”

It is heartening to know I have this
DriWashSolutions.com near my home
Servicemaster can also arrive asap
If Broom Hilda’s House Cleaning don’t.
Bruce’s Mr. Detail have me on his tail
While I can go out the mile for Angelo Dry
Cleaners got my best evening gala style!
Over my old Nissan Squeaky Clean Car Wash
And Diamond Clean Auto are sure to vie;
Meanwhile I can show you Nice & Clean
Laundromat who’d dig your visit and do rest
Issues with dust mites and unseen grime
With ABC Oriental Rug & Carpet Cleaning
They’re one helluva cleaner, I bet my dime.

2. Dirty

“Grim(y) Fairy Tales”

Reading news is a longtime habit
Remembering names of crooks is not
Names like Abu Zubaydah, José Padilla…
Wait, Padilla also went by another
Name and what was that other one?
Binyam Mohammed? Dhiren Barot’s
Conspiracy to attack, theory alright.
Still, an intelligent speculation on the
Likelihood of what’d been dirty news.
So what if it all seems a grim fairy tale?
The Possibility of Terrorists Using a
Dirty Bomb, headlines said. Not much
About that Cummings guy in Maine
(Shh, the wife took care of him, ahem).
The judge on the dirty cases, should he be
A villain in our tales? For, the charges
Got dropped. Cases flopped. Meanwhile,
Permitted photos from the sunny Gitmo
Made it seem there’s always an orange
Carnival there. Perhaps it's the Cuban air.

Images from the Internet

Monday, April 6, 2009

Day 6: "Missing Us"

This was the Day 6 prompt for April PAD: "For today's poem, I want you to write a poem about something missing. It can be about an actual physical object or something you just can't put your finger on (like "love" or "the spirit of Christmas" or something)." See at: April PAD Challenge: Day 6

"Missing Us"
One by one
Unpacking the cartons
Polishing this Ming vase (it is!)
Reinstating that wrought-iron candle stand
A few Matrioshkas and lacquer stuff
(You know how I care for old Russian art)
A hand-painted tea coaster – my caper –
Unwrapping them sparks a smile, at last

Moth balls rolling off a coat
I barely used last winter
Magazines he’d throw, I’d save
For garden instructions on better tomatoes

Undoing gossamer cobweb from the corners
Before life is installed back in
That unlived living room, on the yet-to-be cluttered
Dresser. This indeed was like courting
Emptiness, he said, before I came back home.

Image from the Internet

Open Space-HarperCollins-India Poetry Contest 08- 2nd Place for my "Narrative Limits"

I stumbled upon this the other day, having forgotten all about it:

"Announcing the winners of the Open Space–HarperCollins-India Poetry Contest 2008 (On the theme of ‘Borders’): http://openspaceindia.org/OS_HCPI_poetry_contest.html"

Roxanne Hoffman, editor of Poets Wear Prada press and the blog Flor del Concreto has been very kind to post this on Flor: "Nabina Das has won 2nd place in an all-India poetry contest organized by HarperCollins-India and Open Space-India in November 2008 on the theme of BORDERS. Among the judges were veteran poet Keki Daruwalla, HarperCollins India editor VK Karthika and writer Priya Surukkai Chhabria. Read Das's winning entry "Narrative Limits" at Open Space"

So go there and read ...

Well, I am also pasting the poem below if laziness is your virtue!


He was holding baby-food cartons rotten eggs ill gotten perhaps and soggy scraps
Running from a plum-dark night into what seemed starkly bright starlight or searchlight
Flying with the power of bullets in his back horse powered from menacing police guns.
He surely said truthfully he had a starving child, but he looked like an enemy, he did.

She was scared plumbed with interrogation, the tongue numb from an untranslatable fear
Skin shallow like swamps she jumped. Rising vapour or human crumb her hair or breasts.
Take away my hemp clothes, she pleaded, my sentimental nesting flowers but don’t
Take away my books my looks no different from you in your cities of rapturous life.

They (drove trucks, laboured, choked on dust, drank spit, came trudging here humanlike
With cherries and berries of sweat to sweeten the world, also in anger or merriment cried,
Crossed creeks, counted reluctant tax money much like you or me and with care wiped
Mud from germinal faces and hands) were sent back across the nettled fence, embattled.

They held curdled milk beans dying seeds torn clothes our discarded marginal materials
Their faces like myth raked up from the bottom of our narrative limits of scatter and filth
Nametag dog-leash passport license branded on skin sizzling with fried-fish tan or tear
Standing at the razor lines that distance them because of the way they walk the streets.

Image from the Internet

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 5: "Eyeless In A New Town"

This was the Day 5 prompt of the April Poem A Day Challenge from Poetic Asides : "For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem about a landmark. It can be a famous landmark (like Mount Rushmore or the Sphinx) or a little more subdued (like the town water tower or an interesting sign)." http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/CommentView,guid,19d56087-4047-4589-b39b-995e90466679.aspx

"Eyeless In A New Town"

This is not about the lost gray waterfalls, the
Green trails long and like teething cucumber slices
The deep sleepy gorges doused with pine incense

Twenty-four hours

It’s not about gurgling creeks, the bystander sky that
Helplessly melt into the sprawling lake, nor even
The Canada Geese flying in V-shaped flocks that get

Caught by surprise

At the freshness of the languid emerald-colored spot
Beneath their wings when they exclaim in goose tongue:
How come this story’s not mentioned in travel catalogues?

Stupefied, they fly off

Eyeing a distant plane buzzing like a lost lone tourist
Like the way I hover, feel in this place, seek and see what
Was whispered once: Lost stories. Paths that existed once

But were taken off

The city maps because quite a few had forgotten them
In their hurry to reach drive-ins and sloppy express lanes
No travel guide said this mound resembled a four-humped
Camel, green three to four months, then fading to become
Various shades of red orange purple dark brown to an eerie
White. Some flowers lie strewn in her memory, live there,
Where I swerve, the way she had, before I read the one-word

Sign in rust: Amen.

Blogger Friend Kush Arora's Poem--"Bygone Noons"

With the cross posting tradition I began on my blog, this month read Kush Arora's poem "Bygone Noons" (http://solitary-vine.blogspot.com/2008/10/bygone-noons.html). It harks back to a way of life that's fast dwindling in Indian small cities and towns.

Here's the preamble Kush gives to the poem:
"In the 90s, the economic order in India was changing from socialism to capitalism post the neo-liberal economic reforms of '91. For much of the 90s we had little radio and lesser number of TV channels (just 2, I think). Cable television was something new.

In this poem I have tried to capture the colours of the familiar neighbourhood during that languorous period of my boyhood days, when things were less and thus, familiar.
Kush is an engineering student currently residing in Bangalore, India.
Read more of his work at fashioned of dreams

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 4: "Earthworm and Crow"

This was the Day 4 prompt for April PAD: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/April+PAD+Challenge++Day+4.aspx. For today’s prompt, I want you to pick an animal; make that animal the title of your poem; then, write a poem. You could be very general with your animal title (“Bees” or “Lion”) or specific (“Flipper” or “Lassie”). You could even be very silly with something like “Tony, the Tiger,” I guess (that tiger on the cereal box).

"Earthworm and Crow"

(I thought picking 2 animals was better suited for the purpose of my poetry... to bring out their traits in a binary sort of way!)

The wriggly little thing did quick
To build up clouds of soft soil
The moment a crow drew near him
In cawing expectation for food.
The excavation by the sharp beak
Drilled away in Parnassian hits yet
Nothing was smarter or simpler
As the worm dug inside the earth
Threading away at the mucus moistness...
Meanwhile, the crow perched unafraid
A hatha yogi meditating as long as needed!

Image from the Internet

Day 3: "The Problem With Problem Solving"

This was the Day 3 prompt of the April PAD Challenge http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/April+PAD+Challenge+Day+3.aspx

(Take the phrase "The problem with (blank)" and replace the "(blank)" with a word or phrase. Make this the title of your poem and then write a poem to fit with or juxtapose against that title. For instance, you could have poems with the titles of "The problem with government," "The problem with advanced mathematics," or "The problem with bipolar penguins." You know the drill: have fun, be creative.)

"The Problem With Problem Solving"

We all think. That is the first step although
The most complex and intellectual process

We think and that alone merits modulation
Or cognitive processing, a higher-order zing

The problem starts from a given state to when
We reach out for a desired goal, a larger problem

That might include problem finding and shaping
The moment próblema is derived from Greek-ing

Presented as an analysis of prediction, mitigation
We can think problems or sink them altogether

Failures are the only way to push, some will tell,
Problem solving – life, work, you – a part of thinking

I have a problem, since long, with problem solving
The complexity of systems thrown at me has shown

What’s complex, what’s simple, is relative and changes
With time – Wicked Problems or those plain puzzling.
Image from The Internet: discourse.net

Thursday, April 2, 2009

DAY 1: "The Origin of Labels"

April may be the cruelest month. It is also "National Poetry Month". Poetic Asides with Robert Lee Brewer got started at April PAD Challenge: Day 1 on April 1. I quote the prompt: "For today's prompt, I want you to write an origin poem. It can be the origin of a word, person, plant, idea, etc. Have fun with it."

Will you write a poem every day this month? Blogger friend Tikuli is writing.

This was my contribution to the first day of poetry.

DAY 1: "The Origin of Labels"

My parents came from a
Place where people drank
Tea poured on saucers, slurped
Really loudly, spat paan
Also said, “coming” while going away
They were from a soil that slept
Intently at the feet of lotus leaves
Bloated with certain delusions
About belonging to histories

Not exactly the vision
Anyone would like, much less my parents

When I was born,
Temple bells tolled and
Cymbals clanged
As usual, not for me,
Matched with nimble steps
That fell in the city
Of the Eastern Star
Where I was born, when the sun
Went very far westwards
Along the path traced by blue
Mountains of elephant-
Hue and shade

Years later I stood under a sheathed sky
Bequeathed with heat, dust and spent romance
Went further into its deep belly of roadside hustle
The bustle and sale of smiles, tears for ten bucks a piece
Not known to dolphins and ducks, only rude
Men who stood tall, really tall and gaunt, bluish cheeks
Crazy-faced, yet they offered me 'ladies' seats in crowded buses

Now I haven’t stopped plucking flowers of yesteryears
Where no one's seen jackfruits or mangoes
Also what I’ve been wearing is a peeling skin
Jackfruit-hard or mango-soft, craving to stick upon
Tongues wafting in a generous gait
In another Ithaca of new myths
Reciting from our birth charts and rooting for stars

Who we are
And such things.
Image from the Internet; Tintorretto's "The Origin of The Milky Way"