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, January 4, 2010

Editorial in Danse Macabre "Internationale" Issue


The first Internationale Danse Macabre has been released. I have the honor of opening this issue with an editorial followed by contributions from all over the world.

Here's the text of the editorial but I encourage you to read our international writers by clicking on:
Internationale Poetry
The Road
Internationale Erzählungen

... and more!

It is the end of the year, a classic snowy afternoon in Upstate New York, and I am tapping away at the keyboard, a little nostalgic. Among many things, I am reminded of a 10-year-old girl clutching her copy of a novel, a story collection and an abridged version of Oliver Twist while traveling with her family. Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) in Bengali was a neat volume I had just started reading after my favorite Burhi Ai-ir Xadhu, an Assamese collection of folktales and fables, and Oliver Twist. In fact, reading Pather Panchali was deemed absolutely appropriate for a girl who was young enough for fairytales and fables, yet old enough to understand how reality traversed universal boundaries, whether it was an orphan boy in 19th century London or a poor Brahmin priest migrating from his 1920s Bengal village in search of a better life. This has been etched in my head forever as an opening moment of my diverse literary engagements. Three languages, perhaps three countries (depending on how one treats the partition of Bengal), but one epic outlook.

As I have the honor to open Danse Macabre's (first) Internationale issue, I can only rejoice at connecting this memory to the bevy of writers from countries like France, Vietnam, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Bangladesh, Britain, Iran, Russia, India, and Germany among several others that our readers would savor in the New Year. It is a delight to come across so many new and established names jostling for attention in one single literary journal. To extend Mohamed Nasheed’s quote above, all these writers bring their poetry, fiction and essays from varied perspectives of their own cultures and countries, each of their words carrying a whiff of their diverse histories and memories.

And if Benedict Anderson convinces us that nation-states are often ‘imagined communities’, I then find solace in the ‘imaginary congregations’ defined by our own literary times with the tag “international”, where nations and countries mingle in one single train that is truly inter-national. If physical boundaries are indeed frozen in time, all that we are able to view as ‘imaginary’ could only offer possibilities and changes that writers and artists hold so dear to their hearts. Whether it is the subtropical winter sun of the South Asian Subcontinent, the festive liveliness of Quebec, the serene rivers of Vietnam, or the Northern Lights of Russia, what we offer for our readers in our Internationale carries the watermark of a high order of imagination and creativity that surpasses the fixity of geographical borders.

I just watched Atonement and I feel how spiraling it is in its haunting-ness, like a poem. What is it that made sense to me in that assemblage of film footage about a story that wracked lives and flamed imaginations? A story that traversed the boundaries of a nation called England and a continent called Europe and finally spilled out like the Dunkirk scenes, agonizing in its quotient of human misery as well as intellectually frightening. Watched in any corner of the world, it is bound to evoke a Dostoevskyan anxiety and questions of culpability and justification, Tagore’s vision of the need for a serene one world of many nations, and resonate with the poems of Dennis Brutus (1924-2009), a glorious voice against the South African apartheid regime. This universal tone can be found in literatures in all corners of the world if we are ready to explore them. Much of it also comes from oppressed confines of the world that often have a blurred boundary of ready identification, given that secret torture camps and war zones abound even today.

Danse Macabre Internationale brings you a slice of this ‘epic outlook’ of restlessness, love, floundering and hope – the words rally out in search of readers, to twist the well known Pirandello title – in the earnest wish that our words can inherit for us a world of joy and honor and also show us how the “world wags” for all times to come. Happy 2010 dear readers!

Image from Danse Macabre: Artist -- Mahdi Travajohi


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