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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA: My Novel is Published

Good news! My novel FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA is out!

Published by Cedar Books, India, Footprints is about an India that is too strange to believe, yet is a reality for thousands of its citizens crouching at the margins.

A story about a slice of rural India, it is written from an urban perspective, mainly from the point of view the two main protagonists, while each chapter is a first-person narrative voice from the chief characters.

Footprints looks into the life of a young Maoist recruit -- a teenaged girl named Muskaan -- the way it spirals through bloodshed, retaliation, deception and yet, brings out her elemental dreams of life and love.

Maoism has been repeatedly touted by many in India as a greater "threat" than even the global (read, Al Qaeda) or cross-border (Indo-Pakistan) terrorism, with the government not quite able to get its head around the phenomenon. Maoism, the allegedly romantic refuge of the country's rural denizens, is not exactly a path strewn with roses for the socially deprived and the segregated. Centuries-old injustice, flawed government policies, flagrant violations of the basic human rights and deep-seated official apathy even in a "modern" India, have driven the poor and the marginalized to turn to Maoism, only adding to the statistics of death and destabilization.

Call it a scourge, malaise or wrong judgment, it is also a terrible reality that Maoism in India has sheltered swathes of disgruntled populations that have perhaps little or no idea about Mao or Revolution. All they look out for is social justice in their own terms. The civil society is perhaps divided on if this is right or wrong, but there is no denying that lives have been torn up on all sides.

Below is the cover of my book. I am happy to say that the cover art is also by me, adapted from my favorite Madhubani painting style of Bihar!

The idea was to present a so-called rough and rustic appeal, in the way Madhubani derives its colors from vegetable and rock dyes, and in the way the symbolism of a tree, the sun and the thick outlines form a cohesive whole with burnt red, ochre and deep green tones. It is a world of idioms, myths and moving accounts that my art tries to capture.

This is the standalone front cover:

I sketched the motif on paper with pencil and ink and later went on to color it with ordinary marker pen! Following the scan, Cedar's design team helped improve the resolution.

The sun in the underbelly of a human-like form (a twisted imitation of "the tree of life") with a bloodied root-sprung head was my idea of the unstable "system". The green pearl millet or the bajra is present in a "semi-circle of life" as opposed to the "circle of life" concept popular in Madhubani art.

This is the back cover:

The book will be on Amazon (worldwide) and Rediff (India) for purchase later on. Right now, it goes to the 19th New Delhi World Book Fair 2010, Jan 30-Feb 7. Updates to follow!


Misiula said...


It's great that you were able to decide about the cover. That's a very intriguing drawing.

Wow. I'm so impressed and happy for you, I can't find the words...

fleuve-souterrain said...

Thank you, thank you Misi! I stuck for this cover thinking I should break out of the box a little.... not go for usual photographic representations. But this was experiment of course, and with a first book, I guess, it's a bit tough to tell what would've been better :) But the publishers assured me this will work well, not to worry! Well then, let's see how the book does at the book fair...eeps, I'm so nervous too!

Tim Buck said...

First, the cover. It looks amazing! Going outside the box is a brave but, I think in this case, wise choice. Browsers will stop: "What in the world is this?" they will ask. The startling colors will draw their hand to the book. Then on a subliminal level, the subtle symbolism will work its magic. Something vital and struggling is caught between poles of oppression and vague-but-caustic Utopian light.

The story sounds like something with dim relations to London's The Iron Heel. But his story was dry, didactic, lifeless. This already promises to be brimming with irony, passion, and verisimilitude. And it also sounds like a rural version of themes cast in Dostoevsky's The Possessed. The pulse moving toward conflict with reactionary, leaden forms of life.

Well, I'm getting a bit carried away talking about something I haven't read yet. And I want to learn about Maoism from this grass-roots level. I can't wait!

Hari Batti said...

Congratulations. This looks interesting. Will there be a launch in Delhi sometime?


fleuve-souterrain said...

--Tim, what a pleasure to share in your enthusiasm! I am not close to any of those big names you mention, but they are certainly icons I aspire to snuggle close to in my best dreams! I'll be happy if readers think the cover art is intriguing enough for them to hazard a read :) But since the publishers (who are known to put down a heavy foot on anything "creative" you might suggest in terms of design and layout... and not themselves very discerning of the symbolic :) ) felt this will work "quite well", I trust readers will think so too!

But there's no Maoism primer here, sorry to disappoint! It's only a tale, eeps!

-- HB. Thank you! I have to be in Delhi for a launch. I mean there should be one, if all goes well... Will keep you posted :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Nabina! Very happy for you and look forward to reading a signed copy soon...

fleuve-souterrain said...

Hi LW, you are gracious! We shall get you a copy once I come down to meet all of you...!

Sajan said...

Congratulations !!!

The front cover looks very appealing ..:)

fleuve-souterrain said...

Hi Sajan! Thank you! I am so happy you like the cover, a lot of personal investment there you see :)
If you are in Delhi, do visit the world book fair at Pragati Maidan, Hall 1, Stalls 439-450 (Pustak Mahal, the parent company of Cedar Books)... for my book!

Sajan said...

The hard work shows ...:)

I would not be in Delhi ...But I will surely grab a copy of the book ..The story line seems very intriguing!!

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Anonymous said...

Easily I assent to but I think the collection should have more info then it has.

Kathleen said...

We are so excited for you and can't wait to get a hold of the book to read!!! Congratulations! We love the cover of the book too. The colors turned out really well.

fleuve-souterrain said...

Katie! So cool to have you read this!
thanks to Eric and you and a very special one to you for helping me do the cover scan :)

Anonymous said...

Hello,nice post thanks for sharing?. I just joined and I am going to catch up by reading for a while. I hope I can join in soon.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled here trying to find folks in Hyderabad who are interested in writing.

I'm glad I did.

First, the cover, I love it. The design certainly appeals to my imagination when the story itself is about characters from rural India.

This is a brilliant combination of two Arts - the written word and the painting.

From your brief description of the book, the Maoist girl in your story has captured my curiosity.

Can you point me to a review or a copy of this book? I live in Hyderabad.

Oh By the Way - Congratulations! Is this your first book?

Kabir said...

Dear Nabina,

Couple of hours back completed reading your novel. Beautifully written and well articulated.
Somewhere was not satisfied with the way you concluded it. Ending was a bit abrupt and very brief.
Lot of hope and optimism surrounded it, but still seems very fictional far from the reality which I see around. People from civil society end up in empathising with Maoists and extremists but never seen a reverse trend where Maoists or extremist end up in civil society. A very interesting point you picked up.It can actually help in creating a much needed debate on reactionary violence.
At one point have disagreement on a historical fact. You told that Angulimaal turned into Valmiki later. I'm not sure how much is that correct. Angulimaal turned to sage or good human being after meeting Buddha, where as Valmiki met Naradh and became a saint.

Otherwise it was amazing!