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!