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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Innuendo in the Cinema Theatre - Prakriti Foundation poetry win

This is like flashback. Going back to recount something from 2009. And a good thing that brought my 2009 to a enthusiastic close. My poem "Innuendo in the Cinema Theatre" won the 2nd prize for the 2009 Prakriti Foundation open contest. Prakriti Foundation, Chennai, is
"interested in hearing the many voices of interest that make up the diverse culture of India. The foundation wishes to share information and wisdom that many of the giant scholars of India and abroad have to give us"...

The contest was part of its Poetry with Prakriti program. You can read all the three winners here.

My poem is pasted below:


"Innuendo in the Cinema Theatre"

For Robert Hass

This a story of two opponents

who face each other, count

silence with just an ‘ahem’.

One guesses very well

something hanky panky

went on indoors, curtained;

while the sheepish other

is embarrassed but sure that

his mate of henna beard

has cheated behind his back.


They believe, she can see,

love and kingdom is a game.

The trot of the horses and

the thundering canons are

only a few of the things

that make her chest rise

higher than the hillside on

the tremulous silver screen.


With this scene where

Satyajit Ray’s chess player

is caught unbuttoned

after returning back to

the game from a quick

love tiff with his silly wife,

the girl knows there will

never be such parables

for her even in the twilight.


In the story, trumpets play

in technicolour hands

hundred horns hoot away.

The magnificent blare

ascertains someone has

cheated and yet, has won.


Men and parodied mules,

women fleeing with babies,

roll like a carriage song.

It remains unclear who

will blink first to disentangle

overtures with their hands.

The script is in a language

she speaks but is remote

for an innuendo in her heart.


Elephants in gold brocades,

climactic chatter, tingly rosewater,

turn her lips butterfly wings

because she will see them

again and again on a screen

of her unbridled dreams.


Lastly, the soldiers march

in and the players stare:

two split fish stranded

unable to remember any

moments of lovemaking

or cheating on a pawn.

They half-rise, she waits.

Her lover leaves through

a door he takes with him:

like shadows mingling dark,

countries drawn in lines,

the two separate.

I wrote to Robert Hass in utmost excitement through his poet wife Brenda Hillman and this is what he wrote back after seeing my poem (my dedication refers to Hass' poem "Heroic Simile"):

"Thanks for your dedication and congratulations on your prize. Your
poem is very poignant to me. It gets at something about the way movies
place the world before (us) as a source of meditation, at the same time that
we are helpless before the way its images enter us. Good luck with
your future work.

Robert Hass"

That's a good opening to 2010 I guess, since his reply came on Jan 4. And know what, Trillium Magazine, where I had submitted nearly a year ago, suddenly sent me a mail saying they'd accept all the poems I had submitted. Now more on that later.

Image from the Internet: film poster of Shatranj ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) by Satyajit Ray


9 comments:

abhishekfl said...
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Sunny Verma said...
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fleuve-souterrain said...

all FB feedback here
Tim Buck-- This is a perfect distribution of words, of syllabic meter across lines and from one line to the next. Your brain must have been cookin' with clean, pure olive oil to produce such clarity of theme and its presentation.
Nabina Das --Thank you Tim...! this critique of yours tells me a lot, I'd like to carry out some exercises along this note.Very helpful! and yep, of late I've been eating lotsa olives too!!
--William B. Burkholder nice nabina i enjoyed reading this
·
--Nabina Das thanks Will, appreciate a lot!
--William B. Burkholder really enjoyed reading this
-- · Kris Saknussemm Nice.
·
--Jayashree Kapahi So much depth in such few lines....

--Nabina Das thanks Kris!
Jayashree, appreciate your comment a lot... the poem is actually a bit longer if you follow the link. I just pasted the 1st portion in my note :)
--Jayashree Kapahi Nabina-just read the complete poem.You've distilled the essence of the movie brilliantly.
--Christina Brooks I like this Nabina... was this written originally in English? I love the way it is just a taste of something... very nice.

Thanks for tagging me..
--Megan Collins Oh wonderful Nabina! Agree with Tim - You were cookin' with gas!
--Nabina Das oh Jayashree, thanks so much! The movie is phenomenal and I am always moved by the layers it posed... about the story of 2 friends, about a nation changing, abt personal relationships... :D. Endless possibilities!

Chris, thanks! it was originally written in English... I dedicated it to Robert Hass' "Heroic Simile". The link's on my blog, but you can read it here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16228
--Nabina Das Meg, you bet! and swimmin' in olive jelly! Thanks so much sweetie!
--Megan Collins Oooh Olive jelly! NICE peppercorn!
--Connie Stadler Excellent write, Nabina. I can see why this was highly praised even without seeing the film.
==Priti Aisola Beautiful clarity of images and so much compressed skilfully within the slender frame of this piece. Wonderful, Nabina!
==Nabina Das Connie, so good to have that fantastic response from you!... I'm glad to ride over the cultural-social boundaries :)

Peppercorn says hugs, Meg!
--Abha Iyengar Went to your blog and read the complete poem. I have always loved this movie, and thanks very much for your poem, it brought the film alive for me again. Congrats on winning.
--Abhinav Maurya +1; Loved it!
--Chaman Lal nice Nabina
==Bhagya Somashekar Like I said before I loved reading this poem!
"something hanky panky
went on indoors, curtained" *thumbs up*
Must watch the film...and thanks! :)
--Nabina Das Abha -- I'm thrilled you liked it!
Abhi -- good to have your word!
Chamanji -- thank you!
Bhagya -- The first place winner's words make my day. Loved your poem too. Lyrical, evocative and so beautifully sad too somewhere. I have the Prakriti page on my blog, for everyone to read the winning poems...

why does FB have a tag limit of 25? Makes no sense.
Huge thanks to Kajal, Shelley, Santana - I value your thumbs a lot :)
--Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis thanks for the tag, enjoyed reading
--Nabina Das Thanks Priti! Means a lot to me...
Lawrence-Minh -- great to have you with me, thanks!
--Nabina Das Cheryl, Dianne, love those "likes"!
--Koyamparambath Satchidanandan Captures the whole scene and psyche tersely..
--Bina Gupta nabs: read yr poem in whole
and the movie came alive once more
congrats!
--Ellpee Mahawar Congrats!!!
--Anuradha Vijayakrishnan Once again, excellent.
--Nabina Das Many thanks Tiku, Minal and Yuyu!
--dear Satchida, the more I think, "psyche" is such a pertinent word you have used...! the movie is all about the colonial history, about lives changing in that context and how we find affinity to that with our present day politics and societal ties ... I am honored to have your comment!
--Binaji, you are a darling, thanks!
-- Ellpee, thanks for reading!
-- Annu, cherish your words, from a fine poet as yourself :)

Violetwrites said...

beautiful poem and wonderful that you dedicated it to Haas and he wrote to you about his feelings about it.
top of the morning to you

fleuve-souterrain said...

Joy, your words bring me so much happiness! Hass' response is special no doubt but I'm happy that you, a special friend to me, appreciated the poem's meaning :) Love!--nabina

Anonymous said...

i'm new... anticipation to register nearly more oftentimes!

Anonymous said...

I like it very much!