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

Saturday, February 6, 2010

3 "Sentimental" poems--in progress

Every now and then I have been gently nudged to write "sentimental" poems by several people. These poems are still being written and re-written. No idea when they'd be finished. But here they are anyway, hopefully sentimental:

1. Afterglow

5 p.m. Yellow bees invite blue china clouds

They forget the sun cannot light the lamp

5 p.m. You are drinking tea with honey

Inside a penumbra by the Radhachuda tree

You can wait, then bring the oil lamp out

Circumnavigate the non-existent tulaxi

The Namghar’s 5 p.m. silence will soon spew

Its tranced kortaal dueting with the khol

5 p.m. You will know that time has struck

Gooseberry shadowing the home of a dream.

(Sentiment: my parents sold off their own house in Guwahati, Assam -- where my brother and I grew up from pre-teens till we went to the university -- and moved away. Tulaxi is a sacred plant; Namghar is a worship house; kortaal and khol are musical instruments cymbals and narrow drum)

2. Morphologia

My mother’s litheness has melted

on to a lump of thin muscles limp

her skin a silken furrowed Kabuki fan

she’s not plump anymore, my Ma

those breasts once like mountained pies

now they whisper each other stories

of passion that hangs loose, peeled

her mouth’s cinnamon is browned

and her hair more jasmine than kohl

the white roses at the porch know

have seen the bloom fade, with years’ trim

and she worships more her favorite

man-god, feeds him like an infant

now that she can’t have us on her lap anymore


Seeing distant rivers on the TV she starts

off about the playground by the Surma

and the tea gardens where jhumur

was the first step she had learned


My mother's city was not her friend, she

loved it only from the Xarania’s top

by its aloof white dome, her brown eyes

mapping the Moha-baahu’s breadth

for a lore she sung us from her past


Now afternoons pass, evenings flower

with incense in their hearts, she lies

from the long day of her godhuli life

bundled and river-clay-soft on her bed

as if no bones or flesh make that body

it makes me utter in a nervous even tone:

"Ma will you wake up, shall I get you some tea?"

(Sentiment: my mother is aging pretty well and fast. Xarania is a hillock in the city of Guwahati, sort of a scenic observation point; jhumur is a tea-garden dance; Moha-baahu is a metaphorical name for the River Brahmaputra; godhuli roughly means 'dusk or twilight'... actually none)

3. Eight-and-a-half

(I have shared this on FB too, but feedback is welcome because this has changed some bit...)

No midnight lamp or noisy page turning

no dawn-time clanking Corelle bowls of sudden hunger pangs

no cheeky slip-ons sitting scattered pretty on my rugs

no demolished cushions from hours of crushing

no shaving foam while I pick up the morning toothbrush

no mixing up of towels or ‘oh yours smell like hell’ time


No fancy breakfasts, no standard lunches

no chasing the tail of time, let the sky wither

no saying ‘but I said so, and you should know ‘

no dipping finger in the sauce to taste, how cheap!


You were not there

so more it seemed

the dreams were truer

than their interpretations

you are back, a watermark on my waiting

no more peeking out at the Canada geese

from behind my closed window blinds.

(Sentiment: Mr. M was gone for 8 and half days across half the world... )

Image: from my computer -- My Mother.


Tim Buck said...


These poems are wrought with a subtle, masterful touch. I love them. I love the particular ingredients they are made out of. And even more -- I am so pleased to read "sentimental" poems that are not drenched in putrid self-absorption. This is sentimentality of a refined, poised, sane complexion.

You are looking out and embracing the objects of affection. You are not splitting your soul open and letting all sorts of wincing junk get all over our feet.

Well done! On all of these. My favorite is the first one.


fleuve-souterrain said...

Dear Tim
as always, your very special eyes that operate on the interface of music and language have told me a lot more than what I glean about my own writing. Thank you! I think you are right to like "Afterglow"... it glide along a plane of personal loss and sorrow without being too verbose. In the language of music, you'd probably see this as a restrained overture...

tanuj solanki said...

Don't agree with you calling them sentimental; these are just poems, the way they should be, perhaps.

Loved your description of the mother's breasts.

fleuve-souterrain said...

TS, very nice of you to read... I get your point, everything or nothing may be called sentimental. that's a superfluous tag. we read and interpret according to our own disposition... Yes I like that description too :). Also 8 1/2.

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christina said...

I 'm sorry I haven't been her since you've changed your page.. wow... I have to look around to see all you have here.

But these three poems are very rich and beautiful...
I don't think I'd call them sentimental but deep and personally meaningful..
I'm glad I popped over to read.


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