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 31, 2011

FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA a "first in Indian writing in English"

INDIAN LITERATURE (IL, 259), the flagship journal of Sahitya Akademi (national academy of letters, India) recently published a nice review to my book "FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA". The book completed one year on Jan. 20 and so, this bit came as a good gift.

The attempt made by FOOTPRINTS, said the reviewer, "it seems, is a first in Indian writing in English and must be considered very seriously..."! Nice.
There is no online version. So here are not so good jpegs of the scans:

But good people are more in number in this world. So, here is a link to Saborna Roychowdhury's blog where she posted the pdfs of the same review. The two tiny links above the article are those pdfs, yes.

While at all this, I also urge you to read another review of FOOTPRINTS on Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar's blog. Very detailed, very astute.

You should check out both the blogs for more literary fare. Good stuff for new or 'old' writers.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sketch Poems in FULL OF CROW

If you haven't yet, go check out this cool online journal called FULL OF CROW, Winter issue 2010, VOID. Lots of good writing -- both poetry and fiction -- and beautiful sketches.

I have three sketch poems that editor Michael Solender loved (he did, I know!). You will too, hopefully. See them in the downloadable journal here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reviews by me -- Sudeep Sen and Abha Iyengar's collections

Two poetry collection reviews of mine are up on Mascara Literary Review and Pirene's Fountain, both very sophisticated literary journals.

Sudeep Sen's collection of translation poetry "Aria" is an astute piece of work. The range covers from Hindi, Bengali and Urdu poetry to Hebrew, Greek and Persian. It's been a long time that I enjoyed poetry in translation, delicate work that made me want to read the original and marvel at the music of the created work. Read the review HERE.

Also, I reviewed Abha Iyengar's first poetry collection "Yearnings". Abha writes with the ease of a shaman or a clever lover, adept at splitting open emotions of her subjects and planting her own desires within the lines. Read this review HERE.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Featured poem in "Durable Goods 28"

EVENING THINGS is featured in Durable Goods issue 28, published by Aleathia Drehmer, poet and publisher from Upstate NY.

I think a lot about the home we left behind in Guwahati, Assam. My parents moved from there, and with it a large chunk of our childhood and growing up years.

DG 28 is only in print. Read the poem below:

Evening Things

By Nabina Das

5 p.m. The trees 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 erupt

Its tranced kortaal dueting with the khol

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

Gooseberry dreaming the shadow of a home.

NOTE: I realize there are some words in the poem that are not from the English language and hence need explaining. However, I don't like giving glossary.

Image from my photo album

Friday, October 15, 2010

Non-fiction Piece published in BAP Quarterly

When I wrote it down recently, I thought this non-fiction piece of mine read more like a story. It is one no doubt, considering how dramatic real life could get for some people. And I find myself going back to such themes again and again, whether in essay or poetry -- the quest for defining borders, the urge to un-map oneself and the discovery that confines are within our own minds.

THE WATER GIVER is published in the current issue of Bosphorus Art Project Quarterly. The theme for this edition is "New York City". Exciting, innit!

Here's an excerpt:

"He had seen us through the crowd. Lunch time. A 15-course buffet and the smell of mustard oil I cannot miss. Jackson Heights is an ant hill of colors – white, brown, black. White faces, black arms, brown legs. The United Colors of Humanity flag flapping in the glee of an autumn New York breeze of 2007.
He has worked under the roof of this un-glitzy Bangladeshi restaurant for decades now. He has hummed Amar Shonar Bangla in the beginning over cauldrons of boiling oil or milk, dreamed of dazzling green paddy, and then slowly forgotten everything. His education was meager, not enough to earn him a stable job back home in a newborn nation. But the money to the middleman “bhai” was just what he could pay for a better life as a New Yorkistani. After all, there was no family, no ties. Why even stick around to be prodded by the police and hear comments from the neighborhood maulavi for not having grown his beard long enough?"
Hope you have fun reading it. For the direct link, go here.

Image: BAP Q cover "Worship Me" by Farras Abdelnour

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Redness" wins a prize

It was nice to know I was awarded the 1st prize for my entry "REDNESS" by the UNISUN-Reliance poetry contest. That poem is special to me.

Here's the text:


The summer storm bloomed on an eastern sky

the west looked red

roses of anger heaped on a bush stuck in its thorns

smarting faces, hatred.


You were watching Caché in the living room TV

blood squirting from slashed up necks

headless chickens scattered in an ungainly race

backwards, forward, again back.


My finger touched a tomato skin shedding light

of a red ink, darklike –

wasn’t this what my father’s revolutionary friends

brought in, a newspaper wrapped tight


So not everyone would know how words tumble

red and angry on our roads?

I thought I saw a word flutter open again, a hue,

not a name or mundane things like odes.


You thought we’d lost our tongues, our attitude

piled under the redness of shame

peripheral to storms, deaths, news of constant ruse

and I realized, a color doesn’t need a name.

(By the way, someone asked with chagrin why I enter contests and I said, "To pay my bills". That is partly true. I want to break even one day and take a cruise somewhere. Is that bad? At least I don't want my poetry to be just read in tiny groups that'll only say "awww". I want poetry to sit in the bazaar and yell and gesture at passers-by... Ah, okay.)

Image from Internet: pop art

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Director Onir on "Footprints..."!!

It makes me immensely happy to receive this comment below on my novel "Footprints in the Bajra" from one of the best known young directors of Indian Cinema. Onir Anirban is definitely the most pertinent new face of film making in the Subcontinent today. The I AM series directed by Onir promises to break new grounds in cinematic approaches.

I met Onir first at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, in 2009, where he showed us the work-in-progress version of his first I AM series -- "Omar". Soft-spoken and passionate about the topics at hand that he is, the film came across as a new take on LGBT issues, at once sympathetic and questioning.

I thought it would be rather unfortunate if I did not send my book to Onir. He's a busy director, and this is the only way I could send him a gift! So, this is what he said, after reading "Footprints...":

"Finally managed to read Footprints in the Bajra. Compelling reading, lovely drama and great texture. Enjoyed reading very much. Thank you for giving me your book to read."

Yes, I am happy!

Here's a poster -- I AM OMAR -- from Onir's new series:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Waiting on the MFA

What's going on these days? Well, I am in an MFA Poetry program at Rutgers-Camden. Two poetry workshops, one fiction workshop and one pedagogy class. Plus teaching two sections. That pretty much sums up my life. Writing? I am writing, a little bit. Revising more because i want to take the advantage of my workshops for all the pile of writing I have done for the last three years.

Sitting in my residence hall room where I share the kitchen with two Law students, I can only wonder what new writing will emerge from my pen. Others are watching, and so am I.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Footprints" review in Business World magazine

Another review appeared in May this year in the top Indian biz mag BUSINESS WORLD.

"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.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SURFACES Poetry Reading & Chapbook Launch

Below are some of the poems I read on Aug 9, at Sarai Cafe, CSDS, Delhi, for the SURFACES Poetry Reading with Three English and Three Hindi Poets & Chapbook Launch (moderated and curated by Vivek Narayanan).

Apart from the couple that have been published, the rest have been written during my Associate Fellowship at Sarai-CSDS, 2010. The residency spanned July-August. The poem "AHALYA'S WISH" is included in the SURFACES chapbook, a handmade art collection boasting the work of co-fellows of mine.


Tea with Reza

By Nabina Das

Little glasses warmed by steam

Posing ballerinas pirouetting in silver holders

Glassy eyes too from steaming tears in

Tea-colored eyes

The kettle whistled Reza said, like

The train whizzing past his little

Iranian township that sang

Khoshbakhtam, khoshbakhtam!

Where poplars grew tall, very tall

Reza’s arms ceramic and

Bent bow-like from his time in jail

In a dark cell where he wasn’t given

Books to read or

Newspapers but just lashes and blows

Now and then for reading Marx

At the university

His tealeaf eyelids brimming up

With that memory …

He handed us glasses on silver holders

Held them tender, candles during prayer

The Revolution was not for my

Heart and soul, Reza cried

O my dear comrades, O my friends…

I came to be with you for freedom

And manifestos and democracy

Talks showering morning’s calm

On poplars I loved, my friends loved

Friends who were lost and gone

For singing The Internationale

Their arms bent too, cracked ceramic

Backs scarred, resting in unknown graves

Sometimes letters from prison came

Once a year, till they stopped, mentioning

The smell of tea freshly brewed

Just like this, verses of aroma

Coiling over us during our tea

With Reza one nineties evening…

He still waits in exile.

First published in Mad Swirl


Waiting on the News

By Nabina Das

Come Aitaa

we must discuss before time if we want radishes in this year’s garden

green gourds climbing a common fence, sure, you can have some

also coriander to sprinkle on the pitika for a late afternoon meal

bhoot-jolokia that no one will eat, the army fancies it now we know

the newspapers have it all, the tea shops get their fortune told

Come Aitaa

Let’s talk about the one-legged pigs and calves born this year

the ducks that won’t stop chasing the hens even if you yelled,

about the corner-shop Bipin I’m not sure, his ma died crying

for he was gone in the forest, they say, to become an insurgent,

but the mother said… to find the old dog Gela of the mangy coat--

to those stories Aitaa, my answers are slippery feet on oil

Come Aitaa

Let’s walk down the paddy lanes just till the town bus stand

While you wait for aunt Moromi; I’ll tell you why Aslam won’t sell

His fish cheap even if you swear on the hungry-mouthed floods

forsaken huts and the fungal pots pans we won’t ever throw away

but if you wonder why the one-eyed Harekrishna didn’t return

from the big market of Ganeshguri, no ID, no whereabouts

Aitaa, I swear on my loveless luck I’d have to invent a new fairytale.

This work is supported by Sarai-CSDS, Delhi, under an Associate Fellowship


The Woman from Both Sides

By Nabina Das

When they came home they praised

Her for her naked room, the swiped floor

Kantha-stitched cushion covers and a neat

Tulsi plant doing a dhamail in the breeze

When they arrived at the garden gate they

Marveled at the roses she grew after meals

The verandah with old cane stools dozing

Before evening gods would arrive for alms

When they were asked to say a few words

They saw her brass urns glint on shelves

Filled with partition stories, re-invented,

Re-told with new metaphors washed clean

With her starched chemise in this side’s sun

They wept to see her calmer than usual

So, they sat down by her body’s silence

When they looked at her all wrapped in white

Sandal scents holding on tight to a gray lock

Tucked behind the right ear, they also saw

Her fingers soiled from that side, maps of tales.

This work is supported by Sarai-CSDS, Delhi, under an Associate Fellowship


After the Show

By Nabina Das

We were on the paddies

we walked gingerly

toes to toes to heels

against toes

they said someone

might be following us

We were on

the rails of words

we spoke less

just squeezed

proverbs like stress balls

or mother’s hand

We were inside night’s

armory where

owls sharpened our

verbs of anxiety

skunks clawed at rising

codas of our breaths

We were sweaty

after our show

each one of us done

with our roles

entering a new theater

with the summer mist

where our faces

were terracotta

against the thuds

of rifle butts someone

said would follow us

till the journey’s end

We were deep

inside a language

whose dialogues

rang in a darkness

bright as the ancient

demon’s teeth

its beastly innocence

shone through our flak

There were flowers

red and green

there were the gods

fallen face down

songs about how

they all became

absent mannequins

also songs the grain-

thrashers sang

in the split of

old war stories

then we rehearsed

another new scene.

This work is supported by Sarai-CSDS, Delhi, under an Associate Fellowship


Ahalya’s Wish

By Nabina Das

Her visit made everyone run

fetch her special seat, water glass

a separate special plate, later scoured

separate, after her after-work snack

We kids ran in a tumult to see if

her teeth were different in number

than the last time, slurpy betel

juice soaked, scary monster-red

Mother made chitchat, served her

coconut candies in summer

black sesame sweets in winter

with jaggery or handmade bread

Aunts poured her water slowly

careful not to spill, not to mop

once she cleaned the outhouse

a relic from an unknown rural life

Once she cut the shrubs, weeded, threw

the dead skunk in a ditch and cleaned

up, we kids asked her to pick a name that

she’d like to be in her dreams so she

could be allowed to play with us

make us clay dolls of earthly shapes

Her dark forehead gleamed, no sindoor

the sari-end bunched at her sagging breasts.

Her instant candor still rings in my head:

“I’d like to be made flesh, don’t know the name,”

she said. “Feet first, I will touch everything.”

This work is supported by Sarai-CSDS, Delhi, under an Associate Fellowship


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Interview in THE SENTINEL -- All About "Footprints"

KARUNAMAY SINHA's interview about my work and book FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA in THE SENTINEL. Please read and air your comments! Personally I am happy to re-connect with The Sentinel where I had worked as a cub sub editor and reporter once upon a time :)

The paper copy has some nice photographs I had sent them. The e-paper has this ordinary layout.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review of "Footprints..." in THE STATESMAN

THE STATESMAN, Sunday Supplement "8th Day" of May 16, 2010, has these words about "Footprints in the Bajra".

'"If you misrepresent you, they'll abduct and kill you," says Muskaan, our hostess, who swats my attention as though it were a distracted fly bumbling over a new odour"" goes the first line with which Nabina Das settles everything about her novel -- style, subject and pace... Excellent plot line; wonderful detail. A beautifully crafted book."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Father Tells a Story -- poem in "Indian Literature" (Sahitya Akademi)

"MY FATHER TELLS A STORY" is another poem from the four recently published in "Indian Literature" from Sahitya Akademi, the national academy of letters in India. I thought of putting this up on my blog especially because the question of roots, origins, and nationality always interest me a great deal, and a recent rendezvous with Edouard Glissant's talk and a documentary film about his Poétique de la Relation. (Poétique III; Paris: Gallimard, 1990) fanned some more introspection in this regard. For the strategization of language and identity to be either a linear entity or a parallel to a certain historical/atavistic notion is something all of us tend to seek. But stories are different as you inadvertently have to peel the layers, often subconsciously. For a 'colonial to a post-colonial' identity, a poem such as this cannot be seen as an exercise in a uni-dimensional "root" adherence. The "story" -- told many times over through someone to my father to me and to others who have experienced similarly in diverse histories, not just the Subcontinent -- lends itself to further re-telling, an enhancement in terms of linguistics and historicity.


The young girl in a sari

Was walking to the library

She naturally didn’t see

The truck creep up behind her

Stuffed with soldiers wearing

Leafy helmets, false implants in

The heart of that shell-shocked

Macadamized Bengal town


Her face a sorry storybook

Quite a few pages torn

When they found her by

A garbage dump, stared at

By the ancient panhandler

The poor bastard refused arrest

Shouted abuses, got suitably

Thrashed by the police


The young man whispered

Show me your palm your

Red henna peacock from

Last night’s festivities

Then she read him a poem

About crocodiles in snare

Until they fell asleep in

Each other’s arms, dreaming


There was a river, grass and

Flowers shrouding its banks

Its depth unknown, but easy

For the rebels to swim

The same night Yahya Khan

Made quick plans to strike

Universities where students

Danced to songs of Tagore


That was a night when nervous

Sirens screamed on, his

Would-be bride was picked up

And thrown. Folding up

Maps that fooled, didn’t show

A country of hearts, he left

A peacock mourned for her

And him. No country yet for them.


Image from the Internet: Jamini Roy, Untitled; gouache on paper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Footprints in the Bajra" reviewed in Pioneer newspaper

PIONEER, a newspaper from Delhi, has the latest word on my novel FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA.

In case it opens up, here is the PDF or the e-page on the "Books Agenda" page. You might have to scroll for the page.

A six-column review, it says a lot of things. However, I must add as a comment that I am not per se interested in the "reform" of a Maoist and that was not what I intended in my book with the protagonist Muskaan. The end is, in my opinion, more nuanced than what prevalent political interpretations are whenever it comes to topics on Maoism and the parties engaged against the ideology or in solidarity with it.

If you so not wish to see the link, read the review below:

Reform of a Maoist

Footprints in the Bajra
Author: Nabina Das
Publisher: Pustak Mahal
Price: Rs 175

Shwetank Dubey says Nabina Das ably recreates the milieu of Maoist-infested regions of India

Reform is always good, especially when it concerns someone who has been misled, used, lied to and then forsaken by those who she thinks are her well-wishers. The only thing that such a person can do is give back what she got, albeit with much more intensity. Everyone has to wake up some day or the other and smell the coffee, and that is what Muskaan, the protagonist in Nabina Das’ novel Footprints in the Bajra, did. After feeling betrayed by her mentor, she finally took refuge in the advice given by her student-activist friend from New Delhi and decided to chart her own life, for once.

For anyone who comes from the rural areas of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and parts of West Bengal, Maoism is nothing new. It has been there as a part and parcel of their lives since decades. Illiteracy being a common curse in such regions, it plays a very important part in helping Maoist rebels build an army to fight against the administration and the Government. The simple villagers are made to believe that they are better off fighting the Government than supporting it. And that is what the main villain in the novel, the village teacher, Suryakant Sahay aka Comrade Suraj, cashes on. With the help of his second in command, Nirav Saxena alias Comrade Avadhut, they perform the most unsaintly acts of attacking and killing the Chaudharys of Chabutara, the upper class village, as well as devising strategies against the Government.

Since time immemorial, landlords have been touted to be major oppressors so much so that the divide created by the upper castes has led to even a greater help to the Maoists. As Nabina Das puts it in her novel, with the help of the Internally Displaced People (IDP), Maoists built a strong army. Such IDPs were made to fight for the “cause” and inducted in the Red Army. After a lot of investigative journalism, as well as the changed stance of the Government, it has now become common knowledge about how uneducated people in rural areas, especially those living in places where the Government and administration takes a lot of time to reach, have been cheated by the Maoist brigade since decades, in the promise of a better life and “revenge” from their erstwhile oppressors. Added to this is the fact that farming also underwent a drastic change wherein grain crops were replaced by poppy fields. This turned into a major funding device for the Maoists. All this has been quite prominently woven into the story by Nabina Das.

Everything undergoes change, and so does Muskaan’s life. The various upheavals in her life, right from being a child soldier, being held captive by the Chaudharys, being kept in a safe house, to joining the non-Government organisation Shaktishalini and pursuing higher studies and, finally, of closing the entire chapter by being an “emancipator” of the masses, are few things to be reckoned with.

Being betrayed is a very heart-breaking feeling and Muskaan faces this throughout her life, till she decides to hold the reins herself. Her first lover, Palash, decides to break up with her after she is abducted by the Chaudharys after an attack by the so-called Hunting Brigade formed by the upper castes with the help of the administration to quell the Maoist menace, the details of which are revealed much later in an emotional outburst to Nora.

Nirav and Sahay use her for their own interests in furthering their cause. After their group is disbanded, they find it in their best interests to tie-up with the Maoist brigade from across the border in Nepal. They realise the Red Brigade in India is mismanaged and there is no common thinking or a leader. Moreover, for their cause to survive, they decide that the best option is to adopt the stance taken by the Nepal Maoists — take to politics. Muskaan plays a very important role in this (as a pawn for Sahay and Nirav) after she joins Shaktishalini. The NGO is hacked by Nirav for his tie-up with the Nepal Maoists, while Rehana (who runs the NGO) thinks that she has found the perfect mentor for her cause of upliftment of women.

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. While the narratives are quite detailed when read from the perspective of it being a scholarly article (footprints of good education and reading prowess among the main protagonists are inadvertently displayed), there are various other details that could have been made clearer. The motive of people like the headmaster and the businessman for joining such a cause is a bit muddled.

However, 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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SIX-MILE-CREEK: A Postcard-Poem

Former Tompkins County Poet Laureate Katharyn Howd Machan, also a poetry instructor at Ithaca College, had organized an "arts for all marathon" at the Community School of Music and Arts in 2009. The idea was to engage area poets on a common project and to raise funds for CSMA programs that would mainly benefit children and youth.

The Arts for All Marathon was a 26.2-day postcard-poetry project. Great fun and immense education.

"Six-Mile-Creek" was chosen by Katharyn and has been printed on a postcard along with poems from other writers. This one was a favorite of mine as soon as I wrote it down! While I write letters to friends on the poetry-postcards (I have two sets so I can keep one bunch all for myself), read the poem below:


Sleep is a sharp river bend
Geology too, on a face-smooth rock
One that climbs up the banks

From the creek that flows
Behind my hill on a cascading street
Called water, silent at night

They say the trout should
Flock after this neon winter passes
And now only sprigs float

Below the dam after six miles
Where half-nude youngsters jump into
The liquidy sheet ignoring signs

That say “don’t”. They still do
With their sudden laughter waking up
Us who sleep on the rocky shore.


Image from the Internet: Six-Mile-Creek, Ithaca, a painting by John Clum

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reading from "Footprints in the Bajra", April 17, 4-5 p.m.

I shall be reading from my first novel FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA on Saturday, April 17, 4-5 p.m. at Buffalo Street Books in downtown Ithaca. See the event details here.

If you are in the area, please come for the reading. See a review of Footprints in Danse Macabre journal (USA) and a book interview in Daily News and Analysis (DNA), Bombay.

I must mention, my neighbors at Maplewood Park, a Cornell University housing area, where I have lived for 7 long years because Mr. M did his PhD here, have been very sweet to invite the residents to this reading. They even made a poster of the event!

Photo courtesy: Maplewood Park staff Priyanka Bangale.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Wood-Story Before the Millennium and Now": New Poem in DM 34

Brand new poem on DANSE MACABRE XXXIV's all-poetry April issue "Belles-Lettres".

This is from a series I am writing under my Sarai-CSDS fellowship "The Migrant City". You can read it here or below:

Wood-Story Before the Millennium and Now

This is a table where we used to keep a glass vase in the nineties

the sun a syruping gooseberry often tumbling out of it reckless

a wooden table, smooth-plank body of a tree dressed for our

weekend dinners. Some clutter as it happens with faces clustered

coats of varnish and heavy-lashed lacquerware, dead-white ceramic

this will still be the same surface where we will spill the gravy

push the sparkling tea across, lick any fallen crumbs with thumbs


Keep the fast, it gives long life

to your husband, those elderly

women will implore and

let the table carry ornate

plates of offerings you won’t easily touch

only after the moon does first

its shadow on the water on your silver tray.

And then the table can sing like a cricket

all that crockery clattering

we will eat everything before

the moon-shadow devours the mind

ignoring what the women say.

In fact, you will know, I only cared

about just crickets because they

love the blackness of soul just as I do.


When I close my eyes I see my aunt lissome and dark with her braid

long like those thick twines for hauling country boats to shore

she smiles and shows a tooth we were told is of the elephant, rare.

I see her on her back on the bed tossing a red plastic ball over her chest

lob and drop and lob and show the gajadanta smile while my uncle

sits two feet away on a table, the one they never dined on, used as a shelf

for things, littered for the most time. He dangling his black-shoed feet as

if he is a kid watching the unbelievable enchantress woman’s trick

of lobbing a red-desire ball high up; the head of the old-fashioned bed

preventing him to leap forward, also because I zip into the room

looking for my cousin as uncle shifts, legs undangle, the table creaks.


The life story of woods

when they come from

forests of greenness

tells of more lines and stars

than found on our palms.


I don’t remember when Habib Tanveer or Gangubai the siren throat died

when was it bringing home wads of cash that quick dirty jobs paid was cool

money for home, food, electronics, but no song or lines; but I do remember

rehearsing one afternoon with Habib for a play we would perform in a street

where racketeers and launderers ran their shops; they watched, we stood

on the dust as if on breadcrumb crusts strewn on a table top, hewn uneven

because no one cleaned; a china cup stayed back, the old tea leaves telling

a tale of the millennium as they should, like all things emancipated and sweetly old.

This work is supported by Sarai-CSDS, New Delhi.

Image from Danse Macabre literary journal