Do You See?
My book pitch entry became a winner at the 2008 Kala Ghoda Literary Festival, Mumbai, India, early this year. HarperCollins India and Palador publishing houses have expressed their interest in this novel. I have just finished up — PHEW!! — revising the 200+ page-long manuscript and have carted it off to HarperCollins India. Hopefully they’ll see the sparks of genius in my work. In fact, the preliminary chapters of the novel have won a 2007 Joan Jakobson Scholarship for Fiction from Wesleyan University (where I workshopped it with the writer Josip Novakovich) and a 2007 Julio Lobo Scholarship for Fiction from Lesley College, Cambridge, Mass.
Title: FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA
Genre(s): Literary Fiction
Violence. Revolutionary passion. Change. FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA is about a young Maoist recruit, Muskaan from Bihar who meets Nora, a student-activist. Muskaan’s transition in belief, aided by Nora, through a series of staggering bloodletting and self-reflection takes her to America, reshaping her radical zeal through her newfound love.
FOOTPRINTS IN THE BAJRA is a novel about Muskaan, a teenaged girl recruited by Maoists in a remote north Bihar village. Muskaan fiercely clings on to her ideology of change until she comes across Nora, a student-cum-theater activist from Delhi, who has her eyes set on studies and career in the US.
FOOTPRINTS charts the moment of transition – in belief and identity – in the life of Muskaan. It begins with how the young rebel and her comrades, while capitalizing on the presence of Nora and her theater troupe members in Durjanpur, carry out a bloody kidnapping and killing in the outskirts of the village. During this incident, Nora accidentally finds out Muskaan’s radical role – carefully concealed so far. The event pits them together in a new relationship where Muskaan turns into an adversary because of Nora’s exclusive knowledge about their rebel outfit.
Even as Maoists threaten her with death, Nora quietly convinces Muskaan of the possibility of a different world before she is released owing to political pressures from Delhi. Muskaan discovers that her reverence for her foster uncle and mentor Suryakant Sahay and her senior comrade Avadhut fail to pass muster when it comes to representing the real aspirations of the people around her. Her nascent passion for Palash, a comrade-in-arms, also suffers a breach as she finds him to be far situated from the idealistic plane she imagined. Confused yet adamant, she reaches out to Nora who is in New York by this time, studying and working.
Through a series of self-reflection and her lonely struggle to break out of her familiar web of violence and retaliation, Muskaan manages to arrive in the US as a student. All along, Nora’s friendship and support act as her mainstay. Their blooming friendship – even when they are miles apart – reveals to the young rebel a far more radical possibility for changing life, not only for her, but also for her community and society where century-old causes have always generated equally archaic and unsettling effects. Finally, when in love, and in a decisive stage of her life and friendship, Muskaan sees the path to change clearly in front of her. She returns home to follow the path, however forked it is.
This is the story of Muskaan’s bewilderment and untutored enlightenment, about the effects of globalization and its new economic mores spanning from the badlands of Bihar to Delhi’s elite environment and American ivory towers of intellectualism.
Through her new love and tough choices it offers, she sets out to stamp new footprints, this time not steeped in blood, but in intense hope and no less elemental desires to see life-changing dreams come true.