Do You See?
“The book has a very assured beginning that draws you into it rapidly. The very first image where Muskaan ‘swats my (Nora’s) attention as though it were a distracted fly bumbling over a new odour’, gives ample evidence of the writer’s confident craft as she adeptly thrusts you forward through the sharp turns in her story. Set against the backdrop of the bajra fields for a large part, these fields become a major multi-faceted character in the story – with a singular voice, mood and an eventful terrible history. While the bajra provides nourriture, it also hides death. It is life-sustaining; it is treacherous. It harbours miscreants and also gives refuge to the wounded. It is green; it is blood-stained. It is ‘verdant’; it is ‘murky’. It is ‘a sea of murmur’, ‘a dark green flood.’ It is alive – it breathes ominously; it murmurs, whispers, rustles, speaks of bloody insurgents, their unrelenting armed struggle, killings, and equally heinous reprisals by the landowners. Yes, it is ‘the bloody bajra fields where life and death overlap each other’, collide with each other.
The bajra field is a ghastly ‘womb’ which brings forth only noxious fruit. Yet, it will change. It has footprints of those who chase, hunt out and those who fall prey. Yet, it will change by and by. It will bear other footprints (not traitorous ones) and yield a more wholesome harvest, we hope. Nabina Das delineates all this beautifully in the complex symbolism of the bajra fields. There are other fields of action too – New York, Delhi, Patna, and two or three villages – and in each of these the characters leave their footprints. Hopefully the ugly ones will be effaced. The Delhi chapter is called ‘Footprints in the Sun’ – a fresh, evocative image.
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. And this sets in motion other reactions, often violent and punitive. Personally, I liked the first half of the book better because it is more imbued with atmosphere. The second half is more theatrically eventful. Dialogue is Nabina’s forte. Written with relaxed ease, it is true to life and character. This novel will lend itself wonderfully, readily, to a script for a movie, serious and engrossing at the same time, with the right mix of ideology, romance, friendship, murder, retribution, artful scheming and social welfare, to make it a good watch.“