Nabina Das

1. Your journey as an author...
 
As a poet and fiction writer, I see myself as always looking for a language or expression that would lead to another quest for the same. And then another. The journey is most certainly that of discovery within and without. From a middle class household of college-educated parents, I inherited the love for storytelling, books, the feel of writing on any paper with a blotted pen, and the power of poetry. I wrote my first quatrain at 7 but gave up on the subject -- a prayer to God -- pretty soon as I moved to different ideas and learned how to weave the material and the transcendental in life and words. Assamese poetry doyenne Nirmalprabha Bordoloi looked at a poem of mine when I was perhaps just a pre-teen. Her words of praise and encouragement remained etched in my mind. With my background in English literature and Linguistics, career in journalism and teaching creative writing, alongside fulltime writing, from the epics, to folklore, to songs and contemporary literature, I consider learning an evolving process. While I have come a long way from Tagore, Bezbaruah and Shakespeare, my journey continues to embrace the old and the new to find meanings for a just world.
The journey is also very much centered around my daughter -- about 50% of my time is spent with her and I don't compromise on that -- to see how a human child can teach the adult her basic conduct in this world, that of a spirit of questioning and playfulness.
 
 
2. Tell us about your novel "Footprints in the Bajra". 
My first book and novel "Footprints in the Bajra" was published in 2010. Longlisted in Vodafone-Crossword awards 2011, it received good generous reviews and readership all along. This despite the fact that I'm not a fierce salesperson or marketing pro. As per a Sahitya Akademi review, this was a first in English fiction writing in India. A story about two young women set in the backdrop of nascent Maoist insurgency in northern Bihar in the 90s, Footprints is also about the changing realities of India just as it gets on the super highway of globalization. Violence, revolution, love, self-realization -- a medley of events and emotions mark the characters in this tale of society coming to terms with the new economic order as well as unrest in the so-called backwaters. I didn't want to translate the word "bajra" (pearl millet) into English. As a poet, to me this seemed to retain a good balance and flavor to the title and its import.
 
 
3. Since you write poems, short stories and novels; what do you enjoy the most writing poems, novel or short stories?
 
I'm a poet, first and foremost! Not sure why, but because that's the way I feel. My two books of poetry "Blue Vessel" and "Into the Migrant City" are written over the last 10 years and published in 2012 and 2014 respectively. There are earlier poems but I'm not yet publishing my juvenilia. A third poetry manuscript is in the works. I enjoy writing prose very much, especially, short fiction. My volume of stories is called "The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped", published in 2014. Writing these short stories was as much fun as it was honing a discipline. A novel writing is a different craft, not necessarily more or less arduous or committed. But writing a good short story for me generates a high akin to writing a good poem. I especially enjoy writing and reading about identity, borders, and bodies -- yes, all part of an agenda, as someone 'accused' me once upon a time -- because these are the stories that need to push through the pile of 'bestsellers' the market sells for bucks.
 
4. What do you think is the role of literature festival?
 
Literature festivals are important spaces for writers, readers, publishers, and all interested in the culture of thought to meet at a common ground. The best role a literary festival can play is to encourage new and emerging writers alongside the established or celebrated ones. And a good mix of the new and the established say, in a panel, for example, always helps demystify the writing business. The idea is to create more democratic spaces, and not elite ones.
 

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