Reviewed by Namrata Pathak


Title: Sanskarnama
Author: Nabina Das
Publisher: I write imprint (2017)


Of Dough, Clay and a Nation: Brewing up a Rebellion in Nabina Das’s Sanskarnama

If you have to fold
to fit in
it ain’t right

By Yrsa Daley-Ward

These words, minimal, adroitly sculpted and bare, tell us about women and shapes – how women are aligned to shapes and how these shapes strikingly constrain them. Like Yrsa Daley-Ward, if a woman has an affinity towards what is ‘shapeless’ or nebulous, Nabina Das’s Sanskarnama, Poetry for Our Times, tolls similar bells. The alliance is quite daring, even bursting at the seams, though Das’s is a loud clarion call that is difficult to miss, and more so she is not always looking at the imbroglio by installing a framework of gender to flatten everything. There are vivid convergences between Das and Daley-Ward that teased me in many ways. But Das’s Sanskarnama holds me captive as it seeks to answer the number of questions it raises, a charming peculiarity that leads to the installation of more than one worldview, the onset of intriguing possibilities. The text provides you an exposition, you trace a line of thought only to realise later that you are standing at crossroads, a mesh of thoughts, rather, coagulation. Das gives you the freedom to take any route you want, to chalk out your own road map. You are that traveller-flaneur who sucks in the cityscape wholeheartedly. You let your hair loose and dance in the streets, your heels digging deep, marking your share of fragile secrets as you slip in and out of your incarnate ‘shape’.  All the while the poet takes sideways glances at you, lest you stop dabbling in the dirt, slush, mud, clay, and earth, lest you undo the primordial instincts in you, lest you cease to ‘unmake’ yourself; overall, you emerge and dissolve, and how badly you pine for this dissolution.

The burning hope in Das to configure ‘free spaces’ in a country that has otherwise gone to the ‘gau rakshaks’, the saffron-clad yogis, the conserver of our rigid ‘sanskar’ makes her test her limits to such an extent that the poet raises her fangs, spits venom, and this she does even at the risk of being branded anti-national.


Reviewed by Nabina Das

(This review was first published in India Book Review. Re-published here with the author’s permission.)



Title: Rohzin
Author: Rahman Abbas
Publisher: Arshia Publications & Mumba Books India
Pages: 354


A book of eight chapters, Rohzin or The Melancholy of the Soul, by Rahman Abbas is a veritable feast for the mind. In Urdu ‘rohzin” is a word that the author coins to signify the souls of people hurt by witnessing the betrayal of their parents with their partners. What ensues is a story of love, lust, belonging, rejection and identity spread lush across the city of Bombay. The core setting, as described in the novel, is a space in the throes of monsoon, perhaps the most defining of seasons in this city by the Arabian Sea.

Rohzin, the author’s fourth novel, has been translated into English by Sabika Abbas Naqvi, and is soon to be published. Its German translation by linguist Almuth Degener has been published in January 2018 by Draupadi Verlag and Literaturhaus (Zurich, Switzerland) has organized its release function on 23 February 2018.

One might recall that Marquez — who is quoted at the novel’s outset — has said in his “The Art of Fiction No. 69” interview with The Paris Review:

‘It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.’

Speaking of imagination and reality readily transmigrating into each other’s realms, Rahman Abbas’ craft could perhaps be called Marquez-esque, but that would be too easy a deliberation. Even then, the vision of Konkan that he evokes is of ‘wildest imagination’. This is juxtaposed with scenes of reality and fantasy jostling together in the deep urban underbelly of Bombay.

By Tikuli

NabinaTHE HOUSE OF TWINING ROSES: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped


Paperback 2014

INR 250.00

LiFi Publications Pvt. Ltd.


The House of Twining Roses: Stories of the Mapped and the Unmapped is a fine-layered collection of 17 short stories by Nabina Das, a Guwahati-born author with one novel and two poetry collections to her credit. Apart from the rich imagery that lingers on like a good melody, Das’ stories show a unique depth of plot and control of her characters. The reader feels the intensity of the stories through the complexities of the situations or characters.

Geographically, the stories are on a diverse map, sometimes a warped one. Das’ home state Assam features prominently. And although other places such as Bihar, Kerala, Bengal, New Delhi and the USA are also geographical markers for the stories, one feels a continuous movement, a search for belonging, and a need for anchoring throughout this book. The stories flow past their topographical signposts and boundaries and converge as one whole signifier of a place inhabited by common people the world over.

It’s a journey, like that of a flowing river. There is no restriction of time and space. The protagonists are always seeking a territory of the possible. They are exploring the unmapped as they chart the path of their evolution.

Twining Roses is definitely a book about coming of age, the cycle of life and death, and the fragility of events between a breath begun and ended. The stories especially probe girls and women trying to find themselves in the personal and communal histories and contemporary affairs of their times—ranging from Partition, the Assam student’s agitation, the tragedy of 9/11, etc. Their lives are woven around friends, families, passions and their relationship to each other going back and forth in time.

Review by Shaily Sahay for Kitaab

Blue_VesselA crucible, blue with solitude, holding half-music, half-poetry, and everything in between.

Mumbai rains were at their swollen best, slashing my windows as I read through the first section of poems, Water on Ink. And these stanzas, the first and the last, from the poem by the same name,

“Shadows quarter the rain

You’re wrapped in yourself

The street flows on.



All sketches on water by ink

All words on lines by language

All these un-fairy faces are I. Me.”