When I Met International Booker Prize Winner Geetanjali Shree And Fangirled Over Her!

Geetanjali talked about how she took almost eight to nine years to write Ret Samadhi. Released in 2018, it took another couple of years to be known in the Hindi literary scene, before the English translation won the International Booker Prize.

I have been a lifelong bookworm. You will find me fangirling more about authors than about celebrities. I make special trips to Mussorie to get books signed by Ruskin Bond. I jump with joy if Chitra Banerjee likes my post. I am beside myself with glee if authors deign to recognise me on social media.

Thus, when I read the Facebook post by DC Books UAE that Geetanjali Shree was coming to Sharjah International Book Fair, my heart gave an excited thump. I had just started reading the International Booker Prize 2022 winner, Tomb Of Sand, the English translation of Geetanjali Shree’s Ret Samadhi. Just two hundred pages into the seven-hundred-long novel, and I was already in love with the story and its characters. This session was an opportunity that I was not going to miss.

Thus, on the 5th of November, my handbag bulging with my copy of Tomb of Sand, my husband and I braved the Dubai-Sharjah traffic to reach Sharjah Expo, the venue of the Sharjah International Book Fair. I was so paranoid I was going to miss the session that without sparing a look at the thousands of books on display, I headed straight to scout the location of Intellectual Hall. I was not leaving anything to chance!

Geetanjali Shree

At seven thirty pm, the session started with a thunderous round as Geetanjali Shree made her way to the dais. Geetanjali was joined by moderator Anamika Chatterjee, the editor of the weekend magazine of Khaleej Times, whose questions were pertinent, as well as insightful. Geetanjali’s honesty towards her craft and enthusiasm towards the written word was evident in her detailed answers, even to the audience’s questions. The audience not only consisted of the Indian diaspora but was from all over the world, attesting to the fact that some stories transcend borders.

The session’s first question of how winning the award changed the life of Geetanjali Shree set the tone for a session that offered insights into an award-winning author’s thought process. Geetanjali answered the question by saying that the award changed everything and yet nothing. It made the audience realise the humble and down-to-earth nature of the author. Geetanjali admitted that the award was an honour and an appreciation of her work. But she was also aware that though the award brought her recognition, her role as a writer doesn’t change. She still needs to write well and do her work as an author.

Key to the success of a book

Through the conversation, I also realised that patience is the key to success as an author. Geetanjali talked about how she took almost eight to nine years to write Ret Samadhi. After the book was released in 2018, it took another couple of years to be known in the Hindi literary scene, before the English translation won the International Booker Prize, leading to the book receiving international exposure.

It underlined the fact that authors need to be patient. They need to be patient for the story to reveal itself. Patient for the story to reach an audience and patient for the story to receive the recognition it deserves. In this today’s age of instant gratification, it was a lesson for all of us in the audience that good things take time to mature.

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When asked about the idea behind making an eighty-year-old woman the protagonist of her story, Geetanjali’s answer of a memory/image being the trigger made me sit up and take notice. Her words that stories are all around us struck a chord within me. One of the skills a successful writer needs to possess is the power of observation. It is the seemingly innocuous things that can act as a trigger for a story for a writer. Writers observe their surroundings, almost imbibing all that is happening around them in their consciousness, which later manifests in a story like Ret Samadhi.

Feminist writing even as it is rooted in the culture of the land

The conversation also touched upon the inherent feminism in her writings, to which the author responded by saying that it was not a conscious decision. She equivocally mentioned the point that she is a fiction writer, but as she is inspired by the world around her, feminism does sneak into her stories.

Geetanjali Shree was absolutely against the idea of homogenous culture when asked a question about it. She pointed out that human imagination if given free rein, is boundless. Homogenizing culture will lead to loss of creativity and beauty in our world.

In this day and age of cultural sensitivity, where people try to prove the superiority of their culture over others, Geetanjali’s words were a mild warning for the people. For them to not forget that the rich cultural tapestry of the world is because of the powers of imagination of humans.

A direct interaction with Geetanjali Shree

I was lucky enough not only to ask a question during the session but also when she was browsing the books in the DC books stall. I chucked my inherent shyness, boldly walked up to her and became a proper (but hopefully not an obnoxious) fan girl. At that time, I asked her the question, “Why didn’t Geetanjali translate Ret Samadhi herself?” Geetanjali had chuckled at my question, saying that not translating the book herself left her free to write something new. The twinkle in her eye while she answered my question made me like her even more.

Tomb of Sand is one of the most definitive pieces of literature to have emerged from the Indian literary scene in recent times. And I am so glad that I was able to chat and meet with its author, Geetanjali Shree. Sharing a few of the clicks from the event. I would like to thank the Sharjah International Book FairSharjah Book Authority and DCBooks UAE for having such enriching sessions free of cost.

Published here first.

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If you’d like to pick up Tomb of Sand written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from the original Hindi Ret Samadhi by Daisy Rockwell, use our affiliate links at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

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Image source: the author

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About the Author


My Motto is you can learn anything from books! I am an engineer turned SAHM turned book blogger. I love to read, talk and write about books. I am passionate about instilling a love for read more...

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