“Literature is not a samosa” – Geetanjali Shree says Tomb of Sand celebrates older women, words
New Delhi: The visual of an elderly woman occupying a cot and facing a dull, peeling wall is not uncommon in the Indian context. Geetanjali Shree, author of sand tombsays that this “common” perspective intrigued her so much that she was forced to commit to it.
“As common as these images are, the exact opposite also exists. And I wanted to bring that to the fore,” Shree said, addressing a room filled with an ever-cheering audience at the India Habitat Center in New York on Tuesday. Delhi She also remembered her idol, Hindi literary giant Krishna Sobti, who had “a spring in his step to the very end”.
sand tomb, translated from Hindi, traces the journey of its octogenarian protagonist, Ma, who struggles with depression after losing her husband and insists on coping with her partition-induced trauma while visiting Pakistan. However, as central as this theme is in his book, it’s not “Sheet music with a capital P,” Shree told journalist and writer Poonam Saxena. In place, sand tomb celebrates “joie de vivre” which continues to grow despite the constraints of age and health. And the score just serves as a binding factor in this narrative, much like the flour in Shree’s beautifully portrayed.pakora‘.
“She [Ma] will remember what she was doing. But now, as they remind her of this life, she feels like she’s not living it herself, life is being made at his. She is transformed into Pakoras. Moistened, ground, grated, cut into pieces, coated in boiling oil eek eek flip flop sliding in the belly and disintegrating,” reads an excerpt from this incredible story of an elderly woman reassessing her role as mother, daughter, wife, and feminist after the death of her husband.
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A celebration of older women
sand tomb is not a “typical score novel” like that of Khushwant Singh Train to Pakistan Where At Bhisham Sahni tamas. Instead, it is the story of countless women coming to terms with their identity and sexuality within the traditional Indian family setup, especially those nearing the end of their lives.
In India, an elderly person is often portrayed as leading a dull existence, seemingly counting his days and struggling to gather what little remains of his joy, hope and enthusiasm while recounting experiences – heartbreaking and joyful – that left them have brought to date. Whether in movies or in life. And it’s not just a guess. For example, the National Library of Medicine claims that a 2011 analysis of 74 studies on 4 lakh more elderly subjects showed a comparatively higher rate of geriatric depression in India at around 21.9%. And from 2019, says BMC Public health, rates of depression among the elderly reach 34.4%. It just so happens that Shree used her brilliant storytelling skills to bring these somewhat boring and tasteless stats to life, in the form of disgruntled but extraordinary “Ma”.
And it’s not just Ma, Shree says her book celebrates women like her and Krishna Sobti, and highlights the irony of our bodies not being able to follow our passion for life.
“As a person and a writer, (Sobti) was absolutely terrific. She wrote with honesty and freedom of thought, and didn’t get into what was politically correct and what wasn’t. Her fearless spirit has inspired me, and if I can absorb even a little of it, I’ll congratulate myself,” Shree told ThePrint.
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A unique style
Shree expresses these ideas in a rhythmic and musical language, in a style that is difficult to understand. But where is the problem, she asks “Literature is not a ‘samosa’ that can be swallowed and digested in a second. Critical thinking is necessary, and it’s okay if you don’t understand. You have to savor this disconcerting aspect. Literature allows you to think anew and shake yourself up a bit.
Shree adds that her acting practice has allowed her to express her ideas in a less than conventional way. “Words have their charm and their personality. So out of deference to language, I move with it, and the power of language takes over as I write,” Shree told Saxena.