It is easy to bump into her. Hint: she is often sighted in Lodhi Garden (see photo). Geetanjali Shree, the author of five short story collections and five novels—Mai, Hamara Shahar Us Baras, Tirohit, Khālī Jagah and Ret Samadhi, the 2022 International Booker Prize winner — agrees to become a part of our Proust Questionnaire series in which citizens are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore our distinct experiences. These days she is finalising a “press copy” of Sah-sa, her sixth novel.
The principal aspect of your personality.
Absence of drama.
Your favourite qualities in a man.
Self-reflexivity, self-doubt, androgyny.
Your favourite qualities in a woman.
Determined, fun-loving, un-guilt-ridden.
Your chief characteristic.
What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
Straightforwardness and sincerity.
Your main fault.
Waiting for the right conditions to be able to work.
Your favourite occupation.
Being with books, films, music, nature, loved folk, staring at the world in quiet and solitude.
Your idea of happiness.
Sharing and believing in today and tomorrow.
Your idea of misery.
To have loved ones — family, friends, me — go when they still have steam left.
If not yourself, who would you be?
Just me, albeit with some better attributes and capabilities!
Where would you like to live?
Surrounded by trees and water, under a live sky.
Your favourite colour and flower.
Colour: earth colours and shades of purple and green.
Flowers: Scented white ones and coloured ones, sailing off trees and vines — Maulshree, Champa, Chameli, Madhumalti, Harsingar, Gulmohar, Jacaranda, Sakura…
Your favourite bird.
Dislike pigeons, learning to appreciate crows after they have invaded my novel, always loved parrots that fly out of neem trees like its leaves are taking flight.
Your favourite prose authors.
Krishna Sobti, Intezar Hussain, Nirmal Verma, KB Vaid, Vinod Kumar Shukl, George Eliot, Annie Ernaux, and countless others in various languages.
Your favourite poets.
List long and haphazard. Let me name just Shamsher Bahadur, Mir, Ghalib, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Bulle Shah. And others.
Your favourite heroes in fiction.
The idiot in The Idiot to name just one. Karna from the Mahabharat. And others.
Your favourite heroines in fiction.
Charulata and Binodini from Tagore, Mitro, Mahak from Sobti, Sheherezad. And others.
Your favourite composers.
Musicians, not composers – Mallikarjuna Mansur, Amir Khan, Begum Akhtar, Pathanay Khan and more.
Your favourite painters.
Bosch, Bruegel, Vincent van Gogh, Mattisse and many more.
Your heroes/heroines in real life.
The unsung heroes and heroines around me – in my family and outside, those who don’t push themselves to the forefront. My departed brother, my beloved mother, my bossing sisters, and all those who are quietly and stoically going on doing what they believe in, without stirring up a propaganda machine about it. They will yet save the world.
What characters in history do you most dislike?
Your heroines in world history.
Marie Curie, Rakma Bai. And others.
Your favourite food and drink.
Foods that are bland and taste only like themselves! And peaty scotch!
Your favourite names.
Chia, Tatu, Sodawaterbottleopenerwala, Ashi – small, sweet, and/or bringing a smile to our faces!
What do you hate the most?
Arrogance, avarice, aggression. Lies, competitiveness, intolerance, cruelty.
The military event you admire the most.
Admire a military event? Cannot imagine.
The reform you admire the most.
Gender reforms, extending well and proper into LGBTQ.
The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with.
How do you wish to die?
In dignity and giving least trouble.
What is your present state of mind?
Hopeful and despairing, happy and anxious, calm and agitated.
Faults for which you have the most tolerance.
Lack of self-confidence.
Your motto in life.
Value love, life, and the earth.