Rising from relative obscurity, at least where the international audience is concerned, is Indian writer Geetanjali Shree. In what can be seen as an upset, the English translation of her 2018 novel  Ret Samadhi (Hindi: रेत समाधि), released in 2021 as Tomb of Sand, won the 2022 International Booker Prize. Among her competitors was Polish Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokarczuk whose shortlisted novel, The Books of Jacob, was lauded by the Swedish Committee as her magnum opus. This made Shree the first Indian writer to win the prestigious award. This prompted me to add Tomb of Sand to my growing reading list. Honestly, I did struggle with the book, especially at the onset. It took a while to pick up its pace but once it did, the story unspooled a story that extensively explored the plight of contemporary Indian women, of history, and of borders. It was also brimming with quotable passages and lines; in this quotable quotes update, I have rounded up some of these quotes.

Do check out my complete review of the 2022 International Booker Prize winner by clicking here.


“Laughter is a gift that humans have learned and taught. There must have been some time in the past when humans didn’t know how to laugh. Nor did they feel joy at the birth of a child, nor sobs of sorrow at the passing of a loved one. Then the two had to be strained apart so they got joy from joy as well as a method for removing sorrow. Then humans became happy even after they weep, and when they laugh, they’re just plain happy.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“It’s good to have an idea of the zeitgeist. People get bored. Something must be going on at all times; there must be drama, otherwise it seems like nothing’s happening at all, like life has come to a standstill. If life moves along at its own pace, everything feels motionless. If you sit behind your books or computer, far from the pace of life, you feel like you’re dead. Stillness frightens. What if sitting calml turns me into stone?”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“A tale tells itself. It can be complete, but also incomplete, the way all tales are. This particular tale has a border and women who come and go as they please. Once you’ve got women and a border, a story can write itself. Even women on their own are enough. Women are stories in themselves, full of stirrings and whisperings that float on the wind, that bend with each blade of grass. The setting sun gathers fragments of tales and fashions them into glowing lanterns that hang suspended from the clouds.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“One can speak of love at any time because it is lovely. It is natural. Also tempestuous. When love is boundless it breaks out into cosmos. Its essence reaches a pinnacle and the drive to overpower one another flames out. The difference between thrum and flame is erased and neither stops for anyone, nor hesitates at any boundary. Its gleam spreads in every direction, casting the world in magic. So magical that the air shimmers. A palace of mirrors. A mirage.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Every part of the body has a border so does the heart. A border surrounds it but it also binds it to the other parts. It doesn’t wrench the heart from the rest. Fools! If you cut a border through a heart, you don’t call it a border, you call it a wound. If you lock a heart inside a border, the heart will break.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“But the whole thing was so snarled and gnarled, what to say to whom? People don’t realise you should let the speaker speak: that as they speak they’re untying a knot within them, and only then does the matter grow clear. People start rolling their eyes before they even hear a thing, they begin to argue, they start lecturing; so the speakers chose their children’s children for their audience, who were young and innocent, and who also belived in their grandfather’s innocence.”

~ Natsume Sōseki, Kokoro

Death comes to all. Even to birds. The chukar, whom most people would call a partridge, and which gourmands enjoy cooking and eating, died. The crow’s heart broke. No one tells their tale, although other stories of ornithological friendships are famous the world over. Take just one example: the tale of the friendship between Garuda and the parrot. That tale is centuries old, and those in the world who are educated, and thus familiar with great ancient civilizations, are certainly familiar with that friendship, and those who are not, clear, wherever they may be, are absolute ignoramuses.

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“But there’s no shortage of stories in life, and perhaps one day I too will be in the middle of one. There’s a moon in the sky that throws off an unearthly light. What a beautiful night it is. The gentle breeze blows, whislting softly. It’s a night full of shadows and gleaming moonlight. Stories spin by: where will they cast their net?”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“The thing is that the question isn’t about the big and great. Vast, great, outspread, large. The question has to do with smallness. It’s in the territory of little and slight and details. In fact, it really isn’t a question at all. One must look, take note, pay attention, study, notice detail. One tree standing apart in the jungle. A face flickering in a large group, the memory of malice that arises for a moment on a sympathetic face. A tiny wrinkle peeling in the elevator from amongst the make-up and paint. The rest that’s talked about is for covering up what has been said, obscuring details.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Thus, to understand the body one must first know the earth. The mind coils within the body, earth. It is the flight in solid. Reflectons swimming within the whimsical mind. Its pace, its gait. Lying closed, if you open it, then it’s open; shut it again, it says closed. The capacity ti crackle and flow lies everywhere. The slightest crack, the slightest bubbling: the earth slids and the liquids inside fountain flame rock and boulders course about.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

A border does not enclose, it opens out. It creates a shape. It adorns an edge. This side of the edging blossoms as does that. Embroider the border with a shimmering vine. Stud it with precious stones. What is a border? It enhances personality. It gives strength. It doesn’t tear apart. A border increases recognition. Where two sides meet and both flourish. A border ornaments their meeting.

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Of course, every door has its importance. It has its own personality, even in a ruin. Nowadays, people only notice a door’s imposing outer style, and use it to assess the financial worth of its owners. But a door can hint at so much more: the charm, caprice, awkwardness, romance, aversion, joy, uninhibited weeping, swaying, excitement, prickling sensation of the person crossing the threshold – when you pass from inside out, or outside in, take note.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Understanding has become a much eroded, much abused word, to the point that it s sense has come to mean to establish meaning, when its real meaning is to displace meaning. To give you such a shock you see lightining. And that shock is to clear pointed wounding shiny sharp, and earth and sky get swept into that, and between them, the sea, flowing like converstaion, to make sense of each other, to keep trying, without coming to an end.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Think of a story as a living being. There are countless beings and countless types of beings. Physiques, liefstyles, screams, conversations, breaths, tremblings, horns, mutenesses, ways of living and dying, all different. So running off in the middle of a story in a huff is simply not acceptable. Let it live its life, find its own denouement.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

Border? Do you know what a border is? What is a border? It’s something that surrounds existence, it is a person’s parameter. No matter how large, no matter how small. The edge of a handkerchief, the border of a tablecloth, the embroiders around my shawl. The edges of the sky. The beds of flowers in this year. The borders of fields. The parapet around this roof. A picture frame. Everything has a border.

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Wind changes its disguise again and again. Memories pain desire faith charisma beauty imagination fragrance. One puff and the earth spins. The sea sprouts and climbs towards the tree. A flock of birds descends on the soft grass, believing themselves to be lotus flowers, the grass to be water. In this way, water becomes grass green. The wind weaves night into night. It spirits away the sun under cover of clouds. When the wind tickles the sun, it skitters away, and the clouds double over with laughter and expand fatly until they burst and transform into rain.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Marvelous beings, stories. Preserved in death and in stone. In endless trances they evolved into tombs, surviving from one lifetime to another. The tombs turn into stone, then liquefy, then evaporate to steam and shimmer up, rendering you idolatrous with their silence. And that steam, too, can raise an entire story.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“No one noticed when the leaves changed the season of the heart yet again. When the monsoon was at its peak, the leaves grew fat. Hanging heavy on the trees. They hung, dripping sadness. Even when they’re quiet, they hang heavy. There’s beauty in their fullness, but there’s a core of grief, dark and deep. The raga of grief in slow tempo, exteremely slow, a despondent alaap, a prelude. Or is it a vilaap, a lamentation?”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

That’s how forgeting works. You can forget whatever you wish to. Even that you wished to forget. A border is drawn all around that memory and no method remains to reach it any longer, provided that you don’t stagger across. On purpose or not. And even if you stagger, that initial memory doesn’t remain, it’s a reinvented memory.

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“And truly, we are all of us like the sparrow. Our bowing rising fighting loving performing of rites and rituals are all born of habit and repetition. So whatever we do and however we do it, we are just enacting what has come down to us as custom ritual habit: friendships, marriage, sarcasm, manners and bearing speech, love life, rising, sitting, anxiety, sister-in-law, aunt, daughter-in-law, mother, elder son, his son. ”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand

“Slowly Ma pours herself into the crannies and crevices of the house. She feels as though she’s flying. She likes it. My feet don’t touch the ground here. She flies about silently. She listens to the comings and goings of her breathing. She hears the curling of a tendril. She hears the growing of the grass. She hears the undulation of the sunlight. She hears the descent of evening. She hears the unfurling of her own body. She hears the blossoming of the unfurling.”

~ Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand