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  • Writer's pictureShruti Jain

Beyond the Plot: Savouring the Process of Reading with Ret Samadhi

Updated: Apr 20, 2023



“A tale tells itself. It can be complete, but also incomplete, the way all tales are.”


— Geetanjali Shree, ‘Ret Samadhi’ (Translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, ‘Tomb of Sand’)


It's easy to become engrossed in the plot and overlook the actual act of reading. But reading Ret Samadhi made me understand the significance of savoring the process of reading as much as the narrative. I came to the realization that only through the art of storytelling could I fully appreciate Geetanjali Shree's poetic prose, which reminded me of Madhuri Upadhyay, whose beautiful voice I would love to hear narrating this story. I approached her and requested her to read out my favorite paragraph from the book, and she graciously agreed.


Hence, as you read through my journey of reading Ret Samadhi in this blog post, (although I have only read 150 pages so far), do also check out the video attached below to experience Geetanjali Shree's words in Madhuri's enchanting voice.


During my school years, I had a fond relationship with the Hindi language. However, after standard X, having lost touch with my mother tongue as a subject, English became my constant companion through college and work. I went from devouring Hindi textbooks to having next to no Hindi books on my overcrowded bookshelf. The journey of abandoning Hindi reading has come to a point where it's a shame that I can't even recite the Hindi varnmala anymore.


Taking up the task of reading Ret Samadhi was then, as it is evident, not an easy feat. The fact that this book was the first Hindi literature to be awarded the Booker Prize persuaded me to purchase it, but not for myself. I bought it for my mother, who has a bookshelf of her own, mostly dominated by religious books. I, on the other hand, obtained the English translation of the book, Tomb of Sand by Daisy Rockwell, and made an agreement with my mother to decide who would read it first.


Thus, as the story commenced in the book, with a mother and daughter as the central characters, so too did our journey as a duo. From the first page, the tale indeed began telling itself.


“Two women: one mother, one daughter, one growing downwards, the other growing upwards. One laughs and says, I’m growing smaller by the day! The other is saddened, but says nothing when she sees herself growing bigger.”

As for my mother, well. When have the joys of reading found a welcoming home in the lives of women who have made their own homes in selflessly serving others?


“Everyone’s breath flowed through her, and she breathed everyone’s breath.”

And me? Three pages into the book, I couldn't bring myself to continue reading just the translated version. Despite having little doubt that the translation was great, I felt it would be an injustice to the book to not read it in its original language.


The agreement between the mother and daughter to read their respective books was abandoned, and they both reached a stage where it was clear that neither of them were reading the book at all.


Until one day.


I picked up Ret Samadhi from my mother’s shelf and attempted to read it. I say ‘attempted’ because reading Hindi literature after a long time proved to be a challenge. After just one page, I found myself giving up.


Until another day.


I posted about my desire to read the book on my Instagram story, after which I received an outpouring of messages from people who had read and loved it. Many expressed curiosity about my thoughts on the book. And yet, I couldn’t go beyond three pages.


Until another day. One recent day.


I began reading it loudly, which turned out to be crucial in my experience of reading the book. It dawned on me that it was only through the art of storytelling could I fully appreciate it. So, I began to recite the prose like a poem, savoring the beauty of Geetanjali Shree's words. The sentences flowed like a river, effortlessly cascading into a sea of charisma.


Ret Samadhi has guided me on a journey of rediscovery, leading me back to my mother tongue and the joy of reading Hindi literature. Its pages have rekindled my passion for reading and emphasized the value of sharing this experience with others. And now, with the story still unfolding, I find myself reading it aloud to my mother as well. We both burst into random fits of laughter at some points and pause to catch our breath at others because, oh my, the effortless beauty of these words!


Signing off with a reading of my favourite passage so far in the book, by Madhuri Upadhyay:



“रंगों की अपनी रंगशाला होती है। वहाँ रंग होते हैं पर वे होने से नहीं होते। पड़े रहते हैं, धूल में दबे। जब साँस हौले से उठती है, इधर उधर सरकती है, नीचे ही नीचे सरसराती हैं, तब ही रंग करवट लेते हैं। पलक झपकाते हैं, यहाँ वहाँ झलक फेंकते हैं, किलकते, चिलकते, बिलखते हैं, बचपना करते हैं, इश्कियाते हैं। मरे पड़े जी उठते हैं। तब रंग होते हैं, वर्ना होकर भी नहीं थे।”


Happy reading!


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