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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I haven't met Kiran, but having spent some memorable and precious moments that will last a lifetime with her mother, I can say if there is one thing that both of them share it has to be modesty. Apart from their fine writing abilities, of course.

Accepting the Man Booker Prize, Kiran spoke about her mother, to whom she said she owes "a debt so profound and so great that this book feels as much hers as it does mine....It was written in her company and in her witness and in her kindness. I really owe her this book so enormously, there isn't enough to convey it."

Interestingly, mother and daughter share the same house. Kiran works upstairs, Anita downstairs. Its something we talked about in our panel discussion in Ubud. The grand dame of literature told us how they both cross paths but never step into each others writing domains. As Anita pointed out "it's a very good arrangement."

And one that is definitely bearing fruits. Kiran's first novel, 'Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard', won a Betty Trask award in 1999. Now, she will be toast of the literary bunch. After all she has beaten five other authors including favourite Sarah Waters and her book 'The Night Watch', for the 50,000-pound award. In doing so, she has become the youngest ever female winner of the award and has bettered the record of her mother, who was nominated thrice for the award, most recently in 1999, but failed to win.

'The Inheritance of Loss' tells parallel stories based in post-colonial India and the United States. A Cambridge-educated Indian judge is living out a reclusive retirement in the foothills of the Himalayas, until his orphaned teenage grand-daughter comes to stay with him. His existence eventually comes under threat from Nepalese insurgents. At the same time, his cook's son, who has moved to the US to seek his fortune and ends up an illegal immigrant in the restaurant kitchens of New York.

Kiran herself has lived through several experiences. She grew up in India and moved to Britain when she was 15. Her prize-winning book took almost eight years to complete. She wrote "half stories, quarter stories" and picked the novel out of it.

Of the whole process of writing the book, Kiran says "it was quite a difficult, emotional experience for me." Though it these emotions that did it for the Booker judges who hailed it as "a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness". As the chair of the panel of judges, Hermoine Lee put it more simply "the book is movingly strong in its humanity and I think that in the end is why it won."

Sarah Waters - 'The Night Watch'
Edward St Aubyn's - 'Mother's Milk'
MJ Hyland's - 'Carry Me Down'
Kate Grenville's - 'The Secret River'
Hisham Matar's - 'In The Country of Men'