Author Anita Desai, whose daughter won the coveted Man Booker prize on Wednesday for The Inheritance Of Loss, says she stayed away from the prize venue because she couldn't have "faced it" if Kiran had lost.
"I am very happy to be in India on this day. In fact, I wish Kiran was here with me! In no other country there is so much congratulation and celebration," Anita Desai told on phone from Dehradun.
Kiran, at 35, is also the youngest woman to have won the award.
"I was scared inside," admitted the elder Desai, 69, who herself had been nominated for the prize three times. "I could not have faced it if she had not won it. I could not have stood it if someone else had got it."
"I watched her work on this book for eight years and they were eight hard years. She has put in so much into this book. It is a complex book so I was afraid that it may not be easily appreciated," said the author of Fasting, Feasting, IN Custody and Clear Light of Day—all three works nominated for Booker.
What about Kiran not wearing the sari at the prize announcement event in London even though the mother had asked her to?
"That was just a joke really. Someone gave me a magnificent antique sari once and I thought it was the perfect place for her to wear it. But I think she didn't feel comfortable about it. She wore a black dress finally," said Anita Desai.
Has the veteran author read any of the other Booker shortlisted work this year?
"I have not read any other book in the long-list or short-list. I was sent excerpts from the final six books, that's all."
Kiran, who is expected to visit India during the winter months, had said earlier that her mother really understood her pain while she wrote The Inheritance Of Loss.
Said the mother: "While you are writing a book no one knows what you are doing, no one gives you any encouragement."
"You have doubts over whether you are doing the right thing at all. But no one tells you and it is a lonely road. I understood what she was going through and I was trying to be a companion and not allow her to be disheartened."
And what were the celebrated daughter's first words after the win?
"She hasn't called me. I have not spoken to her yet," said Desai. "We are going to meet up on Saturday in New York. Then we will talk."