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Parini Shroff Reveals Her Inspirations For Her Book 'The Bandit Queens'

A real-life historical figure in India helped influence "The Bandit Queens," among other things.

By Becca van Sambeck

Oxygen Book Club highlights books in the crime sphere each month and features exclusive interviews, guided discussions, and more.

In the novel "The Bandit Queens," the main character, Geeta, is actually fine with the fact her husband has left her. The only issue is rumors are flying in her rural Indian village that Geeta actually killed her husband — and soon, other women are coming to her for help disposing of their own horrible husbands.

As you can tell by the premise, this novel by Parini Shroff is a wild ride, filled with twists and tension but also laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of tenderness, making it the perfect pick for Oxygen Book Club's January 2022 pick. Oxygen digital correspondent Stephanie Gomulka recently spoke with Shroff to learn more about her inspiration, the characters, and more.

"The inspiration for the novel, I do touch upon in the in the author's note, but the book started off as a short story. 10 years ago, when I was visiting my father and the rest of my family in India, we took a day trip out to a village where my father was involved in micro-financing this women's loan group. And when we sat in on the meeting, and when we heard the women do their weekly oath because they made the repayment, I knew I was part of something really special. I knew I was observing something unique. So the characters of Geeta and Farah came up right after that meeting back in 2013," Shroff explained.

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Shroff, who practices law part time, would eventually find in 2020, during the pandemic that she was ready to turn the short story into a novel. It was then that the other characters came to her, she said, and she could visualize where the novel would go.

"The Bandit Queens" also incorporates the true story of Phoolan Devi, a woman who led a gang in India and became known as a Robin Hood-type figure for punishing rapists and helping women, ultimately gaining the nickname "The Bandit Queen."

"I was really wary of including her story. I feel like I can't I can't remember a time when I didn't hear the story of her legend, her myth, but she was also a person and a woman and I wanted to pay homage to her. I wanted to draw attention to her story. I wanted to spark the curiosity that would maybe lead people down their own path to discover more about her as well as women in general. But, you know, so many adaptations of her life story have been done without her consent, and that was my fear of joining those people who invoke her name for their own game, as opposed to to honor her," she explained.

However, while crafting Geeta, she realized she needed the story of Phoolan Devi to inspire her.

"[Geeta is] an outcast. People think all these rumors about her, they aren't true, but she's still ostracized. She's so lonely, that I felt in order for her to get up every day, in order for her to live her life and show her face in this village, she had a pull from a power source, a larger-than-life character, and Phoolan Devi seemed like an organic fit for Geeta," she said. "I just wanted to honor her legacy and the the work that she did after she was released from jail and became an activist."

To learn more, watch Gomulka's interview with Shroff in the videos above.

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