Buku Sarkar came to New York City in 1996 from her native Calcutta to study at a university. She found the classes impersonal and uninspiring and ended up dropping out. Ten years later, she decided to return to college to pursue her lifelong interest in writing. Sarkar enrolled in the undergraduate program of The New School for Public Engagement and was accepted into the Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy. She found the New School courses both supportive and challenging. She especially appreciated the intimacy of the Riggio writing workshops. The experience gave her a new feeling of confidence.
Sarkar was also interested in promoting reading, something that had changed her own life. Inspired by a program in London, she started ReLIT (Read, Recycle, Repeat Literature in Transit), an organization that collects unwanted books and recycles them back to the public. To date, the group has collected and redistributed more than 10,000 used books in New York City.After graduating from The New School, Sarkar went on to earn a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of East Anglia in England. She recently traveled to Istanbul to work on a collection of short stories. While there, she interviewed Nobel Prize–winning Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for the Indian edition of Condé Nast Traveler. “The Riggio program helped me find my passion and my path,” says Sarkar. “It put me in touch with teachers who motivated me in profound ways. I’m in touch with some of them still, even though I finished my studies two years ago.”