Indian professor wins Commonwealth short story regional prize

Indian professor wins Commonwealth short story regional prizeNEW DELHI: A Social Science professor from India Prashar Kulkarni has won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for 2016, for the Asia region for his “politically grounded, funny” fiction.

Kulkarni’s story ‘Cow and Company’ about four men in search of a cow was adjudged the ‘best piece of unpublished short fiction in English’ from Asia and will receive 2500 pounds prize, the Commonwealth Writers organization said.

He is set to compete with winners from other four regions- Africa, Canada and Europe, Carribbean and the Pacific – for the 5000 pounds grand prize, to be announced at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica on June 5.

Set up by Commonwealth Writers in 2012 to “inspire and connect writers and storytellers across world” the prize attracted 4,000 entries from 47 Commonwealth countries in 2016.

Besides Kulkarni three authors from India – Kritika Pandey (Dirty White Strings), Sumit Ray (Girdhar’s Mansion) and Vinayak Varma (Instant Karma) were in the regional shortlist.

Commonwealth Writers has partnered with Granta magazine to give regional winners of Commonwealth Short Story Prize the opportunity to be published by Granta online.

Kulkarni, an Assistant Professor in Social Sciences at Yale NUS College Singapore who works at the intersection of religion and political economy said he was encouraged and has been trying to write for many years.

“I have been trying to write for many years now and I feel encouraged to continue. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my work with Commonwealth Writers, and with Granta. I am also looking forward to reading new and exciting voices that emerge from this initiative.” Judge Firdous Azim said the stories from the Asia region were really remarkable, representing a wide array of themes and styles.

“Humor, which is always a difficult mood to convey in a short span of time, was also one of the hallmarks of the stories from the Asian region,” Azim said.

She said ‘Cow and Company’ embodies all the best qualities in the stories. “It is politically grounded, funny and keeps the reader engrossed as the story twists and turns and shows the connections between culture and commercial interests.”

South African novelist and chair of the judges Gillian Slovo, called Kulkarni’s story “a witty satire that engagingly immerses the reader in its world.”

“As a novelist accustomed to the luxury of the long form it has been a treat to discover writers who manage to crystallize such different experiences into so few words. The stories we have chosen for the shortlist are in turn comic, touching, poetic, mysterious but always fresh and unexpected,” she said.

Meanwhile Kulkarni who has won the British Academy Brian Barry Prize in Political Science (2015) for his research on religion, property rights and violence against women in colonial India says the short story is part of a larger project.

“It is a result of taking an advisor’s words to heart – ‘what you cannot do in history, you push to literature'” Kulkarni said.–PTI