Indian writer Kritika Pandey has won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020 for her story The Great Indian Tee and Snakes. The story revolves around the tribulations of two people in love in an era charged with hatred and religious prejudice.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. Kritika has been announced as a regional winner from Asia.
The 29-year-old author from Ranchi, Jharkhand gave up the perks of a stable cushy career after getting an engineering degree from the Birla Insitute of Technology, Mesra to follow her passion. She earned a spot in the highly competitive Young India Fellowship post graduate diploma programme in Liberal Studies before heading to the University of Massachusetts to pursue Masters in Fine Arts for Poets and Writers.
Kritika’s achievement can be seen as a positive sign of women authors from small towns carving a niche for themselves separate from the regular clique of writers from the big metros. In an interview published recently, Kritika says, “Most people who go to chai-samosa stalls don’t need to read a board before figuring out what these places have to offer. Besides, these are working class people who have often been deprived of schooling and/or access to the English language. So these signboards are really for us English speaking elites to read and interpret. It is my responsibility as a writer from Jharkhand, a state with extraordinarily high levels of poverty, starvation, illiteracy, and entrenched cultural racism against its native Adivasi population, to highlight these tensions.”
Kritika has been a nominee for the Pushcart Prize, the most honoured literary accolade in the United States. She was also named as the recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation grant this year and was shortlisted twice for the Commonwealth Short Story prize in the previous years.
The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is is the only prize in the world where entries can be submitted in Bengali, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish. Five regional winners (Asia, Pacific, Africa, Canada and Europe, and Caribbean) are awarded £2,500 (about Rs 2.4 lakh) each and an overall winner from among them will be announced on June 30. All the winning stories will be published in the literary magazine Granta.