Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Crossword Hutch Book Award 2005

The Crossword Book Award was instituted in 1998 to identify & encourage Indian writers in English. In its first year, there was just one award for "English Fiction by an author of Indian Origin". It was won by I Allan Sealy for "The Everest Hotel"

Since last year, Hutch became a co-sponsor & this year 4 prizes were announced.
1. Popular choice - English Non Fiction (Hutch users to SMS votes)
2. English Fiction
3. English Non-Fiction
4. Indian Language Fiction Translation (into English)

The last 3 were each judged by a panel of 3 authors whose books weren't in the long list. The long lists were really long & the judges had a lot of reading to do.
Check out the long lists for English Fiction, Indian Language Fiction Translation, and a new category, English Non-Fiction which was exceptionally long with 59 books.

To be eligible the book had to be published between 1 sep 2004 & 31 Aug 2005.

The books were then narrowed to a shortlist :
English Fiction :
The Tiger Claw by Shauna Singh Baldwin
Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta
Surface by Siddharth Deb
The Radiance of Ashes by Cyrus Mistry
Magic Seeds by V S Naipaul
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie.

The Award was won by Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie. Since he couldn't make it to the function, Mr Sriram called him on his cell in Italy and he thanked the crowd over the phone. It was an interesting experience. Rehaan Engineer then did an absolutely brilliant reading from a chapter of the book.

Indian Language Fiction Translation :
A Dying Banyan by Manzoor Ahtesham (translator Kuldip Singh)
Sangati by Bama (translator Lakshmi Holmstrom)
After Kurukshetra by Mahasweta Devi (translator Anjum Katyal)
The Unspoken Curse by V K Madhavan Kutty (translator Prema Jaya Kumar)
The Survivors by Gurudial Singh (translator Rana Nayar)
The Heart Has Its Reasons by Krishna Sobti (translator Reema Anand and Meenakshi Swami).

The award was won by The Heart Has Its Reasons and it was a pleasure to hear from Krishna Sobti herself on the book. She did make a point that most Indian Regional Language writers write brilliant stories but they do not have enough readership. Translation seems to be in order but a lot of the flavor does get missed out. Kitu Gidwani read out a passage from this book.

English Non-Fiction :
One Hundred Years, One Hunderd Voices' by Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar
Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India 2003-04 by Rahul Bhattacharya
Finding Forgotton Cities: How the Indus Civilisation was Discovered by Nayanjot Lahiri
Maximum City by Suketu Mehta
Didi: My Mother's Voice by Ira Pande
Chasing the Monk's Shadow: A journey in the footsteps of Xuanzang by Mishi Saran.

While Rahul Bhattacharya won the Popular choice for Pundits from Pakistan he attributed it to his friends who must have been busy sedning sms as long as the contest was open and thanked them for it. The jury awarded Maximum City by Suketu Mehta the top honors and Anahita Oberoi did a reading from this book.

Gossip Factor:
Held at the wonderful environs of the Discovery of India building at the Nehru Centre.
Chips, Veg rolls, cold drinks & coffee/tea were being served.
All the nominated authors of the non-fiction category were present. Other authors included Rana Dasgupta, Cyrus Mistry, Prema Jaya Kumar, Krishna Sobti & Reema Anand.
All the nominees received a certificate and a commemmorative award.
Winners received an award, cheque for 3 lakhs (to be spilt equally among translators or co-authors) and a citation.
All the nominated books were placed on sale at the location.
Book signings were close to impossible because of the media cameras around.
Seema Sehgal sang beautifully incorporating some profound poetry in her renditions.
Anahita Oberoi's blouse had a non existent back. It was held together by a slim thread.
Dandeep Das Deputy MD of Hutch said some beautiful words. I can't call it a speech because it was so touching, heartfelt & natural. It was a one sided conversation with the audience where he took us through how, which books influenced him at each stage of his life and in what way. They were books most in the audience had read and could identify with. Beautiful rendition.
There were 3 women in self colored crepe sarees who kept flitting around preceding and following every person who was called on stage up & down the stairs. It was very distracting and unnecessary. As someone remarked, this was not a "Miss India competition" The one area they could have helped out in, they ignored - lending a helping hand to the authors who found the steps difficult to navigate.
Crossword distributed a compilation of excerpts from all the shortlisted books. a wonderful collector's item, amazing business strategy (after reading excerpts, I'm already planning to buy a couple of the books) and a great memento of the event.

Had the most boorish woman in the world seated in front of me. She could not keep her trap shut for more than a minute. She was constantly cribbing about non issues. She rested her feet on the seat in front of her which fortunately was empty or kept them up on her own. Before the program started, she yelled at her poor husband who was seated 4 seats away about how he never takes things down and his memory is so bad and he should write things down like she had told him a million times before. Since there were 4 people between the 2, she was speaking loud enough for min 5 rows on all sides to hear her tirade. Was sorely tempted to whack her on the head. She spoilt the entire experience for all around her. If you come for a book award, of course there is going to be some book reading involved. If you don't have basic decency and courtesy maybe you should stay at home is what I wanted to tell her but followed Gandhi's principles of ahimsa & non violence so kept it to myself. :)

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