Thrilled to be first Indian to win coveted prize : Parashar Kulkarni, Indian writer
Updated on: 12 Jun 2016
In an exclusive interview, Indian writer Parashar Kulkarni talks to ANANYA BORGOHAIN about his story, 'Cow and Company', that won him the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Last Sunday, Parashar Kulkarni was declared the first Indian writer to win the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story, 'Cow and Company'. This short story, laden with humour, is set in colonial India towards the end of the 19th Century. It is about four men in search of a cow as part of an advertising campaign for chewing gum.
Gillian Slovo, Chair of the Judging Panel, said, "In 'Cow and Company', Parashar has conjured up a large cast and their way of life, and at the same time he has succeeded in exploring serious issues in a way that can make us laugh and all of this in a few thousand words."
Kulkarni is an Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at Yale NUS College Singapore, working at the intersection of religion and political economy. He 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.
The award was presented at the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica on June 5 by Man Booker Prize Winner and former judge of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Marlon James. The prize recognises the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English. It is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The 2016 judges are Helon Habila (Africa), Firdous Azim (Asia), Pierre Mejlak (Canada and Europe), Olive Senior (Caribbean) and Patrick Holland (Pacific).
In an interview with Agenda, Kulkarni talks about how he formed his ideas for the story.
When did you write this story? Did it serve any specific objective?
The story was written a few years ago. I have been trying to write fiction for several years now. It is therapeutic. I spent quite a bit of time in the archives working on religion in colonial India (1800-1850). The story and the ongoing novel allowed me to engage with my research at an emotional level.
Explaining politics by using a humorous analogy of a cow has been a popular practice. What do you think made your story different from the others?