Mumbai: Kerala tribal novelist Narayan’s The Araya Woman translated by Catherine Thankamma, The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy and A Free Man by Aman Sethi were among the big winners at the 11th annual Economist–Crossword Book Awards, which were awarded in Mumbai last evening.
The awards sought to honour Indian writers in five categories: Indian Fiction, Indian Non-fiction, Indian Translations, Children’s Writing and the Popular category. Each award, except for the Popular category was chosen by three jury members.
The first award of the evening was given for best Indian Translation, a task that the judges admitted was tough since there are so many Indian languages. The sheer diversity of literature, the faithfulness of translations and of course the original work itself were all part of the criteria.
The award was given jointly to The Araya Woman written in Malayalam by Narayan and translated by Catherine Thankamma and Seventeen by Anita Agnihotri and translated by Arunava Sinha. In the case of The Araya Woman, Narayan is also Kerala’s first tribal novelist and his work deals with the loss of identity for the tribe and the community’s transition to modernity, a path that is not often easy.
The Indian fiction writing seemed a much tougher category to judge as the short-list had the likes of Amitav Ghosh, Rahul Bhattacharya and Jeet Thayil (recently shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize) to choose from. Clearly it was no easy task for the judges, as they themselves admitted but they were happy that the Great Indian novel had finally come of age, as it wasn’t finally just based in India. The winner was Anuradha Roy for The Folded Earth, a novel that is set in the picturesque mountain-town of Ranikhet.
The Indian Non-fiction category saw Aman Sethi emerge as the winner for A Free Man. Sethi’s book deals with labour, a category that is largely ignored in these globalising times. To give an account of the labour class, beyond statistics and numbers is what helped Sethi’s book stand apart.
In the Children’s writing category no awards was given from the shortlisted author as the jury felt that the none of the books in question stood out.
The final award of the night was the Popular category award which included Chetan Bhagat (Revolution 2020), Amish Tripathi (The Secret of the Nagas), Amitav Ghosh (River of Smoke) as some of the nominees. Since it was the popular category award, there was no jury. Online voting, SMS and voting at Crossword stores across the country helped decide the vote. Indeed when the shortlisted authors were announced there was a lot of cheering in the hall. The winner was finally adjudged to be Ravi Subramanian for his book The Incredible Banker .
Each of the winning authors was given a cash award of Rs 3 lakh and a trophy. In the Popular book category, the cash prize was Rs 1 lakh. The award ceremony also featured a musical performance by Sarod Maestros Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan.
Noted actor Kabir Bedi was the host for the evening and he did his task well, always ensuring that the evening was fast-paced and adding a touch of humour as and when it was needed. Sudha Murthy, was the chief guest and it was pleasure to watch her give the opening address. Her best line, ‘For me , the award ( for Kannidiga writing) was more important that the Infosys stock price.’
As a chief guest she was witty, with just the right touch of personal to keep the audience tuned in at all times.