Sunday, October 23, 2022

READING, WRITING AND BOOKS: Shashi Deshpande on Barbara Pym

Miss Pym the Novelist


Shashi Deshpande


Until the British Library (the British Council Library then) opened in Bangalore, I survived on borrowed books. The British Library, when it came, gave me four books at a time to take home to read. This was riches. I was a fairly adventurous reader and plunged with equal joy into the books of both known and unknown authors. Barbara Pym was one of the writers I read in those early years in the British Library. Much later, when I had a Kindle, I read all the books of this author whose writing had, from her first novel on, intrigued me. She seemed to be writing of an earlier time, though the dates of publication made them out to be post-war novels. Again, the themes were rather ‘unworldly’ for the time, centring round the Church and parish activities. She wrote of a world peopled with vicars, rectors and curates, and men and women (mainly women) whose lives revolved round the Church and the clergy. To an outsider and a non-Christian like me, the Church and its character (High? Low? Anglican? Roman?), as well as the rituals, remained a mystery. But it didn’t really matter; I read, as avid readers do, for the story and the characters. Pym’s novels breathed ‘Englishness’, tea-making, tea-drinking, jumble sales, and Church festivals being very much part of them. What gave the novels an interesting twist was that the author, Barbara Pym, seemed to look at the world she had created and the men and women she wrote about with a kind of reflective ironic gaze. This, as well as the very English humour that permeated the novels, lifted them out of the mundane. I was also fascinated by the way her characters criss-crossed through different novels. Almost like Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire novels, in which characters move across different novels. Trollope, too, gave the Church and the clergy much importance. But Trollope’s novels, his characters, even his humour have a conscious gravitas, not the light butterfly touch of Pym’s writing.


Barbara Pym with her cat, Minerva, in her garden
Barbara Pym, born in 1913, graduated in English Literature and Language from St. Hilda’s, Oxford, and went abroad for a while. When war broke out, she first worked in the Censorship Department, then joined the WRNS . After the war, she took up a job in the International African Institute where she worked until her retirement. The Institute gave her much material for her novels, specially of the academic world. Her novels teem as much with anthropologists as with the Church and the clergy. She wrote six novels in her early years in the Institute which were published by Jonathan Cape, giving her a small but steady readership. It is what happened to her seventh novel that makes her literary career interesting. And dramatic, quite unlike her own life, or the lives of the characters in her novels.


Philip Larkin, a major poet of this time, who had read and admired Pym’s novels, wrote to her saying that he would like to write on her work. It was time, he thought, for a breakthrough for her, ‘that would establish her among the few novelists recognised as having original voices’. Pym, however, wrote back to say that a better time for him to write on her work would be when her seventh novel came out.


Which never happened. Cape rejected the novel An Unsuitable Attachment. It was a bitter blow. A ‘year of blows, violence and death,’ she wrote in her diary. ‘Cape has rejected my novel’. It was, she thought, like being told that someone does not love you. To Larkin she wrote that she was very upset, that she thought Cape had treated her very badly. Larkin sympathised. He called it a ‘wounding experience’ to be rejected by a publisher who had published six of her novels until then, and with whom she had been for thirteen years. Pym kept sending the novel ‘on its rounds’, as she called it (better than lying at home, she thought), but all the publishers she sent it to rejected it. She had written another novel in the meantime, The Sweet Dove Died, which met with the same fate. She was puzzled. Perhaps this novel (An Unsuitable Attachment) was much worse than her other novels? But they didn’t say so! The only reason the publishers offered was that they did not think that the sales of the book would cover the cost of production. It was, after all, London of the Swinging Sixties.


Pym bravely shouldered the blame for the failure of An Unsuitable Attachment; she thought it was not the times that were wrong, it was she who had failed as a writer. Perhaps her novels were ‘altogether too mild’ for present tastes. She took up the task of ‘improving’ (her word) the novels, ruthlessly cutting out characters, and making the novels less cosy. She herself recognised cosy-ness as an unwelcome feature of her novels.


The rewriting didn’t help. A second round of submitting the books to publishers only resulted in more rejections. And in any case, she could not make the novels entirely different. She had decided, years earlier, what sort of novels she would write. Even at this time, when she so sorely needed an affirmation of her talent, she could not change. ‘Be more wicked’, her agent advised her. She did try. Leonora, in The Sweet Dove Died, is a vain woman, full of herself, wanting male admiration and manipulating men to get it from them. But Leonora changes in the course of the novel when she loses her young lover James, and is left only with the older man Humphrey, whose courting is formulaic: flowers, taking her out to dinner, some words of praise. One feels sympathy for Leonora at the end.


Barbara Pym has at times been compared to Jane Austen. The similarities, though superficial, are obvious. But Pym herself called the comparison ‘mild blasphemy’. She admired Austen greatly. ‘Oh if only the dust of her genius would rub off on me,’ she sighed when she visited Austen’s home. She writes of having read the last chapters of Austen’s novels to find out how she tied up the loose ends. Perhaps, if she had read Austen’s little-known Lady Susan, she would have seen the perfect picture of a wicked woman. Lady Susan, Austen’s only femme fatale, is evil, she is manipulative and self-seeking, ready to sacrifice her own daughter for her nefarious purposes. At no time does she falter in her wickedness. Pym could never have created a Lady Susan. Actually, she didn’t need to. I wonder if any other reader has felt the uneasiness I did in Pym’s No Fond Return of Love with Dulcie Mainwaring’s habit of stalking the men who interest her, mainly because they are good-looking. She stalks, not only the man she finds attractive, but his brother and mother well. And Dulcie is one of Pym’s ‘excellent women’!


As An Unsuitable Attachment and The Sweet Dove Died kept getting rejections, different reasons being given each time, she began losing confidence in herself. For a writer, this confidence is the one thing which keeps her going, it is the plank on which she stands. Without it, she can fall into a deep dark hole. Earlier, when Pym had been told that eight American and ten Continental publishers had rejected her novel, she had taken it lightly. ‘Feeling a little bruised’, she had written. ‘So humble yourself Miss Pym and do not put on any airs.’


This time, Pym was depressed. She felt no publisher would ever publish her again. She had lost confidence in her very ability to write. She felt she was doomed to failure, to sink into obscurity. She considered giving up writing. How restful it would be, she thought, never to write another word! But don’t ever believe a writer who swears she will stop writing. Pym always ended with a kind of disclaimer. Like, ‘Perhaps I will go on’. After ‘I doubt whether I shall ever publish another novel’, she wrote, ‘though I am certainly at work on something’. And again, ‘I can still write even if my type of novel is no longer publishable.’ And once, ‘I feel I will never write again, though perhaps I will eventually.’ This cautious optimism kept her going through seventeen years of silence when she published nothing. But it was not easy. She wrote in her diary, ‘Writing is no longer the great pleasure it used to be. I am no longer so certain of a glorious future as I used to be. But I still feel I may ultimately succeed.’


Finally, after twenty-one rejections, she said ‘enough!’. She would no longer send her novels out. Larkin succinctly described her plight: for ten years she had been a writer; now she was not. She had come up against a wall of indifference, as immovable as inexplicable. Only a writer will understand what it means to know that no one is going to publish you. To write without the incentive of publication seems pointless. Not to have a book out every few years makes the writer invisible. But Pym had made up her mind. What she wrote henceforth would not be submitted to publishers; she would write for her own pleasure and that of a few friends.


And then it happened, what Philip Larkin called an ‘extraordinary accident’. The Times Literary Supplement asked noted writers to say who they considered the most over-rated and the most under-rated writers of the century. Pym was the only writer to get two mentions: Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil (historian and biographer) both named her as the most under-rated writer. Suddenly everything changed for her. Macmillan accepted her new novel, the one she had been writing for her own pleasure. Cape, with whom she was still sore, reissued all her earlier novels. There was a plan of bringing them all out in paperbacks. Pym was invited to literary events, she was interviewed, her books were written about, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. And, in an irony which could easily be part of Pym’s own novels, Quartet in Autumn, the novel she had decided not to get published, was short-listed for the Booker.


Pym’s own response to all this is very ‘writerly’. The main thing is that I am now regarded as a writer. A good feeling after years of ‘This is well-written but…’


The Sweet Dove Died, which had had a long list of rejections, was also ‘gratifyingly’ well received. Enough ‘balm to soothe the hurt of earlier years,’ Pym wrote.


The New York Times published a feature on her under the headline ‘Forever being forgotten, forever revived’. Apart from the exaggeration of this statement, the article spoke of her novels as romantic comedies, commented on the unsexy milieu of her books and recalled how her publishers had unceremoniously dumped her. But there is much more to Pym’s story than what these rather unfortunately chosen facts by the New York Times add up to. There is Pym’s grit and persistence. One rejection is enough to fell a writer. Pym had to cope with over twenty rejections! Of course, she was angry, specially with Cape. To critics who spoke of her ‘obsession with trivials’, she retorted, ‘What are the minds of the critics filled with? What noble and more worthwhile things?’


What is equally remarkable is Larkin’s championship of Pym. They were not friends, not acquaintances even, when he first wrote to her. They corresponded regularly after that, but met only much later. Larkin believed in her writing; he, a noted poet of the time, encouraged her, gave her back her faith in her own writing, he referred her to publishers he knew, including his own. I would imagine it was rare even then to have an established writer do all this for a still struggling one. 


Larkin met the Chairman of Cape some time after all this happened and asked him about the reason for the rejection of Pym’s novels. ‘Neither then, nor at any time since, has this company rejected a manuscript for commercial reasons, notwithstanding the literary merit of the book.’ Larkin quotes these words of the Chairman in his introduction to Pym’s An Unsuitable Attachment, which was finally published only after Pym’s death.


Why did Cape reject the book? It was the unfavourable review of two readers which made them decide against publishing the book, the Chairman replied.


Larkin still had a question. Was there no one in Cape who would talk to Pym, tell her that they had enjoyed publishing her, that they would like to go on publishing her? No one to tell her what was wrong with the book and that it needed to be revised? 


Pym’s story is important because there is a question in it that all struggling writers, young or old, grapple with at one time or another, a question that is always present in writers’ minds. This question is: what makes a book acceptable to a publisher? What is the secret? Pym’s story is even more complicated because the publishers accepted the very books they had so summarily rejected. What had changed? If the words of the Chairman, that commercial reasons were not what weighed against Pym’s novel, were true, it would mean that the novel was flawed in some way. Larkin, in his Introduction, admits that An Unsuitable Attachment has certain faults. Were the flaws overlooked subsequently? Besides, did the words of two writers count for so much? Does a novel need endorsements? And what about the original voice Larkin had spoken of in connection with Pym’s writing? If not the publisher, who was to recognise it? Do publishers set the trend, or do they follow the trend? (Pym herself said, ‘Publishers should have the courage to be unfashionable’. One guesses she was talking of trends.) We know that readers differ as much in their literary tastes as they do in other matters. There are always some readers for every book. It is only the phenomenon of the best-seller that seems intent on reducing different tastes of readers to one monolithic one. That publishers cannot ignore the commercial factor when they accept a book is a known fact. All writers know and accept it. It is not a coincidence that Pym, in her diary, after noting that a second publisher had rejected her novel, wrote in the very next line of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer selling 60,000 books on the first day (Tropic of Cancer was a book of great sexual explicitness).


What made me, a reader, enjoy Pym was her humour. The early novels, Crampton Hodnet and Some Tame Gazelle are at times hilarious. Pym herself called Crampton Hodnet as ‘rather funny’. Hazel Holt, her friend and literary executor, says that you could not read Crampton Hodnet without laughing out loud, even if you were in the Bodleian, the Oxford library. This humour was part of her, even in her personal life. (She spoke of wanting a husband only when in a pub in the midst of uncongenial company and a feeling of not belonging.) And, whatever the New York Times may have said, romantic her books are certainly not. The passionate young woman that Pym was in her early years, as her diaries show, is nowhere in her books. Love in Pym’s novels is fleeting, ephemeral, evanescent, like Wilmet’s for Piers, her friend’s brother in A Glass of Blessings. Wilmet, a happily married woman, falls in love (‘I was in the kind of exalted mood when all one’s sensibilities seem to be sharpened’), and just as quickly falls out of it, without a jerk. As for Belinda and Harriet, the two sisters in Some Tame Gazelle, Pym writes about Belinda’s love for the Archdeacon (whom she had loved when they were fellow students) and Harriet’s for young curates, with a wry humour. Nobody really suffers for love in her novels, except perhaps Catherine in Less Than Angels, in whom we get a glimpse of suffering when her lover, Tom, brazenly deserts her for a younger woman, when he goes away to Africa and when he dies. But her grief is understated, unspoken.


That Pym’s was even then a vanished world is nowhere more apparent than in her ‘excellent women’. There is irony in the words, because it is male opinion that makes some women ‘excellent women’. These women are self-abnegating, willing to play a subservient role, always there when needed. Mildred Lathbury in Excellent Women is a prime example of this type of woman. It is surprising that Pym wrote this in a post-war world when women had come out of their homes and played their roles in the war effort. Barbara Pym herself was a University graduate and she and her sister Hilary earned their own living all their lives. But irony and humour were Pym’s tools. And so, there is Jessie Morrow in Crampton Hodnet, lowly companion and spinster, overlooked and ignored by everyone, but who, by accepting this invisibility with equanimity, in fact, finding it amusing and predictable, rises above victimhood. 


Barbara was finally getting the recognition she had longed for. But unfortunately, she did not have much time to enjoy this little burst of fame. The cancer she had had eight years earlier (‘they took away the left bosom!’) recurred and she died in 1980. Hazel Holt, Pym’s colleague in the Institute and her literary executor after her death, quotes Pym’s words in her Introduction to Pym’s novels:

‘Who is that woman sitting on the concrete wall outside Barclay’s Bank reading the TV Times? It is Miss Pym the novelist.’

This identity, this recognition, was what she had wanted all her writing life. It finally came to her, even if just before her death in 1980. 


25/09/2022





I have taken most of Barbara Pym’s remarks from A Very Private Eye, Dutton, 1984, a kind of autobiography put together by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym, Barbara’s sister, from her diaries and letters to and from her.

Shashi Deshpande 









Photograph of Barbara Pym in her garden by 
Mayotte Magnus (c) The Barbara Pym Society is reproduced with permission.
We learnt from the Society: ‘The original photo (reproduced here) has a telephone pole in the background, but the pole was airbrushed out when the image was used on the back jacket of A Very Private Eye in 1984. So when you see the image on the web without the pole, you know it was scanned from the book. Our image was taken from the original negative which was given to us by the photographer.

READING, WRITING AND BOOKS


In November 2019, at the literary gathering, Lekhana, held at The Jamun, I had the privilege of being in conversation with Shashi Deshpande about her memoir Listen to Me (Context Books, 2018). In the book, segments on her love of reading and the books that influenced her or stayed with her, weave in and out of the trajectory of her life as a writer, enriching the sense of being offered a window into the world of an author. We spoke then, about how Ms Deshpande would love to write regularly about the many books and authors, however obscure or forgotten, that she has read and loved. I said that if she would, we, at Out of Print, would be privileged to provide a platform for her essays.

The thought rested, we all went into isolation with the arrival of the Covid-19 virus, and became immersed in different projects.

December 2021, I spoke to her at the Bangalore Literature Festival about her collection, Subversions: Essays on Life and Literature (Context Books, 2021) that had just come out. In this volume too, the reader is allowed an extraordinary and pleasurable entry into Ms Deshpande’s thoughts on books and writers and reading. The session only emphasised to me, how important it would be if she did indeed begin a series on books.

Maria Popova, on her blog The Marginalian draws attention to Virginia Woolf's 1925 essay How Should One Read a Book? that appeared in The Second Common Reader and summarises what many writers -- Vladimir Nabokov, Francine Prose, Henry Miller, and, of course, Virginia Woolf say about reading. In her essay, Virginia Woolf, speaks of the different aspects of being a good, responsible reader. The first part of the process is ‘to open the mind to the fast flocking of innumerable impressions and the second, to compare. But, she adds, ‘to hold one shadow-shape against another, to have read widely enough and with enough understanding to make such comparisons alive and illuminating is difficult. She goes on to say that ‘to read a book as it should be read’ and I interject, to understand an author as she should be understood, ‘calls for the rarest qualities of imagination, insight, and judgement.’


Today we are beyond privileged to begin our series on reading, writing and books with an article by Shashi Deshpande, a reader with just those rarest qualities of imagination, insight, and judgement’. It appears on the blog attendant on Out of Print, and is the first of what we hope will be many such essays.



Wednesday, August 10, 2022

THE KODAIKANAL GANDHI PRIZE

The Kodaikanal Gandhi prize was initiated and founded in 2019, the year of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, by Radha Kumar, who is its principal donor. It's partners have included, the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Kodaikanal Fellowship Library, the Kodai Chronicle and the literary journal Out of Print. In 2022, the Khushwant Singh Literature Festival joins hands with the organisers. 

The prize is open to students aged sixteen to eighteen, although submissions from younger applicants are also be considered. 

Prizewinning entries are published in the Out of Print Blog. 

Links to the annual announcements of winners are listed below.

2021 

2020



Thursday, June 30, 2022

Premise: The Years on Her Ears by Satyajit Amin reviewed by Pranvi Khare


The Years on Her Ears by Satyajit Amin 

Reviewed by Pranvi Khare

In Indian media, the mother-in-law is often portrayed as a stifling woman, not allowing the daughter-in-law to do as she pleases and an evil figure in the relationship between the wife and husband. So it was refreshing to see the mother-in-law in ‘The Years on Her Ears’ portrayed as a friendly, maternal woman who has what seems to be a great bond with her daughter-in-law. What really caught my attention about the story is the subtle journey of the persona – from her child-like attraction to the material goods, the earrings, to her genuine interest in the stories and the significance behind the earrings. 

Something to note is the fact that this story is so easy to relate to, because nothing is specific – not the location of the story, the name of any of the characters, or the type of the earrings. This makes the story extremely engaging to read because it allows the audience to connect to the story and interpret it in their own manner. It’s almost like a rite of passage and doesn’t seem forced when the mother-law gives her earrings to her daughter-in-law. I love the way the story progresses because it doesn’t seem to be forced in any way. 

When originally what fascinated the protagonist were the dangling beautiful earrings, in the end, it is the simple diamond earrings of her mother-in-law that she chooses to wear. This in a way creates a full circle, as while her mother-in-law wore the burden of others (as implied by ‘Don’t worry, I won't feel bad if you don't wear all of them.’ She said this with a smile and an airiness that felt like relief, like she wished someone had said the same to her many years ago.’), The protagonist wears the earrings because they connect her to her mother-in-law. 

This is an extremely well written short story, that is in equal parts meaningful and beautiful. 






Read Satyajit Amin’s ‘The Years on Her Ears’ in Out of Print 41, December 2019.

Reviewer Pranvi Khare interned with Out of Print during the development of Out of Print 45.


#Premise

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Premise: The Big Picture by Anjum Hasan reviewed by Salini Vineeth

The Big Picture by Anjum Hasan

Reviewed by Salini Vineeth


Anjum Hasan’s short story, Big Picture, is about Mrs. Ali and an eventful journey that changes her life. The protagonist, Mrs. Ali, is a middle-aged widow who lives a lonely life. It’s clear that Mrs. Ali has spent a significant portion of her adult life playing the roles of a wife and a mother. Maybe she was so involved in these roles that she cannot imagine an alternate existence. With her husband and children no longer around, Mrs. Ali lives in limbo. She gets through days, terrified to explore the possibilities of her newfound freedom. 


Mrs. Ali withdraws herself from social gatherings and leads a reclusive life. She finds comfort and safety in the mundane. But she hasn’t lost her curiosity. She sits by the window of her room and observes life as it happens outside. That’s how she is drawn to painting, something she used to practice as a child and had since abandoned. Even though a late bloomer, she turns out to be a good painter. Mrs. Ali isn’t bothered about the quality of her subjects. She just paints whatever she sees around her. She doesn’t even make a big deal out of painting. For her, it’s just something to fill the vacuum in her life.


Mrs. Ali’s life takes a turn when a European art curator, Frieda, takes an interest in her paintings. Mrs. Ali takes a certain pride in sending her paintings to Europe for an exhibition. But, she is terrified at the prospect of having to attend the exhibition in person. She finds it quite rude of Frieda to make such a demand. Mrs. Ali has no inclination to go on a solo trip to Europe, but her curiosity gets the better of her once again. She wants to see the ‘original paintings of Vang Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Max Ernst’. She decides to take the trip. 


Just like she had feared, Mrs. Ali faces many hurdles on her solo trip to Europe. She is stranded in a foreign airport, with her periods visiting her a week early. She feels that everyone is out to get her – the flight steward, the indifferent shopkeeper in the airport, and even the beautiful yet apathetic foreign women in the airport restroom. She feels that everyone is watching her, and the world is waiting for an opportunity to ridicule her. 


Mrs. Ali does get to the exhibition city in one piece, and it somewhat surprises her. Now, being in this alien city full of strangers, Mrs. Ali goes through some epiphanies. For the first time, she gets a broader perspective and realises what’s lacking in her life. The new environment helps her see the ‘big picture’.


Hasan’s story explores the themes of fear and freedom. Interestingly, the protagonist is always addressed as Mrs. Ali, her first name never revealed. This gives an indication that ‘being Mrs. Ali’ was the essence of her existence. When she no longer has to be Mrs. Ali, she doesn’t know how to transition into a new phase. Even though the protagonist has the agency to embrace a more exciting life, she just shuns herself into a locked room. The story raises some serious questions. Why so many of us cannot embrace the excitement of life, even if we have the freedom to do so? Why we find solace in mundane existence when we can go out and explore the world? Just like Mrs. Ali, many of us are terrified to transition into a new phase. The story also provides a possible solution to these questions. It’s Mrs. Ali’s curiosity that helps her move forward. She would have spent the rest of her life locked in a room if it weren’t for her curiosity. She was curious to see what people were doing outside her window. The curiosity prompts her to take up painting, almost unintentionally. Her curiosity prompted her to take a trip to a strange city, even though she was terrified. Most of the events during her trip substantiated her fears, but even then, her curiosity to see the ‘original paintings of Max Ernst’ pushed her forward.


The story is narrated from an intimate third-person point of view. Readers are privy to the most intimate feelings of Mrs. Ali. By not using the first-person point of view, the writer gives an illusion of distance between Mrs. Ali and the reader. But at the same time provides a close look at her thoughts and feelings. The choice of the narrative voice is just right, which also conveys the personality of Mrs. Ali. Another impressive point about the plot is the dry humour. Even while Mrs. Ali is in the most unfortunate situation, the third-person narrator manages to pull some laughs. The reader laughs and bites her tongue. The feeling is akin to laughing when a loved one falls down; it’s sad yet hilarious. In a nutshell, ‘The Big Picture’ is a universally appealing story that explores people’s qualms about transitioning into a new phase in life and how curiosity helps us overcome those fears.




Read Anum Hasan's 'The Big Picture', in Out of Print 2, December 2010.


#Premise features writer, and Out of Print reader, Salini Vineeth's review of Anjum Hasan’s ‘The Big Picture’.

 



#Premise



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Premise: California Sunshine by Amrita Lall reviewed by Prashila Naik

California Sunshine by Amrita Lall

Reviewed by Prashila Naik


The most striking aspect of Amrita Lall's story California Sunshine is the subtle humour and irony that slyly laces its narrative. The vivid 'magical realist/surrealist' imagery that made me develop an uncomfortable smile towards the corners of my mouth, or the almost 'harmlessness' of Jynx the Pokemon who is probably more of a loyal companion than all the well meaning 'real' people around the protagonist. There is so much nuance, so much soul infused in these descriptions of hallucinations and visions and dreams, I almost did not want these parts of the story to end.


But when these parts do end and when we are drawn into the protagonist Aleena's world, the layers are peeled one by one. Like in the novel Ordinary People , the protagonist struggles with reconciling to their part in a heart breaking tragedy that has forever changed their life. Like Ordinary People again, there is a therapist who is clearly empathetic and probably also willing to 'listen', but unlike the teenaged protagonist in Ordinary People, Aleena is unable to 'fully' share, to fully let in another person into her tragedy. Because a part of her probably wants to live with this trauma, with the guilt that results from the trauma or she probably expects the trauma to be drawn out of her, gently, kindly, and without the judgement of LSD versus 'occasional drug use - recreational'. It is after all hard to trust when the boundaries between what is real and what is not have long ceased to be around.


Amrita Lall's writing is impressively shorn of any gimmicks even with the possibilities that the subject offers. I also liked how the piece ended, expectedly, but also probably taking the reader a couple of inches away from the engagement they were beginning to form with Aleena. And yet, I came away from the story deeply moved by Aleena's 'predicament', her agony, her inability to find relief. A complex story that does well to simplify what it is trying to tell. I look forward to reading more of Amrita Lall's fiction.





Read Amrita Lall's California Sunshine in Out of Print 42, September 2021.


Reviewer Prashila Naik's story The Monk appeared in Out of Print 31, June 2018.

#Premise features Naik's review of Amrita Lall’s 'California Sunshine’.



#Premise


Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021 - The Prize Winners

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021


Out of Print is honoured and delighted to be publishing the prize-winning entries of the Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize 2021. The published works include: 
the shared first, second and third prizes in English
the Creative Expression prize sponsored by Out of Print 
the first and second prizes in Tamil
the six honourable mentions
The prize winners, along with links to their prize-winning entries are listed at the end of this article. 


The Kodaikanal Gandhi prize was initiated and founded in 2019, the year of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, by Radha Kumar who is also the principal donor, and instituted jointly by the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Kodaikanal Fellowship Library and the literary journal Out of Print. This year, the Kodai Chronicle joins hands with the organisers. The prize is open to students aged sixteen to eighteen, although submissions from younger applicants are also be considered. Students are asked to submit either a written or a multimedia presentation in English or Tamil in response to one of the following questions:

1. Gandhi viewed non-violence as an active form of resistance. Looking at contemporary injustices, does non-violence work. State your points with examples.

2. Gandhi labelled himself a ‘practical idealist’. What does that label mean to you? Describe another practical idealist you admire.

3. Gandhi once said, ‘Our salvation can only come through the farmer’. Does this idea hold through in India today? Why or why not?

4. Why did Gandhi consider cowardice and apathy even worse than violence? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

5. Gandhi’s philosophy of truth in practice led to India’s motto, ‘Satyameva Jayate’ – ‘Truth alone triumphs’. What meaning does it have in an era of fake news? How would you restore this ideal in public opinion?

It was profoundly heartening that submissions came from a wide range of schools, urban and rural, elite and under privileged. In all, there were close to two hundred and fifty registrations from forty-six schools and eleven states over a hundred of which resulted in submissions. That more than one hundred students in their final years of high school reflected deeply on Gandhi and his relevance today is extremely encouraging. It suggests that a number of India’s millennials are indeed engaged in thinking about political issues and questions of injustice. 

A report on the awards ceremony that took place in Kodaikanal on October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanti, was featured in the Out of Print blog. Satish deSa, children’s editor of the Kodai Chronicle, and the Chronicle staff also wrote about the evening, featuring excerpts from the prize-winning works. The prize-winners, with links to their published entries, are listed below.


The Prize Winners with Links to their Published Entries:

First prize (shared): 
        Fravashi International Academy, Nashik
       Nikhil Joseph (withdrawn)
        Hebron School, Ooty

Creative Expression prize:
sponsored by Out of Print
        Delhi Public School Srinagar

Second prize (shared):
        Delhi Public School Noida
        The Neev Academy, Bangalore

Third prize (shared):
        The Gandhigram Rural Institute, Dindigul District
        The Kodaikanal International School

First prize (Tamil):
        The RC Higher Secondary School, Trichy

Second prize (Tamil):
        Fairlands A Foundation School, Puduppatti, Theni District
 

Honourable Mentions:

        Hebron School, Ooty
        The Kodaikanal International School
        Neev Academy, Bangalore
        The Delhi Public School Noida
        The Delhi Public School Noida
        Fairlands A Foundation School, Puduppatti, Theni District