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Parashar Kulkarni on Winning the 2016 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize

Parashar Kulkarni reads from Cow and Company at Calabash 2016

He was the last of the five to arrive at Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth. On Sunday morning, June 5, after hours of travel, India’s Parashar Kulkarni joined the other four regional winners of the 2016 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Competition on the grounds of the Calabash Literary Festival where the winner would be announced in just a few hours.

Kulkarni’s ‘Cow and Company’ was in contention for the prestigious prize against Lance Dowrich’s ‘Etherbert and the Free Cheese (Trinidad and Tobago), Faraaz Mahomed’s ‘The Pigeon’ (South Africa), Stefanie Seddon’s ‘Eel’ (UK) and Tina Makereti’s ‘Black Milk’ (New Zealand.

(l-r) Parashar Kulkarni, Stefanie Seddon, Lance Dowrich, Tina Mekereti, Faraaz MahomedThough he must have been jet lagged by the time of the announcement, this did not dampen Kulkarni’s joy at being announced the overall winner and the first Indian to win the overall prize. 

“I feel encouraged. It’s an exciting initiative. It’s useful for new writers and it’s inclusive,” Kulkarni said. “It allows diverse voices to find representation.” 

Kulkarni explained that in addition to being encouraged by initiatives such as the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, he is enthused that globally, there are more regional initiatives to ensure that writers can write and publish in their own languages.

Even so, he realizes that the global reach of the Commonwealth Writers prize and the resulting attention opens several great opportunities to him, especially as ‘Cow and Company’ is a part of a novella he is currently working on.

“”I suspect there’ll be an interest in the novella also,” Kulkarni said.

The five regional winners at Calabash Literary Fest 2016

During his reading, Kulkarni had explained it seemed serendipitous that he was reading the story in the Caribbean as the first time he had read it aloud had been in Trinidad and Tobago, so the story had come to fruition in the region and returned there as a prize-winning tale.

Sunday’s announcement was the penultimate activity of the well-attended festival which had featured winners of several celebrated prizes including the Forward Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize, and the Mann Booker Prize. Indeed, Marlon James, last year’s winner of the Mann Booker Prize and a previous judge of the Commonwealth Short Story prize announced the winner. 

Parashar Kulkarni is congratulated by Marlon JamesThe 2016 Commonwealth Writers Short Story prize panel of judges was chaired by Gillian Slovo who was also in attendance. The 2016 Calabash Literary Festival took place June 3-5 in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.