UPDATE: Some contestants reached out to us to ask about the stories in the top 10 list, other than the 3 winners and the honourable mentions. The names of these remaining stories and their authors have been added to the end of this post.
Desi Writers’ Lounge (DWL) would like to thank all the writers who participated in the third installment of our annual short story competition. Just like 2013, we were swamped with hundreds of entries this year sent in by writers from around the world. We are thoroughly impressed by the high quality of writing in the stories we received. This also gives us confidence that our efforts to promote and encourage contemporary fiction writers is bearing fruit.
We’re also proud to say that the 2014 competition is the closest contest we have had since we started the competition two years ago. The top 10 stories were separated only by decimal points and our jury pondered long and hard before making the final decision about our three winners.
We are also giving out our annual Dastaan Award, a cash incentive for new and contemporary writers which DWL started in 2013 with the support of two benefactors. Click to view the 2014 Dastaan Award winner’s announcement.
Now for the winners of the 2014 DWL Short Story Competition, despite a tough contest, these three writers were ahead of the pack with stories that did justice to both new and relevant themes with their excellent prose, strong characterization and brilliant storytelling. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to our 2014 winners:
Tushar Jain is a Delhi-based writer. He was the winner of the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize, 2012. Subsequently, he won the Poetry with Prakriti Prize, 2013 and was shortlisted for the Raed Leaf India Award, 2013. His first play, ‘Reading Kafka in Verona’, was long-listed for the Hindu Metroplus Playwright Award, 2013. His work has appeared in various forums; most recently in an anthology of contemporary Indian poetry, “The Unsettled Winter”.
Judges’ Note: Jain’s story is positively Kafkaesque and it’s a description of which any writer should be proud. Jain takes a PhD candidate and introduces him to misery in new and unexpected ways. The plot is bizarre and hilarious, the writing is spontaneous and the metaphors Jain uses are original and refreshing. A Humiliating Day for [Dr.] Balachander will continue to fascinate readers long after they have finished reading the story. Read A Humiliating Day for [Dr.] Balachander.
Shanthi Smells of Smoke by Geralyn Pinto
Geralyn Pinto lives in the coastal town of Mangalore in South India where she serves as Head of the Department of English at St Agnes College (Autonomous). Twenty years ago, a brush with death owing to ulcerative colitis served as a watershed experience in her life making her vow to give every unforgiving minute sixty seconds worth of distance run. Today she has earned her MPhil and PhD in English and is a published and prize winning poet and author. Among her more significant achievements were the 2005 Outlook Magazine-Picador (India) Runner’s up Prize for her piece of non-fiction writing; the First Prize in the 2010 Unisun-Reliance TimeOut Creative Writing Contest and the Third Prize in the 2013 Save as Writers International Shakespearean Creative Writing Contest (Canterbury). She counts herself privileged to be twice winner at the DWL Contest for her short stories. Her poems have been featured in journals published by the University of Leeds, the University of London, and Mahidol University, Thailand, among other organizations. Her writing spans the genres of human interest, science fiction, the supernatural, historical and combinations of the above. She confesses to a love of elementary maths which she draws upon for sources of inspiration. Geralyn is a gifted actress and a good house keeper who loves cooking, with a special emphasis on baking chocolate cake.
Judges’ Note: In Shanthi Smells of Smoke, Geralyn Pinto transports the readers into Teen Taro, a “once-beautiful” village visited seasonally by a mystery fever that claims the lives of many children. Beautifully told, the story quickly establishes the melancholy and quiet fear that pervade the villagers’ lives. Pinto’s brief portrayal of a mother’s grief is frighteningly convincing. Her descriptions are precise, exhibiting not just talented writing but a skillful editorial hand that makes this short story one of the judges’ favorites. Read Shanthi Smells of Smoke.
Anubha Yadav is also the winner of the 2014 Dastaan Award.
Anubha Yadav is a writer, academic and film-maker based in New Delhi. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Wasafiri, Jaggery, Himal, The Indian Literature, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Out of Print, and others. She has been shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing, 2013. Her work can also be read here.
Judges’ Note: Yadav’s greatest accomplishment in this story is that she took a typical character, gave him an atypical job and used this weird combination to subtly explore issues much larger than the character or the setting. Through her character’s greed and ambition for social mobility, Yadav masterfully gives us a haunting glimpse of violence, state and non-state terrorism, social apathy and bureaucracy. It is a picture not limited to the Kashmir valley or to India, people in developing countries all over the world would be able to relate with these issues. Read The Song of Bismil.
Congratulations to the three winners. They each receive a copy of Kamila Shamsie’s novel A God in Every Stone.
With Grace by Joanne C. Hillhouse – This story came ever so close to making it to the top three. With Grace combines feelings of love, hate, greed and generosity to weave a powerful narrative that is magical in spirit and human in character. Hillhouse is an accomplished writer and her elegant prose shines through in this story.
They Kill All the Lovers First by Huma Sattar – Sattar has managed to effectively capture the spirit of Karachi and of many Karachiites struggling to find their identities in a sprawling, uncertain and unforgiving city. Using humor as her primary tool, she manages to adequately convey the dichotomy of the “two-sides-of –the-bridge” narrative, while at the same time mocking how the clichéd “resilience” of Karachi dwellers is seen from an “outside” (sometimes even a superficial “inside”) viewpoint. She beautifully combines humor with the horrific and presents a story that is both relevant and insightful.
The honourable mentions and other stories from our top 10 list for the competition will be printed in an anthology very soon.
The remaining stories in our top 10 list for the 2014 competition are:
Sitayana by Neha Mathrani
The Divide by Sheela Jaywant
Evelina in Aulis by Sulaxana Hippisley
Oh Fish by Ishita Marwah
The Empire Itself by Sharaf Zia
The DWL team will be contacting these writers very soon with initial details. Thank you.