Parashar Kulkarni has become the first Indian author to win the £5,000 Commonwealth Short Story Prize with his first short story entitled “Cow and Company”.
The winning story is set in India in the early 1900s and follows four men who are looking for a cow to feature in chewing gum advertisements.
Gillian Slovo, chair of the judging panel, said: “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, who is an assistant professor in social sciences at Yale NUS College Singapore, focuses on religion and violence in colonial India in his academic work. He said: “In my academic work I think of myself as a mainstream political scientist. Often academic work can end up being ideological. But I feel that in literature, or in fiction, the defences are down and you can explore specific stories, which might not be particularly empirical but are important … They are at the margins, whereas in academia, you explore the mean.”
Nearly 4,000 entries from 47 different countries were received for this year’s award, for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English by a writer from a Commonwealth country. Altogether 26 stories were shortlisted.
Kulkarni received his award at the Calabash international literary festival in Jamaica on Sunday (5th June). It was presented to him by by Man Booker prizewinner and former judge of the prize, Marlon James.