Shillong, Sep 2 : The first person from Meghalaya to receive Sahitya Academy award in English literature, Janice Pariat, is all about humility.
"I'm honoured. I hope this would be a step in recognizing the enormous wealth of English literature written in this part of the world by several young writers," the Assam-born Khasi author, who grew up in Shillong said over the phone from the UK.
Janice won this year's Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar, which is given to writers below the age of 35 years (usually for their first book), and awarded for work published in any of the major Indian languages recognized by the academy.
"The wonderful thing is that unlike most literary prizes, there is no discrimination/preference among novels, short stories, poetries, dramas - each are valued for their own worth," the young author said.
Nomination process for the prestigious award begins with a list of works sent by a preliminary panel of 10 referees. The works are then considered by a three-member jury selected by the president. Either by a consensus or a majority, the members then recommend a book for the award.
Asked on her take on contemporary writers in English in the northeast, Janice said, "Though I can't claim to be familiar with all the literature being written in English in the region, it certainly feels like an exciting, thriving phase. Aruni Kashyap's novel 'House with a Thousand Stories' has just been published, and so has Prajwal Parajuly's 'Gurkha's Daughter'. All this, of course, follows the literary accomplishments of established writers such as Temsula Ao, Mamang Dai, Mitra Phukan, Dhruba Hazarika, among many others".
"From Meghalaya, we have the very talented Robin Ngangom, Anjum Hasan, Siddhartha Deb, Daisy Hasan, Desmond Kharmawphlang, Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, Samrat Choudhury, and several upcoming poets and writers (many of whose writings have been featured in Pyrta - the online literary journal that I edit). We have wonderful support system in place - whether something more formal like The Northeast Writers Forum, or an encouragement and informal mentorship that established writers offer to younger ones," she said. Janice attributed the coveted award to "all the story-tellers in my life".
When asked what got her into writing, Janice said, "I wanted to make sense of and re-imagine the world. Also, I wasn't particularly skilled as a musician or a painter and I had to choose a profession." On what keeps her writing, she said, "For the same reasons why I started writing in the first place - it's not really a choice."