Kritika Pandey was announced as the overall winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’ in June 2020. The award was presented by the Chair of the 2020 judging panel, acclaimed Ghanaian writer and editor, Nii Ayikwei Parkes.
The 2020 Prize attracted over 5000 entries from 49 countries. The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. Chaired by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, the 2020 panel comprised South African writer and musician Mohale Mashigo (Judge for Africa), executive director of the Singapore Books Council William Phuan (Asia), Canadian author Heather O’Neill (Canada and Europe), Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw (Caribbean), and Australian writer and arts organiser Nic Low (Pacific).
Kritika Pandey’s winning story, ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes’, tells of an unlikely friendship which reaches across religious divides, set against the background of a tea seller’s stall. She writes of two young people trying to solve an age-old riddle of human existence: how can love overcome the forces of hatred and prejudice? Pandey says, ‘I created a strong-willed character of a Hindu girl who chooses to love a Muslim boy, even though she knows that she is not “supposed to”.
“The Great India Tee and Snakes is a gut-punch of a story, remarkable because, in spite of its fraught subject matter, it never neglects the beauty of the world in which the story unfolds. Kritika Pandey infuses the tale with empathy and balance, allowing the characters to inhabit themselves fully, while dragging the narrative to its inevitable end. It’s a story that asks important questions about identity, prejudice and nationhood, using metaphors with devastating effect, while still brimming with its author’s revelry in the possibilities of language. Its charged conclusion is all the more shocking given that most of it is set at a tea seller’s stall and its energy derives from a few looks between a boy and a girl. My fellow judges and I loved the story when we first read it, and love it more each time we read it. Congratulations to Kritika!” said Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Chair of the Judges.
Kritika Pandey is a Pushcart-nominated Indian writer and a final year candidate for a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a recipient of a 2020 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her works are forthcoming or have appeared in Guernica, The Common, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Raleigh Review, and UCity Review, among others. She has won the Harvey Swados Fiction Prize, the Cara Parravani Memorial Award, and the Charles Wallace Scholarship for Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh.
Commenting on the judging process, Nii said, “Picking the overall winner from the five regional winners is always the most difficult part of the judging process, because different judges like different stories. In our quest to convince each other, we exhort our fellow judges to reread a number of stories and that process of re-reading is always precious. In that span of time, we discover each story anew, often falling in love with stories that we didn’t love at first read. It was at this stage that this year’s winning story began to haunt us all. As I promised when we picked the regional winners, this is a story that will move people. I hope you enjoy it.”
The 2020 regional winners are: Africa winner Innocent Chizaram Ilo (Nigeria), Canada and Europe winner Reyah Martin (United Kingdom), Caribbean winner Brian S. Heap (Jamaica), and Pacific winner Andrea E. Macleod (Australia).
In partnership with Commonwealth Writers, the literary magazine Granta publishes online all the regional winners of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, including ‘The Great Indian Tee and Snakes.’
Paper + Ink is proud to publish the new anthology featuring the winners of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2020.
If you would like to enter the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the 2021 Prize will be open for online entries from 1 September 2020 – 1 November 2020, please find the entry rules and guidelines here: 2021 rules and guidelines.