Kritika Pandey, a writer from Ranchi, was on Tuesday announced as the regional winner for Asia in the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The 29-year-old writer won for her story The Great Indian Tee and Snakes, which is about two young people trying to navigate the idea of love in an era of hatred and prejudice. The story about a Hindu girl falling in love with a Muslim man had made it to the shortlist for the Asian region.

Set up in 2012, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. It is administered by the Commonwealth Foundation, through it s cultural initiative Commonwealth Writers. Apart from stories translated into English, the prize also accepts stories originally written in Bengali, Chinese, English, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, and Tamil. The prize is given to five regional winners (Asia, Pacific, Africa, Canada and Europe, and Caribbean) who receive £2,500 (about Rs 2.4 lakh) each and an overall winner from among them who receives a total of £5,000 (about Rs 4.72 lakh).

The five regional winners for the 2020 prize were:

  • Africa: Nigerian writer Innocent Chizaram Ilo for When a Woman Renounces Motherhood
  • Asia: Indian writer Kritika Pandey for The Great Indian Tee and Snakes
  • Canada and Europe: - British writer Reyah Martin for Wherever Mister Jensen Went
  • Caribbean: Jamaican writer Brian S Heap for Mafootoo
  • Pacific: Australian writer Andrea E Macleod for The Art of Waving

Describing her win as an honour, Pandey said, “I chose to submit to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize because it is one of those few literary awards that value the unique context of the postcolonial writer...To have the opportunity to share my work with them and to know that they would read it with care is a reward in itself.”

The prize is judged by an international panel of writers, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth. The judges’ panel for 2020 was chaired by Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes. The other panellists were South African writer and musician Mohale Mashigo, Executive Director of the Singapore Books Council William Phuan, Canadian author Heather O’Neill, Trinidadian scholar and writer Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw and Australian writer and arts organiser Nic Low.

Parkes said that Pandey’s story is “a gut-punch of a story, all the more shocking in its charged conclusion given that most of it is set at a tea seller’s and its energy derives from a few looks between a boy and a girl”.

All the winning stories will be published in the literary magazine Granta. The overall winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Prize will be announced on June 30.