India: One Word receives the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi Award for Best Book in English in 2016

One Word Cover photo

The Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi Award for Best Book in English in 2016 was awarded to One Word authored by Anuradha Bhattacharyya. One Word is a contemporary fiction based in the atmosphere of change in the lives of Indian women. Beginning from a remote part of northern India, the fiction develops along 1980s, 1990s and then in its last chapter projects a slice of life in the 2020s.

The Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi is a state level academy of letters in India. Every year, in every Indian state, authors who write in the local languages are invited to submit 3 copies of their work published in the previous year to be considered for the award of Best Book in the respective language in the given year. To be eligible for submission, the author has to be a resident of the particular state. In Chandigarh 4 languages are taken into account: English, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. There is no fixed number of awards. Sometimes ‘none found suitable’ may be the case. The evaluators each year are highly esteemed littérateurs from the country. Presently, the cash prize is INR 25,000.

About the book:

Tushar, a painter dies at the tender age of 21, leaving behind his extremely beautiful girlfriend Adya unaware of his death. She has a clear picture in her mind about what she expects from life: to be Tushar’s wife and to be well educated. However, as the story of her life unfolds, she gets confused. The narrator of the events is Tushar’s ghost. He observes her, suffers for her, comments on her nature and her follies and expresses many wise sayings. One of the most poignant messages of the text is that beauty is a delicate thing that can be preserved only if it is supported by love, happiness in marriage, good behaviour, intellect and many other social factors. The narrative also makes occasional jibes at the claims of men who do mean good and say that they are good towards women but in action they are slaves of their innate selfishness.

In this book, which is broadly divided into 6 chapters with significant chapter headings, the authorial voice is camouflaged. It leaves many debates open ended. Adya grows up to be an English teacher. Her profession has a central role in the unfolding of the drama of her life from age 15 years in the 1990s to age 51 years. It explores several cultural issues, mainly the present structure of teaching literature in universities. There is a surprise twist in the latter half of the book that ropes in many themes like vanity, jealousy, boredom, responsibility, ability and care into the overall theme of man-woman relationship. At the end the novel has explored environmental issues also.