Of Awards and Rewards

Some mornings, you don't want to wake up to your alarm clock. You want to wake up to your smartphone buzzing from people tweeting your handle (there are at least three words in this sentence that wouldn't make sense to anyone a few years ago). That's how I awoke on Monday morning, eyes squinting to read the alerts about my book 'Foreign' being longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

My first response to this was disbelief. It's the same response I had to the news last month that 'Foreign' was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award.   

Why disbelief? Because, dear reader, if you will believe me when I tell you this, I had forgotten in these past months to dream of awards. Years ago, before I ever set pen to paper for this book, before my journalism career and my academic career, I used to stand before the mirror, dreaming that I had won an award for, yes, writing, and also for singing, for being a pop star. I did that whole thing with the microphone and acceptance speeches. 

Even when I knew that my publishers were nominating 'Foreign' for awards, I forgot to dream. I'll tell you why. I was dreaming a different dream. I was dreaming that 'Foreign' would make an impact, on people in their homes, people in power, on policy makers, and, thereby, on the lives of the people I have written about. I was dreaming of rewards.

Random House India's announcement of good news for its authors.

Random House India's announcement of good news for its authors.

Which is not to say that I am not absolutely thrilled and honored and excited out of my mind about being on these two award lists. Oh, my. These are two prestigious awards that have been won in past years by writers of world renown. The writers I am listed with this year are international literary stars, for all the best reasons. The creative writer in me is hugely encouraged to write more and more and has been just a bit swollen-headed these past few days. To think that someone on a jury read my book and liked it and pitched it to the list....

But the activist in me - the journalist and the academic and the human who spoke to farming men and women in Vidarbha - is still dreaming, wishing, hoping. She is also realizing that, with these awards, even just being on their list, gets her a little closer to her dream. More people might be curious, which could mean more readers, which could mean more chances of inspiring action, which means more chances of affecting policy.

So, now I'm going to dream of rewards and awards and more readings. Even on my book tour in four cities in India this past summer, the conversations were about the writing and also about the farmers' crisis. The reviews and interviews all discussed the issue in some detail. Tomorrow night, Thursday, October 24th, when I read at LitCrawl, a handful of people in Seattle will become curious about the farmers of Vidarbha, and maybe they will go home and pull out the ballots that just arrived in their mail and vote 'Yes' on Initiative 522, which calls for the labeling of genetically engineered foods, which will add a happy loop to these stories of globalization.

I am not claiming some mantle of selflessness here. It is, after all, egotistical to dream of yourself as being responsible, even in the littlest way, for change. Seriously, you could accuse me of having a God complex, right? But I think it works better for me than does the dream of being Madonna. Like A Prayer.