From short stories to Sahitya Akademi award: Janice Pariat


Janice writes with poise, fluency and lyricism—possessing an acutely strong sense of landscape and its history. Pariat is surely a poet’s prose-writer.
– Outlook

The soaring cut-offs in Delhi University are the by-products of the vast exposure the institute provides, and also of its glorious alumni. With the likes of Shashi Tharoor, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Arun Jaitley, Konkona Sen Sharma, etc as a part of the DU’s alumni, the University has created a niche for itself in India.

Another addition to the golden string of reputed alumni has been Janice Pariat, who received Yuva Puraskar from the Sahitya Akademi in 2013 for her debut anthology, bringing laurels to DU. She is also the first writer from Meghalaya to be awarded by the Sahitya Akademi for work in English.

Hailing from Assam, originally, and bred in Meghalaya, the writer and poetess completed her graduation from St Stephen’ College, DU, in English. She went on to pursue her major in History of Arts/ and or Archeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Her debut anthology, Boats on Land, which won her the Sahitya Akademi Award, has also been awarded many other literary awards. Set in India’s Northeast—around Shillong, Cherrapunjee and pockets of Assam—these tales are painted against a larger historical canvas of the British Raj, the World Wars, conversions to Christianity, etc. She beautifully mends the world of the supernatural with folklore, based in contemporary set-ups. She brings to paper a part of India which has largely remained isolated from the mainstream Northeast. Her work has been equated with that of Haruki Murakami, a feat which is no less than being awarded the Man Booker’s Prize.

The lyrical beauty of her words is evident from the following excerpt from one of the stories in Boats on Land:

Stories are told at festive, joyful gatherings, but the ones narrated at funerals are special because they reaffirm existence, of the listeners and the narrators. They are times of remembrance that haul the past into the present, and keep people alive even when they’re gone.

Her debut novel, Seahorse, is both a riveting mystery and a passionate love story set in New Delhi and London. She beautifully captures the nuances of the two cities through her words. The love-making scenes in her novel are both very subtle and suggestive in nature, hence gripping the imagination of the reader without giving much away.

The list of her achievement is endless, it seems. She has also started an online literary journal, calledPyrta, for which she works as an editor. She was also awarded a Swiss Arts Council Fellowship in 2011. She was a SARAI Independent Fellow and Project Fellow at the Department of Language & Linguistics, JNU, New Delhi. She attended the Sangam House Residency in 2013 and was the 2014 Charles Wallace Creative Writing Fellow at Kent University, Canterbury, UK from January to April.

Her writing has been featured in numerous Indian and international magazines,such as Time Out Delhi,The Caravan and Internazionale, etc.

Janice is a living example of the GenX literary artists, who seek stories from within the country and write beautiful narratives on them. She’s a fresh breath of air from ‘investment bankers turned writers’. For her, the line between prose and poetry is obscured thin, and her work is often a mix of the two, hence making her work a literary delight for the readers.


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