English departments rethink what to call themselves

Amulya B won the writing awards in Kannada and English at the 17th annual Toto Funds the Arts (TFA) Awards held on February 7. She is the first to win both the awards.

The TFA non-profit trust was set up in 2004, in memory of Angirus ‘Toto’ Vellani, an art and literature lover who, at 20, died in an accident that year. It gives away prizes every year in several categories including music, literature, short film and photography.

Amulya won the writing prizes for her stories ‘What Do I Call You, Again?’ in English and ‘Aa boys club-u’ (That boys club) in Kannada. The former, a speculative fiction, is about a son visiting his mother, who is a robot. ‘Aa boys club-u’ is a magic-realism story that follows a journalist and a group of his colleagues who repeatedly come across a “strange woman”.

The double win was a sweet surprise to Amulya. She studied in Kannada medium until seventh grade. Only at 17, she started reading English literature. “English has always been a foreign language to me. So it’s nice to get that validation that I can write well in both languages,” she says.

“I remember an incident [before I was 17] when someone was talking about Enid Blyton books. I hadn’t even read Enid Blyton. I just recalled seeing this name on library books. The ‘E’ and ‘N’ appeared as ‘G’ and ‘R’ to me. So, I thought the name was Grid Blyton. It was very embarrassing,” she laughs.

Now, however, she is accustomed to the language. “I think in a combination of Kannada and English.”

Meanwhile, the number of entries for Writing in English was 232 (almost twice last year’s numbers) and 64 in Kannada. Music (280), Photography (155) and Short Films (130) too witnessed an increase in the entries, compared to last year. “I think the lockdown gave people more time to think, write and compose,” says CK Meena, the chairperson of TFA.

The awards ceremony, for the first time in its 17-year history, was online due to the pandemic. It is usually held in an intimate atmosphere with a small gathering. “We missed that this time,” says Meena, “Though we are happy that more people can watch the recorded event at their leisure.”

“We prefer physical events, of course. But we’ll try to get them recorded as well. So, some of the supporters, who can’t make it for the ceremony, can watch it later,” she adds.

The winners of the TFA Awards 2021 edition: Saby Singh (for Music); Jatin Gulati (for Photography); Hari Sai Srikar and Nilargha Chatterjee (for Photography); Amulya B (for Creative Writing in Kannada); Kunjana Parashar and Amulya B (for Creative Writing in English); Ashmita Guha Neogi and Megha Acharya (for Short Film).