Mumbai life inspires award-winning book

Mumbai life inspires award-winning book

Bengalurean Jayant Kaikini’s ‘No Presents Please,’ translated into English by Tejaswini Niranjana, has won the prestigious DSC Award for South Asian Literature

Jayant Kaikini now lives in Bengaluru.

Jayant Kaikini, Kannada poet and writer known in recent years for his film lyrics, has just won the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 with translator Tejaswini Niranjana for ‘No Presents Please’, an anthology of stories set in Mumbai. The prize carries a purse of 25,000 dollars (about Rs 17 lakh).

Kaikini, 64, says, “When I begin writing a story, it is just a start. I write to know. For instance, it may be a boy, girl or old man in a bus whom I have seen elsewhere. A sentence comes out of it. I just follow it. I don’t know the story when I start writing. I evolve along with it. I never know the complete story when I start writing it.” 

Kaikini says the celebrated novelist Yeshwanth Chittal mentored him and encouraged him to write. “So I write to know. Through writing I get to know a lot of things and also different facets of myself,” he says.

Kaikini lived in Mumbai, working as a chemist, for over two decades. “The city speaks about everyone in the familiar singular. Marathi has a plural number to suggest respect, but Mumbai likes it familiar and singular. When my friend’s father died, he said, ‘Mera father off hogaya’. Death is serious. But here you see the no frills expression. It makes us alive.”

 Son of illustrious Kannada writer Gaurish Kaikini, Jayant was born and brought up in Gokarna and educated in Karnatak University, Dharwad. “I used to write poems in my college days. Later, I took to story writing. I wrote for the special Ugadi and Deepavali issues of Prajavani and Udayavani. Writing for special issues was a big attraction.”

About his father, Kaikini says, “He was a self-educated man. He lived in Gokarna. He first wrote the Communist Party’s manifesto in Kannada. He was never after awards. He used to say we should be pursuers of truth (sathyarthi). He considered himself a swadhyayi (autodidact)”.

In ‘No Presents Please’, Kaikini brings out moments of existential anxiety and tenderness in the city of Mumbai. From Irani cafes to chawls, he portrays the surreal meeting the 24/7 city every day. It is vivid yet full of contradictions, spirited yet lonely, and embattled yet big-hearted.