Making mainstream literature accessible for all
The hope is to encourage the publishing industry to adopt inclusivity as a guiding principle and to facilitate print-disabled people to create, share and read excellent Indian writing.
NEW DELHI: Recently, the JCB Literature Foundation at ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival announced an initiative to make the shortlisted entries for the JCB Prize for Literature more accessible to the visually impaired. This particular announcement was made by Mita Kapur, writer and Literary Director of the JCB Prize for Literature, during a special session, titled Literature for All: The JCB Prize Shortlist in Braille.
Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO of HarperCollins India, Dipendra Manocha, founder of the Saksham Trust and member of the Executive Committee of the World Blind Union and Siddhant Shah, founder of Access for All, were all part of this session.
On the occasion, Kapur had said, “By converting the JCB Literature Prize shortlist into Braille, we take a small step towards making the best of Indian contemporary fiction accessible to all. The hope is to encourage the publishing industry to adopt inclusivity as a guiding principle and to facilitate print-disabled people to create, share and read excellent Indian writing.”Along with this, the Foundation is also working with Sugamaya Pustakalya, India’s first and largest collection of accessible books, to make books that were shortlisted for the 2019 JCB Prize for Literature available as e-books for free download by the visually impaired community.
So far, the foundation has already partnered with Access for All to create a Braille copy of the 2019 JCB Prize for Literature winner, Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field. While we spoke to Vijay about this initiative, we enquired more about her writings.
What are your thoughts on this announcement?
It’s a wonderful initiative, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
When and how did you take up writing?
I seriously undertook the writing a novel after finishing graduate school. Up until then, even though I was always interested in being a professional writer, I wasn’t sure if I had the skill or the patience required.
Much before you started writing this book, were you sure about the ending you wanted to write?
From the beginning, I knew my narrator, Shalini, would do something unforgivable. However, I did not know, in any detail, what that would be until I got to the end of the novel.
How do you go about sketching a character?
None of my characters are predetermined. They emerge as I write and change with each draft until they arrive at their final iterations.
How many times do you edit your writing?
I edit extensively, with the help of a few people whose literary judgement I trust.
Being a teacher helps you in your writing?
Anyone who’s been in front of a classroom knows that kids are never satisfied with your first answer to any question. They always want to know more and more and more. I’ve found the same principle useful in writing: Never accept what is on the surface of a story or a character. Burrow deeper always.
How has your life changed after receiving the award?
The JCB award has brought a great deal of attention to my first book and allowed me to focus on my second.
And the next book’s on?
I’m writing a new novel, which I hope to have finished in the next year or so.