Himanjali Sankar: On Not Winning the Crossword Award

I was rather deliriously delighted to be shortlisted for the prestigious Crossword Award for Children’s Writing 2013. The bummers, as I shortly discovered, were:
1. People would invariably say ‘hope you win’ while congratulating me on being shortlisted which made me uncomfortable.
2. The ‘hope you win’ was an indication that the shortlisting which, for me was an end and achievement in itself, was simply not enough.
3. There was an Award Ceremony to attend–believe it or not. Which meant that I had to clap when someone else won and be a happy loser of sorts.
4. I felt guilty about feeling all negative about attending the event in Bombay which promised to be quite wonderful. (Guilt being my default emotion instilled at a young age by a convent education)
5. As further proof of the indoctrination I had undergone in school I wondered as I flew to Bombay if I would not be disappointing those who wanted me to win if I did not–my publishers, close friends and family.
6. How embarrassing would it be to say, no, I did not win, later? Would I lower my eyes when I said it or would I smile graciously and shake my head.

But now the award function is over, and I have to admit, it was not bad at all. On the super side:
1. The two books I have written were both published in the course of the same year so once I actually landed in Bombay I jettisoned the angst and was all wide-eyed and excited about the attention I was getting. (Hope I will be jaded at award functions someday–that would be a sure sign of a successful author!)
2. Just being there, rubbing shoulders with so many of my own favourite writers, was wonderful. The convent part of me felt undeserving of the honour, the rest of me felt great.
3. It was perfectly alright to be there, to receive my certificate from the jury, and sit and clap for those who won. It just felt good to have been judged one of the best children’s writers of the year–the delight I had felt at being shortlisted resurfaced and remained miraculously intact through the evening.
4. Contrary to what I had expected, I don’t think I disappointed anyone–not my dog (he had already told me he did not care) or the duckbill platypuses (they did care but are practical creatures). My husband, who is a sentimental sort but generally unmoved by success or the lack of it, SMSed before the event saying that for him I am and always have been a winner and that I must remember all the details of the evening and tell him all about it. With that, I was set.
5. And no, it was not embarrassing not to have won at all. They did not strike my name off the shortlist because I did not win! Yes, I had this irrational fear for the last one week that when they announced the shortlist my name would not be on it.
6. And thankfully people have stopped saying ‘hope you win’ at last, because, well, they know I did not win! But seriously, I am so glad to have been a part of it all – which is the long and short of the Crossword Award (pun totally intended) and what it meant to me.

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