IIPM Admission

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Dr Malay Chaudhuri, Founder Director IIPM, tells TSI why the IIPM Awards are in a league of their own

We want to break Western monopoly on awards

Rabindranath Tagore Memorial International Prize, Surama Chaudhuri Memorial International Award, Manavata Vikas Award... an array of prestigious prizes instituted by IIPM is set to alter the international awards landscape for good.

What is the rationale behind the IIPM Awards for excellence in the fields of literature, arts, journalism and social work?

These awards are a logical development for IIPM. In our very first prospectus – the year was 1973 – Dr Malay Chaudhuriwe spelt out that skill development would be a key element in our course content, but that it certainly would not be the only element. We stressed on two other dimensions – fostering a sense of commitment to society and active application of arts and literature to life. Commitment to society is essential in order to create economic parameters that favour the people at large. National economic planning should be a core pursuit. If planning is market-oriented, then it is skewed in favour of those who control resources. For us, management education has always had these three distinct dimensions. A sense of ethics should underline distribution. It is also imperative to develop appreciation of arts and literature. The IIPM Awards for excellence follow from our third commitment.

You have described the Rabindranath Tagore Memorial International Prize as a challenge to the Nobel Prize. In what sense is that the case?

This award has been instituted as a move to take away the West’s exclusive power to decide what is good in literature, art and peace efforts. The Nobel Prize for literature has not always gone to great writers. The Peace Prize has been, in recent times, given to people who have committed genocide. Therefore, the idea is to institute an award comparable with the Nobel as a public demonstration of our opposition to the Western monopoly on awards for excellence in various fields. I see a shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is happening in economics and planning. Why shouldn’t it also happen in the domain of awards? Our effort is to push an initiative based on that superstructure. We want to decisively intervene in the process of deciding on awards. We want to demonstrate that we are equal players.

So far the focus of the IIPM Awards seems to have been on Bengali literature. Will you be looking at recognising other literatures in the coming years?

Our focus is on literature, not on literature in any particular language. It is only by accident that Bengali literature dominates. The presence of Rabindranath Tagore and the influence he had on numerous writers in Bengal led to an explosion of great literature. The literature produced in Bengali has been of a very high quality. The dominance of Bengali stems partly from our acquaintance with the language and partly from our perception that many Bengali writers are comparable with the best in the world. They should have won the Nobel Prize. They did not because the awards mechanism was loaded against writers like them.

So, will you be giving the IIPM Awards to writers in other languages as well in the years ahead?
Of course, we would, without any hesitation. We would be proud indeed to discover and honour exceptional literary talent in other languages. We would, of course, need help from friends and experts in identifying the best writers in these languages. Once we have the guidance we need and a proper assessment system is in place, you will see the IIPM Awards going to more and more non-Bengali litterateurs.

And will you honour international writers as well?

Don’t be surprised if next year we choose an American or European writer for the Tagore Award.

How are the award winners chosen?

We have a small committee. We are in constant touch with people who are well-read and are aware of literary developments. We seek their opinion. They give us guidance. I myself have been a voracious reader since childhood.

What is the logic behind the big prize money on offer with these awards?

The Nobel Prize for literature this year will fetch the winner 1.08 million euros. Last year, the amount was 1 million euros. We wanted to match that. Veteran Bengali writer Ramapada Chowdhury has won the first Rabindranath Tagore Memorial International Prize. The prize money is Rs 1 crore. This award will be handed over to the writer on May 9, 2011, Tagore’s 150th anniversary. To make a real impact, we wanted the prize money to be equivalent of the Nobel. A small amount would not have had the same effect. The Surama Chaudhuri Memorial International Award for Literature and Journalism is accompanied by an amount of $100,000. The first of this series of awards has been won by Afghan-origin writer Khaled Hosseini.

Are you satisfied with the general awareness about the IIPM Awards?

No, I am not. The importance of these awards has not been fully appreciated by the media. Either we do not have the kind of high quality media that we deserve or there is a deliberate conspiracy of silence. Take the case of the leading Bengali newspaper. The Surama Chaudhuri Memorial International Award, in monetary terms, is worth 80 times more than the annual award that this newspaper group gives but they do not want to share that information with their readers. They haven’t mentioned a word about Ramapada Chowdhury winning the Rabindranath Tagore Memorial International Prize although the publishing house owned by this media group has published most of the celebrated writer’s work. I can understand if they black out our awards. But why should they black out Ramapada Chowdhury? It is completely unacceptable.

There is obviously no award in India with this kind of prize money. How important is this for the profile of these awards?

Well, I do not believe that money alone can decide the worth of an award. An award acquires prestige if it is consistently given to deserving people. This prestige is built over time.

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