Indian author wins $10,000 book award

Aditi Krishnakumar juggles writing with a career in finance.
Aditi Krishnakumar juggles writing with a career in finance. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

It was second time lucky for Indian author Aditi Krishnakumar.

The 31-year-old walked away with the $10,000 Scholastic Asian Book Award this week after being narrowly beaten to the biennial prize in 2014.

However, it was a close shave for her this year too: She finished her winning manuscript, Codex: The Lost Treasure Of The Indus, hours before the submission deadline last September.

"One of my biggest challenges was to not get distracted by the Internet," says Aditi, who has been living in Singapore for the past three years. "There were times when I thought I'd never be able to meet the deadline, though I managed it in the end."

She juggles her writing with her career in finance, eking out time at night and on weekends to dream up stories.

"It can be a challenge... But I wouldn't change it. I enjoy my job and I love writing," she says.

"I've always loved reading and I think writing was a natural progression from that. My earliest serious ambition was to be an author and that's stayed with me through everything else I've done."

Her 32,000-word manuscript - which will be published by Scholastic Asia - follows Codex, "linguist, mathematician and all-round" geek, as she works with Agent Lila Raman to decipher the mysterious script of the Indus Valley civilisation.

American historian and author Leonard Marcus, one of the judges for the award, says: "It's a real page-turner. I couldn't stop reading it. It's also a book that has a subtext of interest in the deep history of India, so the book has a contemporary feel, but is also rooted in an interest in and love of Indian history."

Aditi beat four other writers, including home-grown writer and historical researcher Stephanie Ho, who came in second runner-up, for the prize - a joint initiative by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and Scholastic Asia.

The shortlisted entries were whittled down from a pool of 54 submissions from 11 countries.

Ho, 45, was in the running for her manuscript, Island Girl. Set in the Malay archipelago in the 1800s, it follows Habibah, a girl who receives a wedding proposal when she turns 13 and finds out that her long-lost mother is alive.

"The story was inspired by my fascination with the Malay archipelago, its people, folklore and myths; the colonial period, especially the interaction between the European colonialists and the local people; and the Maria Hertogh affair - the emotional story of a white girl being adopted by a local family and their separation."

Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Indian author wins $10,000 book award'. Print Edition | Subscribe