Student travels abroad for novel

A fourth year UH graduate student is the first to be awarded the Tagore Passport Operating Scholarship, sponsored by the Tagore Society of Houston. Sruthi Thekkiam will use the $5,000 scholarship to travel to Bharati, India, for a novel she is writing titled “These Amorphus Lives.”

“I was, of course, thrilled about the scholarship,” Thekkiam said. “And I am excited to travel to a part of India I’d never been to, and to study Tagore, an author I admire.”

The scholarshop namesake, Rabindranth Tagore, was a poet, novelist and playwright. He was also a painter, social reformer and educator. The Tagore Scholar Passport Operating Scholarship supports one semester of research or creative work and study that will advance the understanding and appreciation of the intellectual, artistic and spiritual legacy of Rabindranath Tagore, according to the English department’s website.

Thekkiam will be focusing her novel on Tagore’s ideas about multiculturalism.

“I first became interested in Tagore’s ideas about nationalism and internationalism through reading his novel ‘Home and the World,’” Thekkiam said.

“It is set in early twentieth century India during the fight for independence from the British. Through this novel, Tagore argues that the home is inextricably linked to the world, and warns against the dangers of narrow nationalism that aims to divorce the two.”

Thekkiam relates how we speak of a “globalized world and hybrid societies” to how Tagore spoke about the idea a century ago.

“It was striking and surprising to me that Tagore more than a century ago voiced ideas that have gained popularity only in the last 30 years or so,” Thekkiam said.

“So this is what I want to explore further when I’m at the Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan: Tagore’s essays on politics, philosophy, and culture that elaborate his position on nationalism and internationalism. I’m also interested in the links between his creative work and the ideas he espoused in his essays and talks.”

Thekkiam is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the department of English’s creative writing program.

She says that the Creative Writing Program was perfect for her.

“I enjoy writing and reading, and the Creative Writing program gives me the opportunity to do both,” she said.

Some of her favorite authors that immediately come to mind are J.M. Coetzee, Alice Munro, Edward P. Jones and George Saunders.

“I like their work for different reasons,” Thekkiam said. “But I think a quality they share is affection and empathy for their characters, despite their characters often being difficult to love and understand.”

Her next steps after completing her novel are not yet set in stone.

“It’s hard for me to plan beyond the novel right now,” she said. “But what I’d like to do is keep writing.”

Applications for the 2011-2012 award should be submitted to the Office of the Chair, Department of English, Rm. 205 Roy G. Cullen Building, University of Houston, by April 1, 2011.

For more information, call Judy Calvez at 713-743-2935.

Leave a Comment