Rama Mehta Writing Grant and Its Importance For Women Writers

Rama Mehta, a noted sociologist and writer, was born into a progressive family in Gujarat. She schooled in Nainital and graduated from Isabella Thoburn College Lucknow, followed by post-graduation from St. Stephens. Rama Mehta then went to Columbia University, United States, where she specialised in sociology and psychology. On returning to India, she was amongst the first few women to join the Indian Foreign Service. When her husband, Jagat Mehta, was posted abroad, she formally quit the service. Rama Mehta, however, continued to work for the betterment of people. A staunch feminist who worked for the emancipation of women, she believed that modernity in India needed to come as a gentle wave rather than a jolt.

Apart from her academic writings, Rama Mehta also wrote three books, Ramu, The Life of Keshav, and Inside the Haveli, which are all based in Udaipur. All three talk about the importance of education and the struggle between tradition and modernity. Her novel, Inside The Haveli, published in 1977, won the National Award by Sahitya Akademi in 1979.

Unfortunately, Rama Mehta passed away much before her time in 1978, but not before leaving an indelible mark on the world.

To honour Rama Mehta’s memory, her family set up the Rama Mehta Trust. In 2020, The Rama Mehta Writing Grant was set up under the aegis of the trust to motivate women writers. Open for women writers who have a connection with Rajasthan, either through birth, education, prolonged stay, marriage, etc., The Rama Mehta Writing Grant gives equal importance to English, Hindi, Urdu, and Rajasthani. The results are announced in a glittering ceremony in September when a winner from each language gets prize money of twenty-five thousand rupees. Past guests of honour have included Mrinal Pande (2020) and Geetanjali Shree (2022).

But the grant does not restrict itself to asking for submissions and picking a winner.

The highlight of The Rama Mehta Writing Grant is the intensive four-day workshop shortlisted candidates need to attend in Udaipur. Mentored by experts, these workshops help amateur women writers hone their craft. Writers can learn from diverse sources as workshops for all languages occur simultaneously.

 

The shortlisted writers with the mentors, Trustees Ajay Mehta and Neelima Khetan and Priyanka Sarkar.

 

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In 2023, the mentors for the workshops were Anupama Mohan ( English), Prabhat Ranjan (English), Prof. Gazanfar Ali (Urdu) and Padmashri C.P. Deval (Rajasthani). Priyanka Sarkar organised and facilitated the workshop.

 

An interactive session learning the nuances of the craft.

I was privileged to be one of the shortlisted candidates for the Rama Mehta Writing Grant in 2023 and attended the workshop in July. During the four days of the workshop, we wrote, talked, critiqued, and, most importantly, learned that writing involves more than just pen and paper.

 

Pearls of wisdom from C.P. Deval as the other mentors’ weigh-in

One of the biggest eye-openers was the day when all the women writers came together to read their stories in the Rama Mehta Reading Room of Seva Mandir. Ranging from topics about secularism, poverty, exploitation, and women’s empowerment, the stories were in Hindi, English, Urdu, and Rajasthani. Some stories moved you to tears and others made you chuckle and laugh. Some stories made the listener think and marvel at the beauty of literature. Language barriers were broken, and all that mattered was stories written from the heart.

 

The English group along with the mentors and Priyanka. You can see Rama Mehta’s portrait in the background.

One question asked at the press meeting during the reading session of the workshop was, what is the need for Rama Mehta Writing Grant for women?

The answer to this question was in the stories of all the women in the reading room. Ranging from young girls barely out of teens to grandmothers; From women who had been homemakers their entire lives to women who were busy scaling the corporate ladders; From women who had to take permission and appease families to attend the workshop to women who were answerable to themselves and no one else. All these women had stories to tell, and Rama Mehta Writing Grant was giving them the platform to do so.

Rama Mehta Writing Grant matters because somewhere in the cacophony and chaos, women’s voices have become feeble. They need safe, non-judgmental spaces where they can tell their stories. Stories hidden in their hearts, buried under the weight of responsibilities on their shoulders.


Click here to know more about the Rama Mehta Trust and the good work done by Seva Mandir.


 

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Harshita

My Motto is you can learn anything from books! I am an engineer turned SAHM turned book blogger. I love to read, talk and write about books. I am passionate about instilling a love for read more...

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