The George D. Murphy Award in Creative Writing honors a longtime faculty member in the English department (see below). The winner is chosen each year by a panel of Villanova faculty and Philadelphia area.
The award for 2018 goes to Kamakshi Ranjan. Kamakshi Ranjan is a Junior double majoring in English and Biology.
“By the time I had moved past the shore, many people, including children were dragged along with me,” the Wave started again.
You thought about the little boys, barely six or seven years old, the same age as your brother, who would walk the streets throughout the day shouting “ஒரு ரூபாய் மசாலா சுண்டல் ! Koṇṭaikkaṭalai Sundal!” On one hand they would carry steel containers of warm, stir-fried chickpeas, mixed in shredded coconut and chili, and the other they would use to beat on the containers to create a clanging noise to accompany their clamorous shouting. Under their armpits they would tuck in sheets of clean newspaper that they would eventually roll into tightly wound cones to serve the sundal in. Unlike the older vendors, the younger boys would dress neatly in khaki shorts and white t-shirts, washed and ironed to perfection by their mothers who banked on their youth to attract more customers. Before they left home, their mothers would drag vibhuti with their thumb, in a single upward stroke across their son’s foreheads. It was a Hindu ritual meant to mark a person’s honor and devotion to the Gods. The boy’s mothers hoped that it would mask the look of mischief that was so indigenous to children of that age. You imagined how easily the white ash of the vibhuti must have come of their faces when the Wave consumed them that day, unjustly branding them dishonorable in death.
Then there were the older vendors, who would sell fresh, hot vada and spicy murkku that your parents bought every time we visited the beach. And there were also the old men who would sell sweet puffy clouds of pink panjai mittai that you would wish your parents bought every time instead. They would hang the bags of cotton candy on a long wooden stick in a tree like arrangement that could be spotted by children even a mile away. Next to them, old ladies would set up on a thin mat on the ground, a bucket of
white jasmine flowers to their side. They would deftly wind small flowers into strings made of banana fiber. The jasmine flower’s heavenly fragrance would attract girls to purchase a string of their own. The girls would weave the flowers into bands that held together their dark hair so that they carried the scent with them all day. Other women, who were blessed with a third-eye, were fortunetellers. They were a group of plainly dressed women who carried caged parrots in one hand and a deck of cards for the parrot to pick out in the other. They would idly feed their birds and shuffle their cards until a young couple would pass by, unaware of the fate of their relationship. No matter what card the bird picked, the tellers would always provide their customers with a happy ending assuring them that their jōtiṭam revealed an impending marriage. But that day, for the first time, the fortunetellers and their birds were wrong. The Wave made sure that no one had a happy ending.
George D. Murphy received his B.A. (1949) and M.A. (1951) in English from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He joined Villanova’s English Department in 1954 and retired in 2000 after 46 years of service. His scholarly publications focused on American writers of the 20th Century. While at Villanova, he was known for his exquisite sense of humor and a singular gift for recalling and recounting a host of humorous tales. While an undergraduate at Notre Dame, he was on the editorial board of its literary magazine—The Juggler of Notre Dame—and contributed a number of poems, short stories, and critical essays. He returned to creative writing at the end of his life as a way of coping with grief over his wife’s death and produced many first-rate poems.