literary awards

Twenty-four Indian languages, 24 literary prizes that more people should know about

The Sahitya Akademi awards are a handy way to discover fine literature from all the major Indian languages, and not just English.

In his speech at the inaugural meeting of the Sahitya Akademi in 1954, Education Minister Abul Kalam Azad had announced that the government of India had accepted a scheme “to give prizes of Rs 5,000 every year, for the best work, in each of the 14 languages mentioned in the schedule to the Constitution”. Further, he had said that the awards were “to be made on the recommendations of the Academy of Letters” in order to “encourage men of letters”.

By 2004, the Sahitya Akademi had translated this into awards in 24 languages – and of course, to both men and women of letters. (In perhaps a quaint tradition, while men are presented a garland, along with the usual shawl, citation, trophy and cheque, now for Rs one lakh, women are given bouquets.)

Even though India is awash with literary prizes now, their predominant focus on works in English means that the Sahitya Akademi awards amount to a virtual pan-Indian discovery of the best literature in different languages. With a different jury for each language, the quality of the works that win is almost uniformly high. The writer and the work, therefore, can safely be considered among the best in each language for that particular year.

Here then are this year’s winners and their works.

Assamese: Fiction writer Arupa Patangia Kalita (b. 1956), for her collection of short stories Mariam Astin Athaba Hira Baruah. An academic, Patangiya Kalita is head of department of English at Tangla College in Udalgudi, and is best-known for her critically acclaimed novels Mriganabi (1987), Feloni (2003) and Tokora Bahar Sonar Beji (2014).

Bengali: Poet Utpal Kumar Basu (b. 1937) for his collection of verses Piya Mon Bhabe. The recipient of several awards, notably, the Ananda Puraskar (2006) and the Rabindra Puraskar (2011), Basu, who lives and works in Kolkata, is known for a terse, minimalist style, avoiding emotional excesses.

Bodo: Writer and poet Urkhao Gwra Brahma (b. 1963), for his poetry collection Udangnifrai Gidingfinnanwi, which represents changing currents in contemporary Bodo society. A Parliamentarian from Assam in the Rajya Sabha, Brahma has been a life-long activist, working for the advancement of the Bodo language. He lives in Dotama in the Kokrajhar district of Assam.

Dogri: Novelist Shailender Singh (b. 1968), a Senior Superintendent of Police, for his deeply moving first novel Hashiye Par, which offers a stark uncompromising portrayal of the lives of the very poor – fishermen, labourers, farm hands – in the Chenab valley of Jammu as it recounts the story of one family, caught in the vicissitudes of fortune. Singh is a resident of Jammu.

English: Adil Jussawalla (b. 1940), considered one of the foremost poets and critics working in the English language in India, for his collection of poems Trying to Say Goodbye (2012), which appeared thirty-six years after his feted Missing Person (1976) and fifty years after his first volume of poems was published, Land’s End (1962), but reflecting the stamp of felicity and confidence that marks a master craftsman working with the melancholy maturity of all his years. Jussawalla lives in Mumbai.

Gujarati: Ashvin Mehta (1931 - 2014), the noted photographer, for his unique book of essays, Chhabi Bhitarani, which examines the relationship between the various art forms, as well as the influence of art upon language.

Hindi: Ramesh Chandra Shah (b. 1937), former academic and author of novels, short stories, poetry, essays as well as plays, for his novel Vinayak. Vinayak might be considered a jump sequel to Shah’s first novel Gobar Ganesh, where the protagonist Vinayak first appears and lives out his youth.  Shah, who has been awarded a Padmashree, is a resident of Bhopal.

Kannada: Scholar-critic G.H. Nayak (b. 1935) for his seminal work Uttaradha, a collection of critical papers ranging in subject from profound analyses of Shivarama Karanth’s novels to biographical sketches of the writer Tejaswi and theatre personality Keremane Shambu Hegde. Hegde lives and works in Mysore.

Kashmiri: Poet and academic Shad Ramzan (b. 1956) for his volume of verses Kore Kakud Gome Pushrith, which are steeped in mysticism. He has won the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize in 2009. Ramzan is a resident of Srinagar, where he heads the Department of Kashmiri at the University of Kashmir.

Konkani: Madhavi Sardesai (1962 - 2014), scholar, publisher and writer, as well as editor of the Konkani literary journal Jaag, who worked in the field of Konkani linguistics, for her collection of essays Manthan. Dealing with a wide range of subjects, such as linguistic identity, language-specific problems in education systems, colonial – and post-colonial – modernity, Manthan is an important contribution to Konkani studies.

Maithili: Novelist Asha Mishra (b. 1950), for her deeply moving novel, Uchaat. Mishra is a resident of Darbhanga.

Malayalam: Popular writer and journalist, Subhash Chandran (b. 1972), for his novel, the magnum opus Manushyanu Oru Aamukham, a grand saga reflecting the social and political changes that have shaped and reshaped the lives of an entire generation. Chandran lives and writes in Kozhikode.

Manipuri: Naorem Bidyadhar Singha (b. 1972), whose Khung-gang Amasung Refugee is a collection of 67 poems and is considered an important contribution to the genre of Manipuri poetry. Singha is a resident of Cachar in Assam.

Marathi: Astrophysicist Padma Vibhushan Jayant Vishnu Narliker (b. 1938), who had developed, along with Sir Fred Hoyle, the conformal gravity theory, commonly known as Hoyle-Narlikar theory, one of the key schools of thought opposed to the Big Bang Theory, for his autobiography Chaar Nagarantale Maze Vishwa, an outstanding memoir set in four cities: Benaras, Cambridge, Bombay and Pune. Narlikar is a resident of Pune.

Nepali: Nanda Hangkhim (b. 1944), writer and retired government servant, for Satta Grahan, a collection of short stories based on the deep injustices and inequaities of our everyday lives. Hangkhim is a resident of Darjeeling.

Odia: Gopal Krishna Rath (b. 1945), a professor of law and poet, for his latest collection of poetry Bipula Diganta.  Rath lives and writes in Bhubaneshwar.

Punjabi: Jaswinder (b.1956), a poet with a unique voice and perspective, for his recent collection Agarbatti, a collection of ghazals. Jaswinder is a resident of Kharar in Mohali district.

Rajasthani: Rampal Singh Rajpurohit (b. 1935), a retired school teacher and short story writer, for Sundar Nain Sudha, a collection of short stories.  Rajpurohit is a resident of Norwa village in the district of Jalore.

Sanskrit: Prabhu Nath Dwivedi (b. 1947), noted Sanskritist and social activist, for Kanakalocanah, a collection of fifteen short stories, set in contemporary times. Dwivedi is a resident of Varanasi.

Santali: Dramaturge Jamadar Kisku (b. 1949) for his play Mala Mudam, which reflects the changing values of a Santali family in the age of globalization. Kisku has been writing, acting and directing plays in Santali at Kherwal Opera, Kolkata, and is also the editor of a Santali literary magazine, Tapal. He lives in Hooghly in West Bengal.

Sindhi: Gope Kamal (b. 1948), a renowned poet and fiction writer, whose day job was as a civil engineer with the Dubai Municipality, for his collection of verses, Sijja Agiyaan Buku. He is now a resident of Pune.

Tamil: Novelist P. Manickavasagam (b. 1947) , popularly known as Poomani, for his epic Agngnaadi, one of the greatest historical novels to come out of Tamil Nadu in recent times, portraying the life and times of a small rather marginalised community living in the south western part of Tamil Nadu around two hundred years ago. Poomani is a resident of Kovilpatti, Tamil Nadu.

Telugu: Rachapalem Chandrasekhara Reddy (b. 1948), critic, translator, poet and editor in Telugu, for  Mana Navalalu Mana Kathaanikalu, a collection of 24 literary essays, which not only deal with themes and analysis of fiction, but also interrogate the creative process involved in the writerly life. Reddy is a resident of Kadapa, where he heads the C.P. Brown Centre for Languages.

Urdu: Poet Munawwar Rana (b. 1952) for his collection of ghazals and verses, Shahdaba. Rana is a resident of Lucknow, and has won many awards in the past, including the Saraswati Samaj Award (2004), the Amir Khusroo Award (2006) and the Ambassador of Peace Award (2013).

Devapriya Roy's new book, co-written with Saurav Jha is The Heat and Dust Project: The Broke Couple's Guide to Bharat, the story of an eccentric journey through India on a very very tight budget, and is slated for release on May 15.  

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.

Play

SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.