Pargat Singh Satoj, a primary school teacher at village school in Punjab’s Sangrur district, has won the prestigious 2017 Dhahan Prize for his novel ‘Khabar Ik Pind Di’ (News of a Village) that carries a cash award of 25,000 Canadian dollars (Rs 13 lakh).
Pargat, 36, who lives and teaches at Satoj village, said he got the news early morning. “What makes me very happy is that this award for Punjabi fiction cuts across borders. A writer — such as I, this time — gets the award for fiction in Gurmukhi, and an award is also given to a Punjabi writer writing in Shahmukhi script in Pakistan,” he told HT.
Two second prizes of 5,000 Canadian dollars each have gone to Ali Anwar Ahmad of Pakistan for his collection of short stories, ‘Tand Tand Maili Chaadar’ (The Soiled Sheet), and Nachhattar Singh Brar of Surrey, Canada, for his novel ‘Kaagzi Viaah’ (Paper Marriage).
Ali Anwar Ahmad (Left) of Pakistan and Nachhattar Singh Brar of Canada.
Talking about his novel — which is his fifth book after two other novels and a collection each of short stories and poems — Pargat says that it tells the story of life in a Punjab village, which too is treated like a character, and its story accompanies the story of those who people it. Before this, his novel Teeviyan (Women) received the national Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar.
The Dhahan Prize was established five years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), where Punjabi people, language, and culture have a rich history. Punjabi is now the third most spoken language in Canada. The prize has been established by the Canada India Education Society in partnership with the department of Asian studies in the faculty of arts at University of British Columbia, and is currently funded by an endowment from Barj Singh and Rita Dhahan, and their family and friends.
Announcing the award, Barj Singh Dhahan said in a message, “The 2017 Dhahan Prize recipients are impressive and influential personalities in the world of Punjabi literature. Their stories and characters are colourful and captivating. Each book is an excellent contribution to Punjabi literature, language and culture.”
Jaspal Singh, secretary of Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi and chairman of the Gurmukhi committee of Dhahan Prize, said, “This is a prestigious literary award, and the first prize carries a substantial cash award that surpasses that of even the pan-Indian Jnanpith Award.”
A new dimension is being added from this year. Eminent critic and editor of ‘Sirjana’ journal, Raghbir Singh, who is also chairman of the Dhahan Trust, said, “This time the first-ever youth awards for Punjabi students in Canada are being given in collaboration with British Columbia schools to students for translating Punjabi stories into English.” The youth winners will be announced at the November 4 at the award ceremony.