There’s new wave of writers in Punjabi, says Dhahan prize founder : The Tribune India

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There’s new wave of writers in Punjabi, says Dhahan prize founder

Holds engaging session at Majha House with Sargi, Arvinder Dhaliwal

There’s new wave of writers in Punjabi, says Dhahan prize founder

Brajinder Dhahan (left) author Arvinder Kaur Dhaliwal and Sargi at the Majha House session in Amritsar. Tribune Photo: Sunil Kumar

Tribune News Service

Neha Saini

Amritsar, February 12

The father of modern Punjabi prose, novelist Gurbaksh Singh’s now famous lines written in his revolutionary journal Preetlari, became a reason that stimulated Brajinder Singh Dhahan to make a life-long commitment to his Maa Boli, Punjabi. “I had once read in Preetlari, as a young student in Canada, where Gurbaksh Singh had written, “Maa Boli (mother tongue) is the key, referring to it as kunji in Punjabi, that unlocks our inner most trunks, intending that maybe through knowledge of our language, we can open our mind and soul to the world. This really made me aware of the significance and status of Punjabi language while growing up in Canada and I have always maintained that it is all about ishq, your love for Maa Boli,” said Brajinder, as he shared the process of founding the prestigious Dhahan Prize for excellence in Punjabi literature that he founded in 2013.

In an engaging session on Dhahan Prize and Punjabi fiction in global context at Majha House, Brajinder Dhahan, along with the author and one of the winners of Dhahan prize in 2022, Arvinder Dhaliwal and former Dhahan prize winner Sargi, delved into the progression of Punjabi language through its literature.

Dhahan, a Canadian entrepreneur, instituted the prize after his native village, Dhahan in 2013. The Dhahan prize is awarded to three best works of fiction in Punjabi, penned in Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi scripts and honours talent from both Charda and Lehnda Punjab, while also being open to writers from across the world. It involves the highest prize money featuring in a literary award in South Asia, as it gives away 45,000 Canadian dollars to three writers with 25,000 Canadian dollars for the winner and two 10,000 Canadian dollar prize for the runners-up. In terms of prestige, its popularly has gained the status of a Booker Prize in Punjabi literature.

“For the past ten years, our focus has been to uplift and celebrate Punjabi literature through language and we take pride that we do not give the award to the writer but his writing. When I took up creative writing in Punjabi as a student in Canada, I realised that despite the growing Punjabi population in Canada, the language did not have a big presence in literary context. So, when we founded Dhahan Prize, we made a commitment to be transparent and maintain integrity by shunning the ‘gatekeeping’ concept in awarding the works,” he shared.

Today, Dhahan Prize is the most anticipated award in Punjabi literature in the world. Arvinder Dhaliwal, author and winner of Dhahan Prize for her short story collection Jhanjhran Wale Pair and Sargi, who won the Dhahan Prize in 2021 for her short story collection, Apne Apne Marsiye, resonated with the statement that Punjabi language has taken the hardest hit in the race towards globalisation. Brajinder Dhahan, in his opinion, stated that Punjabis by and large have forgotten to respect their own language, culture and even architecture. “There is no originality, the aesthetic beauty that was once found in our culture, our literature and even our buildings has been lost to the utilitarian concepts. The way I see it, there is a new wave of writers in Punjabi literature, who are emerging for good. The biggest weakness is the lack of publishers who are willing to promote the writers and their works,” he said.

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