Mohali-based Deepti Babuta has become the first woman to bag the Dhahan Prize, the largest international literary award for fiction books in Punjabi language.
Babuta received the award for her short story collection, ‘Bhukh Eon Sah Laindi Hai’ (‘Hunger Breathes Like This’). She was presented with a cash award of $25,000 CAD and a trophy at a ceremony held at Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday.
Alongside her, two other finalists — Lahore-based Jameel Ahmad Paul and Mohali’s Balijit were awarded $10,000 CAD each.
This is for the first time in its 10-year history that the top prize has gone to a woman.
Barj Dhahan, the founder of the prize, said, “In Punjabi arts and literary circles, women are often underrepresented. We started this award with an open system to consider any new works of fiction in the Punjabi language, from any author of any background. We are proud to say that after 10 years, we are announcing our first female winner, solely on basis of the quality of work produced.”
After receiving the award, Babuta said, “Words are my life. But today I am speechless. This achievement is not mine alone. It is of every woman who starts fighting the war of her dreams from home. Then, she fights for opportunities in the world and shows she can succeed.”
Ahmad Paul, one of the finalists and the author of ‘Mendal Da Qanoon’ (‘Mendelian Rules’), a short story collection written in the Shahmukhi script, said, “The happiest day in my life was when Zubair Ahmad and then Barj Dhahan called me with the news I had been waiting to hear…Writing in Punjabi has been my meditation. And more so now because my book of stories has been awarded the Dhahan Prize. ”
Balijit, the other finalist, who penned the short story collection, ‘Uchian Awazan’ (‘Clarion Calls’), said, “Every Punjabi writer, whether living in West and East Punjab, or other corners of the world, dreams to have the Dhahan Prize come knocking on their door. As a writer and an ordinary man, I am happy and proud to have my book be a finalist for this year’s Dhahan Prize.”
The Dhahan Prize was established by the Canada India Education Society (CIES) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2013 to give a platform to both aspiring and established writers to take their work to a broader, multilingual audience.