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2015 Winners awarded for excellence in Punjabi fiction

Darshan Singh

Darshan Singh
2015 Dhahan Prize Winner

LOTA (novel)

Darshan Singh is very well known for his fiction writings, which include several novels and short story collections. It has been suggested that a novel must have a social purpose, and that it must have something to offer from the society’s point of view. This notion appears to have inspired Darshan Singh when he took up his pen to write his latest novel, Lota, which is focused on the nature of politics and politicians in India.

‘Lota’ in Punjabi is a vase with a rounded base that teeters rather than remain stable. Symbolically ‘lota’ refers to a person of opportunistic character. This novel brings out the turn-coat character of politicians in ample measure. The main character of the novel, Gurdial Singh, is selected by his political benefactor to chair the Dalit Vidyak Commission. This prestigious post comes with the additional benefit of an official residence, a huge bungalow in a posh area of the capital city. When his party later loses and Singh loses his job, he is faced with vacating his spacious residence. His upset wife prompts Singh to move heaven and earth to retain this accommodation at any cost. He gets extension after extension with the help of those who benefited during his tenure, but the only way to permanently keep it is to secure a position in the upper house of the Parliament. He finally succeeds in getting an ambassadorship to a small country, but only by opposing his earlier benefactor.

The narrative, woven in superb language, comes through cinematographic techniques mostly in the form of fade-in and fade-out. The ironic device employed to bring out the social decadence and corruption prevalent in Indian society further compliments this narrative style. The writer has deftly handled the social and political aspects of daily life, and revealed the inner machinations of politicians’ mind.

Harjeet Atwal
Harjeet Atwal
2015 Dhahan Prize Finalist

MOR UDAARI (novel)

Harjeet Atwal is a prolific writer who has worked in several genres of novel, short story, poetry, biography, and prose. He is also the editor of a magazine. His novels are a panoramic commentary on the lives of Punjabis residing in different parts of England. There is much that is fresh, original, and unique in his novels.

‘Mor Udaari’ literally means flight of a peacock. The novel is woven around the visit of the main character, Arvind, from England to his native land of Punjab in India. The purpose of Arvind’s visit is to spread the ashes of his father at Kiratpur. Ironically, he fails to reach his goal before returning to England, entrusting the job of dispersing the ashes to someone else. Apparently Arvind’s disbelief in rituals hinders him, yet one cannot miss the romantic cause behind his failure to reach Kiratpur. The writer uses various telling and showing devices in order to give an artistic touch to the narrative and to highlight the changing social reality. The novel shows the socio-economic reality and attitude of present day Punjabi middle class. In this open-ended novel, Atwal successfully presents the multi – dimensions of human existence in changing socio-cultural situations.

Nain Sukh
Nain Sukh
2015 Dhahan Prize Finalist

MADHO LAL HUSSAIN – LAHORE DI VEL (novel)

Nain Sukh’s novel, Madhoo Lal Hussain, covers the historical, cultural, social, and literary life of Lahore from the sixteenth to twenty-first century. The novel uniquely documents the human situation from the colonial to the post-partition periods in Lahore. The novelist weaves four hundred years of history into a creative and memorable tapestry. The novel focuses on the conflict between secular and fundamentalist forces in this region over the last four hundred years, and highlights the ongoing impacts of this clash in contemporary times.

Nain Sukh has written a successful novel by imaginatively employing the stream of consciousness technique , mixing events from the past and present. The language, theme, technique, and craftsmanship of Madho Lal Hussainmake it a topmost work of Punjabi fiction. Madho Lal Hussain provides the reader with a valuable depiction of the history and cultural richness of Lahore.

2015 Jury Members

Central Jury

Dr. Harbhajan Singh Bhatia (India), Central Jury Chair

Shri Gulzar Singh Sandhu (India)

Professor Saeed Bhutta (Pakistan)

Gurmukhi Jury

Dr. Davinder Kaur (UK), Gurmukhi Jury Chair

Dr. Sadhu Singh (Canada)

Mr. Mohan Bhandari (India)

Shahmukhi Jury

Mr. Zubair Ahmad (Pakistan), Shahmukhi Jury Chair

Mr. Tauqeer Chughtai (Pakistan)

Ms. Praveen Malik (Pakistan)

Professor Raghbir Singh oversaw the adjudication and administration of juries for the 2015 Prize. Professor Raghbir ensured there was just and fair proceedings in relation to the adjudication.

The process was designed initially by Professor Anne Murphy, with advice and guidance from the Prize Advisory Committee,  who designed the process, adjudication and administration of the Prize in its initial form. Professor Murphy’s scholarly experience with Punjabi culture and literature, and with the adjudication and management of literary and book prizes (both in English and Punjabi), coupled with 10 years of experience working with museums and other non-profit organizations on related projects, helped devise a process that would foster engaged and ethical adjudication.