2016 Winners awarded for excellence in Punjabi fiction

Jarnail Singh

Jarnail Singh
2016 Dhahan Prize Winner

KAALE VARKE (short story collection)

Born into a modest peasant family in the village Meghowal near Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India, Jarnail Singh has worked hard in his life. After completing high school, he joined the Indian Air Force in 1962, and while in service, he earned Masters’ degrees in English and Punjabi. Upon obtaining release from the Indian Air Force and before migrating to Canada in 1988, he worked in a bank as an accountant.

While in India he produced three collections of stories: ‘Mainu Kee’ (1981), ‘Manukh Te Manukh’ (1983) and ‘Samen De Haani’ (1987), all about the lives of agriculturalists and military families.

In Canada he worked for two decades as a supervisory in a security company. The immigrant experience of life in Canada brought creative richness in the range of subject matter of his later stories. Because of this distinction, he has emerged as a writer of repute in Punjabi literary circles.

All three collections of his short stories written in Canada, ‘Do Taapu’ (1989), ‘Towers’ (2005) and ‘Kaale Varke’ (2015) have been well received by readers. In the first two collections the struggles of Punjabis living in Canada, clash and assimilation of east-west cultures, the growing generation gap, breaking up of relationships, and problems of teenagers have been depicted in a realistic and compelling manner.

The Dhahan Prize winning book, ‘Kaale Varke’, deals with global issues and problems related to capitalism. Jarnail Singh has been honoured with the ‘Shiromani Sahitkar’ award by the Punjab Government in India. His short story books are included in the teaching programs being taught in the Univerities of Punjab and Haryana in India.

Kaale Varke’ (Black Pages) written by Jarnail Singh, an eminent Toronto based Canadian Punjabi writer, is a collection of short stories. The author is known for writing short stories comparatively longer in length; five such stories are included in this collection. These stories mainly relate to the lived experience and existential reality of immigrant Punjabis settled in North America and their interaction with diverse communities in their local neighborhoods.

The narratives depict fresh insights into the complex human relationships in the wider perspective of contemporary reality. For the first time in Punjabi fiction, the title story of the book, Kale Varke, tries to powerfully capture the tragic socio-cultural situation and historic oppression of the aboriginal inhabitants of this region.

In other stories both local and global issues and problems related to capitalism, materialism, consumerism, individualism, the impropriety of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, raunchiness of the fashion industry, and the eagerness of Punjabis to come to foreign countries by using every fair and unfair means possible are creatively handled. The thematic organization and esthetic treatment of the fictional narrative presented in these stories is quite immersive and commendable.

Zahid Hassan
Zahid Hassan
2016 Dhahan Prize Finalist


Zahid Hassan (actual name Zahid Hussain) hails from the village of Jhok Piran Di, District Faislabad in Pakistan. Since 1985 he has planted his roots in Lahore, the cultural capital of Punjab. He has worked with various newspapers, periodicals and publishing houses in Lahore including Gor Publishers and Punjabi Adabi Board. In addition, he has worked with the Democratic Commission for Human Development by undertaking integrated initiatives in human rights education, research and advocacy. He has served as editor of Punjabi and Urdu magazines like, “Punjabi Adab’, ‘Adab-e lateef’, and ‘Kahani Ghar’.

He has published twelve books of fiction, poetry, research and literary criticism in Punjabi which include four novels, ‘Ishaq lataare Aadmi’, ‘Ghalichaa Unnan Wali’, ‘Qissa Aashiqaan’, Tassi Dharti’, and a short story collection, ‘Panjah Varhian di Udaasi’. He is a recipient of numerous literary awards which include the prestigious Pakistan Academy of Letters ‘Waris Shah Award’ and ‘Masood Khaddarposh Award’, among others.

Zahid Hassan’s writings are inspired by the rich culture, rites and customs, superstitions, and tales of Punjab. He feels that a lot of work needs to be done for Punjabi literature in order to get its worth acknowledged internationally and he himself has contributed significantly in this respect

Tassi Dharti’ (Thirsty Land) is a novel penned by Zahid Hassan, a prolific writer based in Lahore, Pakistan. Published in Shahmukhi script, the story deals with the land and people of the geographical region of the undivided Punjab, known as Bar. It tries to recapture the changing historical and socio-cultural reality of this region over the last two hundred years.

Tassi Dharti is a gripping representation of existential concerns of the valiant people of this region and their hardy struggles in the context of evolving social and political environment during the colonial period and beyond. As a regional novel, it employs the language and idiom of the regional dialect and focuses on the folk tradition and cultural practices of the people. Throughout the narrative the secular fabric of pre-partition Punjab emerges wonderfully.

On the whole it is a valuable literary work relating to a rather under-represented cultural region of Punjab.

Simran Dhaliwal
Simran Dhaliwal
2016 Dhahan Prize Finalist

US PAL (short story collection)

Simran Dhaliwal is a foremost name among the younger generation of Punjabi fiction writers. He was born in the last decade of the twentieth century and raised in a farming family in a village near the border town of Patti in Tarn Taran District, Punjab, India. He earned a Masters in Punjabi literature from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. Presently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Regional Campus of the same University at Patti.

Dhaliwal emerged as a promising writer of fiction almost at the very beginning of his literary career. His stories caught instant attention and received admiration from readers and critics alike. ‘Aas Aje Baaqi Hai’, his first short story publication was conferred a prestigious award for young writers from the Indian Academy of Letters, ‘Sahitya Akademi’. Simran Dhaliwal has published four books, among which ‘Aas Aje Baaqi Hai’ and ‘Us Pal’ are short story collections. ‘Sat Pariaan’ and ‘Safaid Pari Ate Oanchhi’ are children’s story books.

Set in the prevailing socio-economic environment, stories penned by Simran Dhaliwal search deep into the complex layers of the human mind. The central theme of these stories gets woven around the daily realities of life bringing into focus the impact of variant circumstances on the mental conditions of people. The characters in his stories are ordinary people who are faced with critical and threatening socio-economic, cultural and psychological situations. They struggle to come out of those situations, often getting defeated, but never exhausting chances of winning. The subject matter of his stories is captivating as they range from individual dreams to the realities of globalization.

Us Pal’ (That Moment) is a collection of short stories written by a young writer, Simran Dhaliwal, who hails from a border village in Tam Taran district of Punjab, India. In this collection nine short stories of the author are presented. These stories deal with the rapidly fraying social and cultural fabric of contemporary Punjab. Specific themes deftly handled in these stories relate to the importance and significance of folk culture and tradition, the evils of the caste system, economic disparity, the impact of globalization, and the purity and strength of man-woman relationships. The representation of contemporary reality in these stories is not only realistic, but also artistic and forceful.

The title story of the book, Us Pal, and another story titled Main hun jhooth naheen bolda (I don’t tell lies anymore) are wonderful pieces of storytelling. Set in the backdrop of socio-economic oppression and injustice, these short narratives provide fresh insight into the complexity of moral struggles and emotional relations of the common people.

2016 Jury Members

Central Jury

Dr. Jagbir Singh (India)
Mr. Iqbal Qaisar (Pakistan)
Mr. Jarnail Singh Sekha (Canada)

Professor Raghbir Singh oversaw the adjudication and administration of juries for the 2016 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.