Today, the Vancouver Writers Fest is acknowleding the importance of the Punjabi writing community with a free event at Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre at 1:30 p.m.
It will feature finalists for the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature.
The award is named after Vancouver entrepreneur Barj Dhahan, cofounder of the Canada India Education Society.
In a phone interview with the Straight, Dhahan said that he studied creative writing at UBC and wanted to create an award modelled on the Giller Prize to highlight Punjabi literature.
“I said to my wife and a few of my friends, ‘The Giller Prize has been an amazing undertaking,’ ” Dhahan said. “It has really helped to inspire young Canadians writing fiction. Now, it has become the signature literary event in Canada every year.”
The India Education Society created the Dhahan Prize in partnership with UBC’s department of Asian studies.
Last night, Wisconsin-based author Shauna Singh Baldwinprovided the keynote address at a gala event celebrating the winners.
First prize along with $25,000 was awarded to Darshan Singh for Lota. It’s a biographical novel of Punjabi Communist leader Harkishan Singh Surjeet.
The second prize and $5,000 went to Harjeet Atwal for his novel Mor Udaari in Shahmukhi script. Atwal has written more than 20 books and is the editor of the Punjabi magazine Shabad.
The other second prize and $5,000 was granted to Nain Sukh, whose real name is Khalid Mehmood, for his novel Madho Lal Hussain (Lahore Di Vei). It was also in Shahmukhi script.
Sukh’s novel created a stir for its fictionalized depiction of the division of properties in Lahore during Partition in 1947.
In the summer of that year, Sikhs and Hindus fled the Punjabi city in the midst of intense communal violence after it became clear that it would fall within the new nation of Pakistan.