Konkani writer Ma­ha­balesh­war Sail gets Saraswati Sam­man

Mint ST - - POLICY - BY HT COR­RE­SPON­DENT feed­back@livemint.com NEW DELHI

Ru­ing the de­cline in peo­ple’s read­ing habits, Union com­merce min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man on Wed­nes­day said the nar­ra­tive that cap­tures or­di­nary life even­tu­ally be­comes ev­er­last­ing. Sithara­man was com­ment­ing on the works of Konkani writer Ma­ha­balesh­war Sail, who won the pres­ti­gious Saraswati Sam­man lit­er­ary award for 2016.

The award in­sti­tuted by the KK Birla Foun­da­tion car­ries a plaque and a cash purse of Rs15 lakh.

Sail, a for­mer sol­dier who served in the 1965 war and later was part of a peace-keep­ing mis­sion for the United Na­tions, earned praise for his grip­ping sto­ry­telling in his book Hawthan.

“To­day’s re­cip­i­ent comes from the Konkan re­gion, with which I have a little as­so­ci­a­tion; from my child­hood I have spent a little time there. That is a beau­ti­ful area that also has its con­flicts. And the con­flict that the re­cip­i­ent has ob­served and put in words is some­thing which all of us will en­joy. It’s the story of an or­di­nary life that is cap­tured and it is these or­di­nary lives when cap­tured by ef­fec­tive writers which be­come clas­sics and be­come ev­er­last­ing,” the min­is­ter said.

Com­ment­ing on Sail’s sim­plis­tic, yet en­gag­ing nar­ra­tive, Sithara­man said, “That is the kind of nar­ra­tive that we have to read and ap­pre­ci­ate in all its beauty, be­cause that is the con­flict that each one of us has to go through and ad­dress and also make sure that we are sen­si­tive to oth­ers.”

Works such as Hawthan, she said, were a means of get­ting back to books. “These sto­ries are what is go­ing to char­ac­ter­ize this na­tion and we can’t af­ford to miss out on this writ­ing,” she said.

The min­is­ter also praised the work of the KK Birla Foun­da­tion that has in­sti­tuted the award. She said the foun­da­tion is do­ing great work at a time when read­ing is be­com­ing very in­ter­mit­tent.

“The span of time for read­ing has con­sid­er­ably re­duced; we seem to be so en­gaged in so many other things. But a pro­gramme like this and the ef­fort that has gone into the se­lec­tion of books, the foun­da­tion has done ex­traor­di­nar­ily well.”

Sail re­flected on how Konkani lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture had been sub­dued and how it saw a resur­gence post Goa’s in­de­pen­dence. He re­flected on how his ex­pe­ri­ences, as a farmer, as a sol­dier, of hav­ing lived in deep jun­gles and in the scenic vil­lages of Goa have given his writ­ing di­ver­sity and beauty.

Lit­er­a­ture, he said, can help peo­ple un­der­stand their love and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the fam­i­lies and the coun­try. Sail traced a link be­tween peo­ple of dif­fer­ent lan­guages, of cul­tural tra­di­tions and how love for the coun­try binds every­one to­gether and ex­tolled the lin­guis­tic and cul­tural di­ver­sity of In­dia’s her­itage.

Com­ment­ing on the im­por­tance of lit­er­a­ture, he said the golden era that is often re­ferred to, was the time when the arts and lit­er­a­ture were at their peak. “To­day I hear coun­tries talk of glob­al­iza­tion, but on the other hand stock the most lethal of weapons. I worry about the fu­ture of mankind, of na­ture,” he said.

Pres­i­dent of the foun­da­tion, Shob­hana Bhar­tia, said the main ob­jec­tives of the in­sti­tu­tion are to en­cour­age and pro­mote In­dian cul­ture, lit­er­a­ture, arts, science and ed­u­ca­tion.

“My fa­ther set up this foun­da­tion, his vi­sion was that it could en­com­pass the di­verse branches of knowl­edge. The foun­da­tion works in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional Book Trust that pro­duces adult lit­er­acy books.” She added that the foun­da­tion is also col­lab­o­rat­ing with the In­dian Science Academy to en­cour­age young tal­ent.

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