Konkani writer Mahabaleshwar Sail gets Saraswati Samman
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.