At 93, Grande Dame Of Hindi Literature Krishna Sobti Still Manages To Create Stir

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New Delhi: The 53rd Jnanpith award for 2017 goes to one of the most celebrated Hindi writers, Krishna Sobti.
 
Following the unanimous decision amidst the members of the Jnanpith Selection Board, the 97-year-old is to be decorated with India’s highest literary honour, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Indian literature.
 
“Sobti is a path-breaking novelist. She has immensely enriched Hindi literature,” the statement by the board, chaired by noted scholar, writer and critic Namwar Singh, said.
 
Others on the Jnanpith Award decision-making body included Girishwar Misra, Shamim Hanfi, Harish Trivedi, Suranjan Das, Ramakant Rath, Chandrakant Patil, Alok Rai, C Radhakrishnan, Madhishudhan Anand and Leeladhar Mandloi.
 
The Jnanpith Award is an Indian literary award presented annually by the Bharatiya Jnanpith to an author for their "outstanding contribution towards literature". 
 
Jnanpith Award:
It is considered as India’s highest literary honour. Its name has been taken from Sanskrit words Jnana and Pitha which means knowledge-seat. It was instituted in 1961 by Bharatiya Jnanpith trust founded by the Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain family that owns the Times of India newspaper group. 
 
It is bestowed upon any Indian citizen who writes in any 22 social languages of India mentioned in VIII Schedule of Constitution of India and English. 
 
Prior to 1982, the award was only given for a single work by a writer. But after 1982, the award is given for lifetime contribution to Indian literature. 
The award carries cash prize of 11 lakh rupees, a citation plaque and a bronze replica of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom.
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Krishna Sobti’s public persona is that of a grande dame, and perhaps nothing signals it more than her sense of style. And that’s why she will be overall eight women to win this prestigious award. 
 
Three months short of 93, she has published two books in 2017 and three more are at the presses. She is barely able to recall any period in her life when she faced a block or wall when it came to writing. Even when she is in a hospital, she tries to put some words on paper every day.
 
A lot has already been written about Sobti, who has now become only the second woman writer in Hindi to receive the Jnanpith Award, after Mahadevi Varma. But there are several aspects of her work that not many are aware of or appreciate fully.
 
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Known as the grande dame of Hindi literature, Sobti has published many noteworthy works since the second half of last century. Several generations of women writers in Hindi have looked up to Sobti’s life and work for inspiration. She was one of the first writers who returned the Sahitya Akademi award protesting against rising intolerance in 2015. She delivers public addresses against the present regime which, she believes, “is leading the country to a new Partition”.
 
Sobti introduced strong, independent, bold and sexually assertive women characters in Hindi literature at a time when few writers dared to express female desires. 
 
Also Sobti has never been a part of a literary group or been aligned with a political party. She did not come from a family steeped in literature, and had no mentor or even a supportive editor. All this meant she had to carve out her space absolutely on her own. 
 
But her work has remained uncompromising, while she has personally shunned the paths of influence-building and self-promotion. Sobti has worked in absolute quietude, fighting to protect the sanctity of the written word, even as readers, recognition and awards came on their own.
 
Born on 18 February 1925 in the Gujarat province of now Pakistan, Sobti moved to New Delhi after partition and had been churning out exceptional literary works ever since.
 
Early in her writerly career, when she was not known beyond the circles of Hindi literature, Sobti purchased all the copies of her first novel, Channa from the publisher and pulped them as she had become dissatisfied with the text.
 
A melting pot of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi influences, what makes Sobti’s writing style unlike any other is the way she has chosen to experiment with new writing styles and narrative structures. 
 
With themes far-ranging from Indo-Pak partition and relationships between man and woman to the ever-changing dynamics of the Indian society and the slow decay of human values, most of her works revolve around strong and audacious characters.
 
Several of her works have been translated into other Indian languages and also in Swedish, Russian and English as well.
But she mostly renowned for her 1966 novel Mitro Marajani, which is an impenitent saga of a married woman’s exploration of sexuality. Other than this, Sobti’s noteworthy works include- Daar Se Bichchuri, Surajmukhi Andhere Ke, Yaaron Ke Yaar, Zindaginama, along with some of her short stories like Nafisa, Sikka Badal gaya and Badalom ke ghere.
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Translations
To hell with you Mitro! (Mitro Marjani)
Memory's Daughter (Daar Se Bichchudi)
Listen Girl (Ai Ladki)
Zindaginamah -Zinda Rukh (Urdu)
The Heart Has Its Reasons (Dil-O-Danish) 
 
Novels
Zindaginama
Mitro Marajani
DarSe Bichchuri
Surajmukhi Andhere Ke
Yaaron Ke Yaar
Samay Sargam
E Ladaki
 
Short stories
Nafisa
Sikka Badal gaya
Badalom Ke Ghere
Bachpan [short story]
 
Early Life:
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Sobti was born in Gujarat, Pakistan, and was educated in India, in Delhi and Shimla. She attended school along with her three siblings, and her family worked for the colonial British government. 
 
She initially began her higher education in at Fatehchand College in Lahore, Pakistan, but returned to India when the Partition took place. She worked for two years as a governess to Tej Singh, who was the grandson of the then-Maharaja of Sirohi, in Rajasthan, India. She currently lives in Delhi, with her husband, the Dogri writer Shivnath, whom she married at the age of seventy.
 
Honours and awards:
From Sahitya Akademi Award for Zindaginama in 1980 to the coveted fellowship of Sahitya Akademi in 1996, the lady has also been the recipient of Katha Chudamani Award, Shiromani Award, Hindi Academy Award and Shalaka Award of the Hindi Academy in Delhi.
 
But, in 2015, she returned both, the Sahitya Akademi Award for Zindaginama , and as well as her Fellowship, citing governmental inaction following riots in Dadri, concerns regarding freedom of speech, as well as comments made by a government minister concerning Hindi writers. 
 
She was then offered the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2010. However, she chose to decline the offer, saying that governmental honours affect a writer’s conscience. She declined the award, stating that, "As a writer, I have to keep a distance from the establishment. I think I did the right thing." 
 
And now, she has received Jnanpith Award 2017 for her 'path-breaking contribution to Indian literature'. 
The Bharatiya Jnanpith mentioned in the statement that 'the language used by Sobti in her writings is influenced by the intermingling of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi cultures where her characters are always bold and daring – ready to accept all challenges thrown by the society.'
 
 
References:
https://scroll.in
https://www.thebetterindia.com
https://currentaffairs.gktoday.in
 
 
 

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