Thursday, December 8

Shankar to receive Sahitya Akademi for ‘Eka Eka Ekashi’

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Eminent author Mani Shankar Mukhopadhyay, better known as Shankar, will be conferred the Sahitya Akademi Award 2020 for his memoir titled ‘Eka Eka Ekashi’. Author Subodh Sarkar, who is the convener of the Akademi’s advisory board for Bengali, told TOI that this award for the 87-year-old writer had been “long overdue”.
Shankar, who was propelled into employment at the age of 14, had done odd jobs as a typewriter cleaner and seller of cane baskets at Esplanade. His life changed after being spotted by the last British barrister at the Calcutta High Court, who appointed him as a clerk. His first novel ‘Koto Ajanare’ was published in 1954.
That was also the year the Sahitya Akademi Award was instituted for recognizing the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any major Indian language recognized by the Akademi. “I remember, authors Khushwant Singh and Vikram Seth had emphasized on the need for my works getting translated for global readership. At the London Bookfair, Vikram had sat near my feet and said this is his space. But I bear no grudge against anyone for not having got the award earlier. Many stalwarts, including Saradindu Bandopadhyay and Bimal Mitra, never got the Akademi award. So I have been in good company. I am yet to receive an official communication about the award,” Shankar said.

According to Sarkar, the news will be officially announced on Friday. “We have signed the papers. The function will be held in June-July this year,” Sarkar said. “When I joined the advisory board, I tried to ensure that eminent authors are given the awards. In Shankar’s case, we are late by at least 60 years. The absence of his name from the list of recipients was a curse hanging on our head. He should have got the award for ‘Koto Ajanare’, ‘Chowringhee’ and ‘Jana Aranya’. Another such delay was in the case of author Sanjib Chattopadhyay,” he added. Chattopadhyay was given the award in 2018 for his story titled ‘Srikrishner Sesh Kata Din’.

The popularity of his books, Sarkar said, could have been a reason for this late recognition. “For strange reasons, it’s often believed that popular writing is bad. I don’t agree with that. In my eyes, Shankar comes next to Saratchandra Chattopadhyay,” said Sarkar, who had received the award in 2013 for his book of poetry titled ‘Dwaipayan Hrader Dhare’.

Asked if he too felt the award was long overdue, Shankar said, “The answer is a yes and a no. At the London Bookfair, I was asked why it had taken so long for the English translation of ‘Chowringhee’ to reach globally. I had narrated a story from my childhood. Back then, Horlicks was not available all the time but the company would often advertise in newspapers saying: ‘Horlicks is not available now but it is worth waiting for’. I had said Horlicks was my inspiration. I know, it’s always worth the wait.”

Awards and criticisms, he said, are part and parcel of an author’s life. “Writing is the only profession where the valuation begins only after death. The top ten bestsellers in College Street have been written by authors who are all dead,” he said.

Asked about his personal favourite among his works that range from novels, travelogues, books on Sri Ramakrishna-Swami Vivekananda and even culinary delicacies, he said, “When a mother is asked to choose her favourite child, she will refer to the kid on her lap. I am happy if I can give joy to my readers.”

Source: Times of India

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