Source : The Pioneer
Controversy never leaves Akadem award or, for that matter, any award in Odia literature. Recently, the Odisha Sahitya Akademi has announced winners of awards in nine categories of literature for the years 2013 and 2014. There is discontent over sharing of an award. Three poets have shared the award in the poetry category for 2013 and two poets have shared the award for 2014. Though the awards should be given on merit of a book, literature lovers grumble for the senior poets having been made to share the awards with the juniors.
A writer has alleged that a woman writer, who happens to be the sister of an eminent poet, has been unjustly nominated for an award in the category of novel. He has posted in the Facebook that her poet-brother was the president of the committee that selected the president of the Sahitya Akademi and he has influenced the Akademi through the president for the award to his sister. The book that won her the award is substandard. Another woman writer has posted in the Facebook alleging that awards are not given on merit of the book or writer but on consideration of seniority/old age or person suffering from disease. She hints at the Akademi awarding a cancer-suffering writer last time.
When this year’s Sarala Puraskar was awarded to Banoj Devi, poet Rajendra Kishor Panda posted in the Facebook that Banoj Devi is a nice lady but an average writer. He further added that most of the jury members are non-writers or failed writers and the awardee and most of the jury members are devotees of a particular living guru.
It is widely believed that in Odisha, awards are given not on the merit of the book or the writer but for other reasons. A few months back, there was allegation of casting couch against a senior poet in print media and social media. The poet in question, who wields power and influence in the literary world, is alleged to be exploiting the woman writers on promise of awards. The matter has gone to law court.
A reader normally tempts to buy a book if its author or the book itself gets an award. Sale of the books of the award-winning author goes up. If a reader buys a book as it is awarded or buys a book of an award-winning author and finds the book is substandard, it is a fraud on innocent buyers. When the award-winning novel he finds to be substandard, he is most likely to think that Odia literature itself is substandard. He would think before buying an Odia book again.
There is a complaint that readership of literature in Odisha is decreasing. Books written in English sell, but books of Odia literature do not. If a person, a booklover reads literature in English, being an Odia, why shall not he read books of Odia literature? The reasons are many.
There are many Odia readers, especially the senior citizens, who have learnt Hindi and Bengli to read literature in those languages because the original lustre of a creation is lost in translation. One of the reasons is good Odia books, for some reason or other, do not reach the Odia readers. Parents now prefer English medium schools to send their children for study. All students of any medium school, English or Odia, cannot be booklovers. There are many booklovers who have studied in English medium schools. But somehow or other, an impression is created among them that good books are not being written in Odia. Our writers-selectors selecting unworthy books/ writers for awards contribute such impression, further distancing the readers from Odia literature.
No Odia writer ever thinks of making a living on his writing. It is the appreciation/affection of the reading public that encourages the writer to keep writing. Any award is an acknowledgement of that appreciation. The ‘Jury’, the middleman between the recognition and the readers’ appreciation selecting an unworthy person instead of a deserving one for an award, certainly discourages a true writer and does a disservice to the literature at large like bad money driving out the good.
Akademi award-winning novels/books are translated into other languages. When such a book is translated into another language and the people of the other language happen to read it, how will they rate Odia literature? This is for anyone to guess.
In 2011, a lesser-known writer, Kalpanakumari Devi, was nominated for a Kendra Sahitya Akademi award. There was a strong reaction against her selection. It was alleged that not for merit but for her proximity with the then Odia Convener of the Kendra Sahitya Akadei that she got the award. Poet Rajendra Kishore Panda remarked, “I woke up with a surprise: Kalpanakumari Devi has been selected to receive this year’s award of SahityaAkademi (National Academy of Letters) for Odia. I confess I have not read any of her books; it shows my ignorance. Of course, I had seen some of her short stories years back; they were lacklustre; maybe, she grew in her dimensions later, about which I didn’t know.”
One Sabir Ali had posted in the Facebook, “It is the lack-of-integrity of the writers-selectors themselves that is the root-cause of all questionable decisions. It is pitiable when some of them stoop to the lowest level shamelessly. As I find from the comment-posts, most of the persons have not read even a single work of Ms Devi. How could she turn ’eminent and award-worthy’ overnight? Obviously, the writers-selectors have stooped to the lowest level shamelessly.”
There is a saying: If salt loses its character which will salt the salt? If the writers and poets themselves will not cleanse the system, who else will? This is high time for writers and literature lovers to brood over and take corrective measures.