The world’s signature prize for Punjabi fiction announced its first female winner, Deepti Babuta, of a $25,000 CAD award. Alongside her, Jameel Ahmad Paul and Balijit were awarded $10,000 CAD each as two finalists.
The Dhahan Prize is the largest international literary award for fiction books in the Punjabi language.
“In Punjabi arts and literary circles, women are often underrepresented,” says Barj Dhahan, founder of the Prize. “We started this award with an open system to consider any new works of fiction in the Punjabi language, from any author of any background. We are proud to say that after 10 years, we are announcing our first female winner, based solely on the quality of work produced.”
Awardees were presented with their awards, along with a hand-crafted trophy, during the 10th annual Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature ceremonies, held November 16, 2023, at Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey.
Part of the ceremony included Minister of Education and Child Care Rachna Singh and City of Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke presenting Proclamations of “Punjabi Literature Week” in their respective jurisdictions.
Babuta said, “Words are my life. But today I am speechless. This achievement is not mine alone. It is of every woman who starts fighting the war of her dreams from home. Then, she fights for opportunities in the world and shows she can succeed.”
Ahmad Paul (Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan), came in as a finalist for his short story collection, ‘Mendal Da Qanoon’ (‘Mendelian Rules’), written in the Shahmukhi script.
Ahmad Paul shared, “The happiest day in my life was when Zubair Ahmad and then Barj Dhahan phoned me with the news I had been waiting to hear…Writing in Punjabi has been my meditation. And more so now because my book of stories has been awarded the Dhahan Prize. ”
Balijit (Mohali, Punjab, India) was a finalist for his short story collection, ‘Uchian Awazan’ (‘Clarion Calls’).
He noted, “Every Punjabi writer, whether living in West and East Punjab, or other corners of the world, dreams to have the Dhahan Prize come knocking on their door. As a writer and an ordinary man, I am happy and proud to have my book…be a finalist for this year’s Dhahan Prize.”
Since its launch in 2013 by the Canada India Education Society (CIES) and the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Prize has garnered critical acclaim and significant exposure for aspiring and established writers, setting the stage for their books to reach broader, multilingual audiences.
The Dhahan Prize was established in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Punjabi people, language, and culture have a rich history. Punjabi is now the 3rd most spoken language in Canada, and is a strong thread in the multicultural fabric of the nation.
The Prize’s presenting partner is RBC Foundation. Barj and Rita Dhahan, along with their family and friends, are primary funders. 2023 sponsors included RBC Dominion Securities – Harj & Darshan Grewal, G.L. Smith Planning and Design Inc., Westland Insurance, CIBC, Adrian Keenan Personal Real Estate Corporation (ReMax, Mayne-Pender), Esso and Tim Hortons.