Winners of First Kusumanjali Sahitya Samman 2012

Dr. Usha Kiran Khan - Hindi for her novel 'Sirjanhar'

Dr. Usha Kiran KhanDr. Usha Kiran Khan was born in 1945 to Shakuntala and Jagdish Chaudhary who followed Gandhi's clarion call for commitment to selfless service and settled in Bihar. Raised in an atmosphere steeped in Gandhian values, she was blessed by many great scholars and thinkers including Hajari Pd. Dwivedi, Sheelbhadra Yaji, Ramvriksh Benipuri, Nagarjun, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' and Jaiprakash Narayan who frequented the hermitage of her parents.

With a postgraduate degree in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology from Patna University capped by a PhD in Asian Studies focused on the Culture of Mithila, she gained in stature as an eminent scholar. Her essays on the cultural and historical geography of Bihar have been very well received and are collected in her book " Sanskriti ka Kalpatr". She taught Ancient Indian History and Archaeology at B. D. College under the aegis of Magadh University after which she retired as the Head of Department in 2005.

Her Gandhian upbringing kept her involved in various activities of nation-building. This resulted in Dr. Khan's active participation in the Mahila Charkha Samiti, established by Smt. Prabhavati Devi in the very premises that she lived with her legendary husband, JP. Dr. Khan has served the rural women of Bihar as the vice-chairperson of the historic Mahila Charkha Samiti and holds the post of Chairperson now. As a member of the management committee of Jawahar Bal Bhavan, Bihar, she has been active in ensuring child rights and inculcating values in young people.

The range of her cultural responsibilities spans over multifarious activities. Dr. Khan presides over 'Safar Mynah' , a theatre group composed of slum-dweller children while she is also the chairperson of 'Nirman Kala Manch', a thespian group approved by the National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Akademi and other agencies under the Department of Culture. She is a member of the East Central Zonal Cultural Committee under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. She has been a delegate representing Bihar in the 'Vishwa Hindi Sammelan' in Surinam and New York. She travelled to Mauritius to attend the 'Vishwa Bhojpuri Sammelan' as a delegate of 'Setunyas'.

Dr. Khan has a major role to play in the revival and bolstering of Hindi and Maithili drama. Her Hindi play 'Ugna Re Mor Katay Gelay' has notched up many diamond jubilees across the country. 'Hira Dom', another popular Hindi play, raises contemporary questions about the caste system and has been well-received in its performances all over India. Her plays for children such as 'Daddy Badal Gaye', 'Nani Ki Kahani' and 'Sat Bhai Champa' have delighted many youngsters. Her Maithili plays-'Bhuskaul Bala', 'Chano Dai', 'Phagun' and 'Eksari Thadhi' have been trendsetters in popularity as well as critical acclaim in India and Nepal. Her adaptation of Nagarjun's novella 'Navturia' and Harimohan Jha's 'Maryadak Bhang' into gripping plays is a commendable contribution to modern Maithili theatre.

Dr. Usha Kiran Khan made a mark early as a promising young Hindi poet in the sixties as she held in thrall erudite audiences with her recitals where, to quote the modest versifier herself, " I hung on to the hem of Baba Ngarjun's kurta!" Although she has recently written a heartrending account of Sita's last days in her Maithili epic 'Jai Sa Pahine', she left poetry for good by the seventies.

Dr. Khan discovered her forte when her first short story was published by the indubitable Amrit Rai in Kahani, a magazine known to establish young authors by a mere mention. She was then published in prestigious magazines such as Dharmayug, Sarika, Saptahik Hindustan, Gyanoday, Vagarth, Hans, Samkaleen Bharatiya Sahitya, Sahitya Amrit, Vasudha to name a few. As she discovered her path in prose, she developed in different directions. Her essays and word-pictures on a dazzling variety of subjects were lapped up and appreciated by the readers in dailies and periodicals. Her columns were thought provoking and hard-hitting in comment soaring her popularity in every section of society.

Fiction, however, was to be her crowning glory. Her prolific writing of short stories are collected in Maithili in 'Kaanchahi Baans' and in Hindi in 'Vivash Vikramadiya', 'Doob Dhaan', 'Geeli Paank', ' Kaas Van', 'Jaldhaar', 'Janam Awadhi' and 'Ghar Se Ghar Tak'. A few of her stories made their way into school and university textbooks, while others were rendered into plays or tele-films. For a long time her popularity rested on her short stories.

Somewhere down the line her genius expanded onto a larger canvas. Her early novels, 'Anuttarit Prashn'and 'Doorvakshat' in Maithili and 'Phagun Ke Baad' in Hindi were received with great enthusiasm by her readers. This encouraged her to take up the form with greater preparation and resulted in some outstanding work. She now married her training as a historian to her literary rigour and produced some unprecedented creations.

Her Maithili novel 'Haseena Manzil', shortlisted for the Sahitya Akademi award thrice, unfolds a period in contemporary history where the Muslims of Mithila who went to East Pakistan find themselves in a nowhere space. The novel has been translated into Hindi, English, Urdu and Bangla and is in the pipeline in many other languages. It has been rendered by Doordarshan as a Hindi series under the Indian Classics programme.

'Bhamati: Ek Avismaraniya Premkatha', her latest Maithili novel won her the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award in 2011. It is a complex rendering of the social, cultural and philosophical milieu of 10th century Mithila which breaks many icons and raises contemporary questions such as gender roles and communal intolerance through a profound and classically woven narrative.

Her Hindi novel 'Seemant Katha' is a spine-chilling account of the lawless border that Bihar shares with UP. While she etches the harsh hyper-masculinity of brutality of rural politics, she weaves in soft nuances of an area hankering after the softer aspects of life. 'Pani Par Lakeer' and 'Trijya' grapple with the eternal questions of womanhood and femininity.

'Ratnare Nayan' is another novel which deserves special mention. It is probably the only political novel written in our times with a city as a protagonist. While most of her writing is set in rural Bihar, this work deals with the city of Patna which is the hero of her novel with a multilayered narrative as composite as the by-lanes of old Patna City. This novel scores both in form and matter as one of the path-breaking pieces in Hindi prose.

'Sirjanhar', her latest offering published by the prestigious Bharatiya Jnanpeeth, is a biopic of the medieval poet Vidyapati whom Mithila and Bengal (and sometimes Odisha) claim as their own. Through the long life of the multilingual bard, she brings alive and recreates a period of upheavals in Indian history. With a historian's erudite analysis, Dr. Usha Kiran Khan transports the reader to an era of wars jostling with creative pursuits, religion vying with romance, social mores reinventing ethical values. With her mastery over words, she weaves a narrative which enthralls and fascinates while informing, creates new phrases while describing old truths. In this novel she has crafted an all-time classic.

As Dr. Khan progresses in her indefatigable journey of creation unmindful of accolades, a set of unique facts about her must be noted. She is the first woman to write about rural realities and the only one perhaps to move into writing historical novels. These courageous aspects of her creative talent sets her apart from all her contemporaries.

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Shri K. Vittal Rao - Tamil for his work 'Vaazvin Sila Unnathangkal'

K. Vittal Rao Krishna Rao Vittal Rao, born in 1942 at Hosur, Tamil Nadu to father Krishna Rao and mother Saraswathi. (70) speaks Kannada at home. He is married to Kamala. A retired BSNL Official, Vittal Rao began writing at an early age. His first short story appeared in 1967. He has written 140 short stories in six volumes. His short stories have been translated in to English and other Indian languages. He has won several prizes for his short stories in various competitions conducted by magazines. He has authored ten novels. Two novels Pokkidam (Refuge) won best book of the year award in 1976 instituted by Chennai Ilakkiya Chinthanai. Vanna Mughangal (Painted faces) got the best book award in 1994 by the same institution. His fiction is almost autobiographical and highlights social topics and the irony of life.

Since he is a trained painter, he has contributed numerous essays and articles on art in several magazines and two books of collected essays on paintings and painters have been brought out. His paintings are exhibited in Madras galleries, Max Mueller Bhavan Madras and Bangalore, British Council, Chennai, Hyderabad Art Society and Mysore Dasara. He has translated short stories for Sahitya Akademi, Delhi.

He has also written several papers on art and literature and contributed them to several seminars. He has also edited and compiled seven volumes of 250 short stories of reputed Tamil writers. He has been awarded the Resident Fellowship by Dvanyaloka, Mysore in 1984.

He has also to his credit seven volumes of non-fictional articles and essays. Out of these, a research oriented book, "Forts of Tamil Nadu" was given a special prize by Tirupur Tamil Sangam in 2008. A book on Tamil Cinema, "Dimensions of Tamil Cinema" by him was awarded by the Tamil Development of the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2004. His book on "Newwave Cinema of Kannada Films" is widely discussed and reviewed currently (2012).And his autobiographical narration , "Vaazhvin Sila Unnathangal" (Graces of Life) is widely discussed and got many. The book is published by Narmadha Publishing Co. Chennai. The work comprises autobiographical narration of the many faceted life of the author. The book narrates his quest for knowledge through books and periodicals for the past 50 years. His encounters with several secondhand booksellers involving human experiences and relationships is also highlighted. His human experience is based on his encounters with various people throughout his life. He has always supplemented his knowledge by reading a wide range of books and printed text. The author in "Vaazhvin Sila Unnathangal" (Graces of Life) gives the essence of world history, art, literature, performing art and the biographies of artists, writers, authors, journalists and global and national leaders. He has narrated his experiences of meeting many reputed painters and authors in the course of time. A complete work that stands out for its sensitive look at and appraisal of the secondhand book sellers of Madras. In the pursuit of knowledge, being an author, writer, a painter and a photographer, Vittal Rao finds not only aesthetic knowledge but also the diverse shades of life.