RECOGNIZING that Punjabi language has been spoken in Vancouver for over one hundred years, Mayor Gregor Robertson and the City of Vancouver proclaimed October 25, 2014, as “Punjabi Literature Day.”
The proclamation was delivered at the first annual Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature Awards Gala at Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.
The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature aims to inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world, and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale. The Dhahan Prize is awarded by the Canada India Education Society (CIES) in partnership with the Department of Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
The gala began with a Musqueam welcome from Cecelia Point, followed by introductions by emcee Tarannum Thind, entertainment reporter with OMNI Punjabi News. Gage Averill, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at UBC, spoke about UBC’s history and commitment to teaching South Asian languages, as well as UBC Professor Anne Murphy’s role in designing the adjudication process as the Advisory Committee Chair.
Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk brought greetings from the Premier Christy Clark and Niki Sharma, Vancouver Park Board Commissioner, delivered greetings from Mayor Robertson. Sharma also read the proclamation declaring October 25, 2014, as Punjabi Literature Day in Vancouver.
Celebrated Punjabi author, Waryam Singh Sandhu, whose stories have been translated into many languages and adapted into television and radio dramas, delivered a keynote address on the state of Punjabi Literature, followed by an English translation by local author, Ajmer Rode.
The Dhahan Prize awards $25,000 annually to one book of fiction published in either of the two Punjabi scripts, Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi. This year’s first prize winner is Avtar Singh Billing for his book, Khali Khoohaan di Katha (The Story of Empty Wells), which will be translated from Gurmukhi to English next year.
Two runner-up prizes of $5,000 were awarded to Zubair Ahmad from Pakistan, and Jasbir Singh Bhullar from India. Both Billing and Ahmad travelled to Vancouver to receive their awards. The evening concluded with a speech by prize founder Barj Dhahan.