Assamese writer Lakshminandan Bora and renowned Hindi author Mannu Bhandari received the prestigious Saraswati Samman and Vyas Samman, respectively for literary excellence on Friday.
The 18th edition of the awards, being given for the year 2008, were presented to the awardees by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar at an elegant function attended by high profile literary and social personalities.
The awards are given by the KK Birla Foundation to promote Indian literature.
“By honouring the works in regional languages, the foundation is doing a great service to preserve rich treasures. It is heartening to know that the Vyas Samman has been taken by several women writers in the past too,” the Speaker said.
Earlier, KK Birla Foundation president Shobhana Bhartia recalled her father the late KK Birla’s “deep passion and commitment” to the promotion of culture. She said her father believed “economic growth was one indicator of progress of the nation (but) it was important to nurture India’s vibrant culture and rich heritage.”
Bora (77) said while accepting the award, “I feel the award has enhanced the prestige of Assamese literature.” He said it was a “quantum of contradiction” in his life that he pursues science but writes fiction.
An agro-meteorologist by profession, Bora received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1988. He has penned 53 books, including novels, short stories and travelogues.
Bhandari pointed out the difference while writing fiction and her biography. “While in the first case, I needed to close down the distance between myself and the character, in the second, I had to make an effort to maintain neutrality. It was of immense importance to maintain a distance between the ‘writer’ Mannu and the ‘living’ Mannu’.”
A teacher by profession, Bhandari has authored four novels, 12 collections of stories and two plays. Three of her stories have been made into well-appreciated feature films.
Justice GB Patnaik and SP Dixit, chairpersons of the selection committees for the Sarswati Samman and Vyas Samman, Foundation director Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee and Priyavrat Bhartia also spoke on the occasion.