Mahasweta Devi, the 85-year-old Bengali author of books such as Hajar Chaurashir Ma (No. 1084’s Mother) and Dust on the Road, made a rare journey outside her home in Kolkata to accept a lifetime achievement award for her work on the last day of the Literature Live Mumbai Litfest on Sunday.
The annual award was instituted this year by Literature Live and Landmark in order to honour the contributions of literary legends in India, said organisers.
Another award – the ‘First Book’ award – to recognise a work by a brilliant debutante author was given to writer-doctor Siddhartha Mukherjee for his book on cancer, The Emperor of all Maladies.
The awards comprised a plaque and cheque of Rs 1 lakh each. Devi, according to author and jury member Mark Tully, won the award for “bringing to life tribals and other poor people who in economics and politics are often just figures”, and because she “crusades for the people she writes about”.
“I am very happy to win this award. I can now go and tell my tribals that I can help them with some more schools and water,” said Devi, who elicited a standing ovation from the audience even before she was brought onto the stage in a wheelchair.