Padma Shri awardee Punjabi writer Gurdial Singh, 83, breathed his last after a prolonged illness at a private hospital in Bathinda on Tuesday.
Singh had been on ventilator support since August 13 after he had reportedly fell unconscious at his residence in Jaitu town of Faridkot district.
An author of many memorable novels in which he exploited his local Malwai dialect to full advantage, his 1976 novel ‘Anhey Ghore Da Daan’ was made into a feature film by Gurvinder Singh; something for which the younger generation and a wider audience know him today. The film won four national awards, besides the Golden Peacock Award at the International Film Festival of India and the Black Pearl Trophy at the Abu Dhabi film festival.
He was one of the most celebrated Punjabi writers who focused on the economically and socially marginalised people in rural Punjab in his short stories and novels. Gurdial remained rooted in his hometown and did not move beyond Bathinda where he taught in the regional centre of Punjabi University.
He made a startling entry from short stories to his classic 1964 novel ‘Marhi da Deeva’ (The Last Flicker) which was adapted into a Punjabi film starring Deepti Naval, Raj Babbar and Parikshit Sahni in 1989. The widely-acclaimed film went on win a National Award. Marhi da Deeva had a Dalit sharecropper as the protagonist for the first time.
He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975, followed by the Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1986, Shiromani Sahitkar award in 1992, Paash Award in 1995, Padma Shri in 1998 and Jnanpith Literary Award (shared with Hindi writer Nirmal Verma) in 2000, among many others.
Professor Gurmeet Singh, a family friend, who was also accompanying Gurdial’s family at hospital, said the ventilator support was removed on Tuesday morning after his body had stopped showing any signs of recovery. According to family members, Gurdial had cardiac arrest early this year and then complained of paralyses in other parts of body.