Indian Jewish novelist honored in Lucknow

Shuma Talukdar, President, SSRE and Sheela Rohekar (right).

Shuma Talukdar, President, SSRE and Sheela Rohekar (right).

 

By Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi

Navras Aafreedi

Navras Aafreedi

True to its commitment to raise awareness of religious minorities with the aim of breaking the stereotypes that exist about them, Society for Social Regeneration & Equity (SSRE), on Friday, January 3, honored the only Jewish novelist writing in Hindi the most widely spoken and understood language in India today.  It presented to Sheela Rohekar an award to her for her depiction of the Indian Jewish life in her latest novel Miss Samuel: Ek Yahudi Gatha (Miss Samuel: A Jewish Saga)

The novel was published last year by the Bharatiya Jnanpith, a state body that gives out the most prestigious award of literature in India every year. The only other Hindi novel that depicted the Indian Jewish life, Apna Ghar (A Home of One’s Own), was published 52 years ago in 1961 by the late Meera Mahadevan, ne Miriam Jacob Mendrekar.

The event was significant as Rohekar suffers from a considerable degree of neglect in the Hindi literary world testified by the fact that she was invited neither to any of three literary festivals held in Lucknow, where she lives, last year nor to the literary festivals held in other Indian cities in spite of the recent publication of her novel, whose importance cannot be overemphasized.

The award function took place at the headquarters of the SSRE in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, India. A memento was presented to Sheela Rohekar by the President of SSRE, Advocate Shuma Talukdar.

A panel on the “Portrayal of Religious Minorities in Hindi Fiction” was also organized for the occasion, in which several eminent personalities of Hindi literature took part. While Dr. Tukaram Varma, retired lecturer of Lucknow Christian College spoke on the portrayal of Christians in Hindi novels and short stories, Hindi poet and Buddhist intellectual Dr. Danda Lakhnavi drew attention to the portrayal of Buddhists in Hindi fiction.

In my capacity as SSRE’s secretary and an Assistant Professor of Indo-Judaic Studies at Gautam Buddha University, I gave an overview of the literature produced by Jews in Hindi and also spoke on their portrayal in Hindi and Urdu fiction. Eminent Urdu poet and writer Anwar Nadeem emphasized the importance of the depiction of religious minorities in fiction.

The panel discussion was followed by a poetry recitation in which eminent Hindi poet Devki Nandan ‘Shant’ recited his poems.

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3 Responses to “Indian Jewish novelist honored in Lucknow”

  1. Joan Roland says:

    I’m so glad you arranged this, Navras; it’s important. Any chance of that novel being translated into English? In what period is it set?

    Kol ha Kavod on all you do! Congratulations.

    Joan

  2. Thanks a lot for your warm congratulatory note, Professor Roland! Although the novel traces only seven years, from 2003 to 2010, of its protagonist Miss Samuel, who turns 70 by the end, it looks back at the last six generations of a Bene Israel family, through Miss Samuel, as she reminisces about her family history.

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