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Santhali writer wins a biggie

He can well be called the Gerald Durrell of Santhali.
Pitambar Hansda (48) has been chosen as the recipient of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Bal Sahitya Puraskar for his debut collection of 'beastly tales' ' short stories featuring animals for children ' written in Santhali.
The 65-page work Jib Jiyali Kowak Gidra Kahni takes an imaginative look at animals such as the elephant, tiger, rabbit and so on. What makes it different is the rare empathy he shows for each. The language is lucid and engaging for children to enjoy.
The Bal Sahitya Puraskar comprises Rs 50,000, a memento and a certificate. Hansda will receive the award on November 14, Children's Day, in New Delhi.
This sudden limelight has left him pleasantly surprised. "I didn't expect it for my first Santhali book," he confessed.
The soft-spoken tribal writer, who graduated in Santhali honours from Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial College, Karandih, works in Tata Steel and stays in ECC Flat in Kadma. It is a regular life, but his passion for Santhali makes it extraordinary.
He wrote Jib Jiyali Kowak Gidra Kahni in 2010 and printed 500 copies for sale.
When he came to know that the Sahitya Akademi jury included his book in their shortlist and finally chose it, it gave him a feeling of accomplishment. "I want Santhali children to read a book in their language," he said about why he started his writing career with a children's book.
Dishom Jaher, a Karandih-based tribal outfit, also honoured the book recently.
These have spurred his creative ink into penning a second book, but this has the mature subject of inter-caste marriages.
"I have called my second book Bale Maha. It is about inter-caste marriages and is in the press. It will be published shortly," he said.
How did he develop an interest in writing?
"I did my schooling at Rairangpur, Odisha, where I developed an interest in the short story form. The Adivasi Socio and Cultural Association used to be quite active and my elder brother Sankho Hansda happened to be its general secretary. I used to regularly drop in at its office, a favourite haunt of many tribal writers, including Pandit Raghunath Murmu. I used to listen to them with rapt attention," Hansda recalled.
Once his novel is over, he will go back to writing short stories for children, he said.
"Writing for a young audience takes a lot of skill, patience and imagination. It's a challenge to interest young minds. And I love taking up the challenge," smiled the writer.

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