Fighting through words to promote Santali

Joba Murmu  

She writes in a language that had no script till the 19th Century, and all the shared knowledge was transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation.

“You can imagine my joy for receiving a Bal Sahitya award for my writings in Santali written in Ol Chiki script,” says an excited Joba Murmu of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

The Santali writer was in city to receive Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2017, bestowed on her for her collection of short stories Olon Baha. Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s in Hindi and Santali literature, Ms. Murmu took to teaching and has five published works to her credit. She also writes scripts for feature films and is recipient of two other awards in the past.

“I know Bengali, English and Hindi, but I chose Santali primarily to popularise the language. I want to remain connected to the soil of my land through my writings,” says the 49-year-old author, who also dabbles in translation. She has translated the works of two iconic writers, Munshi Premchand (compilation of 21 best stories of Premchand) and inspiring poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali.

Her prize-winning Olon Baha is a collection of 13 Santali short stories for children packed with fantasies, morals drawn from everyday life. Through deft use of language, deployment of images and metaphors easily relatable by children and aesthetically appealing language, her stories drive home several truths and facts which every child should know at an early age.

Though some stories heavily localised, philosophical imports and concluding morals lend a universal appeal to the stories. Her father being a poet himself and many others in the family taking to the pen, writing came naturally to Ms. Murmu.

Her love of language reflects in everything she does. “Both my children went to English medium schools, but we all speak only in Santali at home, eat our traditional dishes, and wear only traditional clothes,” she says.

Finding a publisher for a work in Santali language, she says, is a major challenge. “There is a severe dearth of people who would actually buy a book in Santali language and read. I am committed to the cause of promoting my language and want more women to follow suit,” she says.

The writer talks about how women are actively involved in every sphere of life, and says there is no reason why they should keep away from writing.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 5:36:11 AM |

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