Meet Sharda Sahwney, the national award winning writer from the city whose exemplary work in Hindi and Punjabi literature has established her as a name to reckon with.
Born in Gurdaspur, Punjab, Sharda went through a lot of up’s and down’s in her life to become what she is today- a name well known among the literature fraternity of the state. Not allowed to continue her education after Metric, life turned for good when she was married at the age of barely 17 years.
“When it looked all dark for me, my husband came as the guardian angel in my life. Realizing my desire for further education, he- a teacher himself- supported me in resuming the education and few years later, I was a graduate, solely on the basis of self education, without joining any school or college,” Sharda shares.
The passion of writing was also revived during this period of time and Sharda was getting published in a number of prestigious magazines and publication all around the country. It was during this time that Sharda was selected for the job of a teacher in Kendraliya Vidyalaya, from where she retired as the officiating principle, 29 years later.
Regularly getting published for close to three decades, Sharda took to active writing only after her retirement from Kendraliya Vidyalaya Akhnoor. Little did she know of what was waiting for her at the other end of the tunnel.
Sharda’s first book came in the year 2009. A collection of 43 poems, ‘Pag Dwani’ had some of the freshest poems in their expression and meaning, in Hindi, as acclaimed by the language aficionados within and out of the state. Some of her poems, especially “Main Ek Rahasya Hoon”, “Kaisi Adbhut Kahani Hai Yeh”, “Sammohan Ke Jaal”, “Raag aur Viraag”, “Tum Aaoge Nange Paon”and “Yeh Jeevan”, were appreciated by the critics in different magazines and newspapers.
“The appreciation I garnered with ‘Pag Dwani’ proved very pivotal for the poetess in me. Moved and encouraged, I decided to come up with another book, only in a different language, this time,” Sharda says. She indeed came with her second book in Punjabi a couple of years later.
Released in 2011, ‘Kachhiyan Kandhan Pakke Rang’ only consolidated Sharda’s reputation as a multifaceted poetess with a fresh take on the emotional aspects of human life. Containing 50 poems in Punjabi, the book proved to be a bestseller, evoking a very warm response among the readers and critics, alike.
Sharda’s best, however, came in the year 2014 when she took back again to Hindi, in a differet genre. A collection of 13 short stories, ‘Sangatrash’ wrote another success story for Sharda proving the shift from poems to stories a right move, bagging the National award for it, too.
Sharda tells more about the book, “I have expressed freely and whole-heartedly through the 13 stories of the Sangatrash. In ‘Jeevan Ka Satya’, I have said that everyone among is running in the maze of life which has no escape without even thinking where is it that we want to go. There is no halt, no peace and no achievement but many are forced to run because of the necessities while many other because of the greed; ‘Jubaida’ explains how life unfolds for the protagonist when she finally gets to realize the different and real is her inner self than the person she was pretending to be in the world outside; ‘Doctor Verma’ emphasizes how the life is nothing but a stage play, how what is seen on this side of the stage is already planned and written from the other side of the wall, how God puts us all into the life and ask us to do what he has tasked us to perform in this world and we all have to condition ourselves in that particular way. Similarly other stories in the book tell more about the life and its various aspects.”
Besides showers of appreciations and encouragement by the readers, Sharda’s excellent work has also been recognized by the various literary organizations. Among other honours, Sharda was felicitated with Hinditar Bhashi Hindi Lekhak Award by Central Hindi Directorate, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India for the year 2015. The award carried the cash prize of Rupees One Lakh.
Besides writing, Sharda Sawhney has remained associated with All India Radio for a long time now and is considered one of the best orators and writers in the radio fraternity. “Radio’s role in my life is far greater than it might appear on the surface. Many a times, when I have been disappointed and down in life, the institution has resurrected me at many time,” she tells.
What is the greatest compliment Sharda has received for her poems so far? “Before I received the award for Sangtrash, many a times, people have asked me of the reason I did not receive an award after writing so much when people younger than me have bagged one. I used to tell them that writing for award was never my priority so it really didn’t matter much to me. Sometimes, when I used to ask myself the same question, I was told by my soul that the writer in me is satiated not by any award or honour, but by those phone calls I receive, majorly from people unknown to me, who tell me how my writing has connected so well with them; by the letters I receive which tell me that what I wrote was so similar to their stories; by those mentions which I receive at almost every gathering of intellectuals of the genre,” she answers.
So is Sharda an avid reader also? “Reading has been a habit inculcated in me right from my childhood and good habits rarely go. I spend most of my time at home either writing or reading anything I lay my hands on. I do read books across genres and languages. For me, it is more of a meditation than mere reading words. The books are the best companion one can have, it is said and I cannot stress enough on its validity,” Sharda answers adding that there is no particular book or author that is her favourite.
We asked Sharda of the easiest and the most difficult thing she finds about writing and weren’t disappointed with the response that came. “Easiest thing about writing for me is being the one with the pen and paper. As a writer, once you feel or see something around you, you just cannot hold it off for long. The urge to let it out any way is strong enough to not let you relax till you pick the pen and write it all out on the paper. That makes things very easy. What is difficult, though, is that sometimes your feelings and the words expressing them have less to do with readers in general as these concerns you more. It is then that you need to choose the appropriate words and write in correct context to make it an extension for everyone to read,” she easily explains such complex things.
Sharda is currently working on two books expected to be out very soon. “I have two books ready to be released in a short span of time. One of them is a collection of poems in Punjabi and would be named Saavan where as the other one would be the collection of short stories namely Alakh,” she shares.