The Award

The awards for Marathi Literature had already been announced by the Academy.

Shalinitai herself and many other lovers of Marathi literature believed that the award for the best novel will go to her novel “KADAMBARI.” As a matter of fact, it was only yesterday that her childhood friend Avantika had phoned , saying:”The awards may be announced to-morrow but I am certain that only your novel will win the award…..and I will not leave you without taking a party.”

Shalini had ofcourse liked what Avantika had said, but out of courtesy and to be polite, had said:”Now don’t be too happy, too soon. It all depends upon the judges.
Shalini Wagle’s name was taken with great respect in Marathi literary circles.

She had contributed immensely to Marathi literature…..be it prose,poetry,drama or novels.She had a grip over everything and by now, had already received some fifteen awards…big and small.

However, even at this ripe age of seventy years, she was pining for this award.

She was thinking to herself:”People will only say that Shalini did not get the higest award.”

Early in the morning, Vinayakrao phoned,:”What am I hearing, Shalinitai, this year’s award has not gone to your novel Kadambari, but instead to that “B” grade novel by Pratap Chhote?! Iam very disappointed to learn this.”

Clearing her choked throat, Shalini said:”No problem Vinayakrao, it all happens, you know the politics being played behind these awards. The more influential the person, the greater his ability!” saying that she gave a fake laugh and hung up.

Whenever the topic came up for discussion, she only said,:” It is immaterial whether I get the award or not, I am happy to get the love of my readers”, though she very well knew in her own heart how she was longing for the award!

She was very sad the entire day,not finding any happiness anywhere.

At night, when she was about to retire, the phone rang. Her son and daughter-in-law were calling from America. As usual, her son was pretty formal and after some inconsequential talk, gave the line to his wife. She sounded very happy and enthusiastic:” Ma, many congratulations. Phoned specifically to inform you that as a writer, you are famous not only in India but also in U.S.A. To-day in the get together of the Marathi community, the Chief Guest admired your novel “Kadambari” so much that….oh, we are so proud of you, Ma.”

Shalinitai felt a bit relieved. Now she would be able to sleep.

From next day she started shaking off the negativity from her mind and making preparations for the big conference in Raigadh coming up in a fortnight, where she was invited to be the chief speaker. The subject of the talk was :”The essence of my life . My literature,”

.She picked up her diary and started making notes for her speech.

At the site of the conference, huge life size cut outs of hers, in different poses,welcoming her, were put up. She was overcome with emotion seeing all this. She was led to the dais with full honors.

Just as she stepped on it, the entire gathering stood up and applauded her! When she started to deliver her speech, the audience felt that Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge and Learning had come and was sitting on her tongue!!

In her speech ,she said:”Who am I? But an ordinary woman named Shalini. Who made me eligible for all this love and affection? It is all because of Mother Goddess who made me pick up a pen and inspired me to write. I lay down everything at her feet. I will consider it my good fortune if my pen has brought happiness, even for a moment, in someone’s life.”

As soon as she got down from the dais, the organizer introduced her to an old couple.

“This couple has come especially to meet you from a village that is eighty kilometres away from here”.

The husband, suffering from polio, was on a walker, and the wife, a hunchback, was walking with great difficulty with the help of a specially made walking stick!

Seeing them, Shalinitai became speechless. Both of them came near and with moist eyes bowed to

her. The husband said,:” We just wanted to meet you once during our lifetime and to-day our wish has been fulfilled! My name is Nikhil and this is my wife Mona. Both of us have read your entire literature ….not only just read but also tried to imbibe it in real life. We have considered the characters created by you as our ‘IDEALS'”, saying that, Mona took out a beautiful shawl from her bag and wrapping it around Shalinitai’s shoulders,said:” We had gone to Manali on our honeymoon, from where Nikhil had purchased this for his mother, but before we could present it to her, she left this world. To-day, we both thought of presenting it to this mother…..YOU. Please accept.”

Shalinitai, who had a huge storehouse of words, was totally speechless to-day, not a single word coming to her rescue! Yes, tears did help! While blessing Mona and Nikhil with tearful eyes, she was asking herself: Now do you still want any other award!?”

BY ASHA VIRENDRA
ORIGINAL STORY IN MARATHI BY

VRUSHALI ATHALYE

,