Harkirat Kaur Chahal of Chilliwack was one of the two finalists of the Dhahan Prize for Best Punjabi Fiction in the World for her novel Aadam Grehan (Humanity’s Eclipse). (Submitted)

Chilliwack author wins $10k and global recognition for Punjabi novel on gender identification

Harkirat Kaur Chahal was one of two finalists in the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature

A Chilliwack author has been recognized on a global level for excellence in Punjabi literature.

Harkirat Kaur Chahal of Chilliwack was one of two finalists in the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature for her novel Aadam-Grehan (Humanity’s Eclipse) which is about gender identification.

She was also the first woman to win the award, and the only Canadian among this year’s three winners.

The Dhahan Prize was established in Vancouver and is named after Canadian Punjabi businessman, Barj Singh Dhahan. It promotes Punjabi literature on a global scale by awarding $25,000 annually to the best book of fiction published in either Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi scripts, along with two additional finalist prizes of $10,000.

“These Dhahan Prize winning books touch upon the themes of memory, loss, pain, trauma from abuse and violence, and the long journey of hope and healing,” Barj Singh Dhahan said.

Chahal was one of the two finalists who was awarded $10,000, along with fellow finalist Zubair Ahmad of Pakistan. The winner of the best book was Kesra Ram of India, who won the $25,000.

“Dhahan Prize is thrilled to be making history in awarding for the first time a female author Ms. Harkirat Kaur Chahal for her ground-breaking novel Aadam-Grehan,” Dhahan said. “This novel is a gripping account of human longing for intimacy, belonging and acceptance by those who are marginalized and oppressed due to their ambiguous gender identification.”

The Dhahan Prize is the largest literary award in South Asia’s indigenous languages celebrating the rich history of the Punjabi literature. The prize aims to inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world, and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale. It has been established by the Canada India Education Society in partnership with the Department of Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts at University of British Columbia, and is funded by Barj and Rita Dhahan, and family and friends.

About the book Aadam-Grehan by Harkirat Kaur Chahal:

Aadam-Grehan (Humanity’s Eclipse) is a daring and heart-wrenching account of the despair and longings of Meera, an intersex individual and Chirag, a child she raises as her own in a Khusra community. Khusras, ‘the third gender’ in India and Pakistan, are marginalized and often abused people who are hermaphrodites, transgender, intersex individuals, transvestites and eunuchs.

The story starts with a Muslim family of Salman and her husband Nazamuddin and their three sons and a daughter in the village of Aligarh in the District of Malerkotla, Indian Punjab. Their fifth child is born at home. “Neither boy nor girl” sadly says the wizened mid-wife Nand Kaur to Nazamuddin. A devastating news for the parents. Nazamuddin freezes in shock, fear, and shame. But the parents embrace the child as a gift from Allah and keep Ameeran’s secret hidden.

As she grows older her brothers notice that she is different. Ameeran is forced to leave home and joins a colony of Khusras. Her name is changed to Meera. Soon the maternity ward of a local hospital calls and she goes to receive an intersex baby whom she names Chirag. She raises him with love and tenderness and hopes of a bright future. Chirag goes to school and college where he is repeatedly abused, raped, and catches Aids. He dies having just completed a law degree. Meera mourns his death in an ecstatic Sufi whirling dance and song ritual. And she dies, finally finding freedom.

Chahal holds a B. Sc. from Agriculture University, Ludhiana and B. Ed. From the College of Agriculture. She and her family have lived in Canada since 2005.

RELATED: Seabird Island author wins $50K literature award

RELATED: Chilliwack author shortlisted for historical writing award


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on?
Email: jenna.hauck@theprogress.com
Twitter: @PhotoJennalism

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. taxpayers could be on the hook for upwards of $27 million in total payouts for MLA pensions. (file)
Pensions are adding up for defeated, retiring MLAs: Taxpayers’ group

Martin and Throness would get $28,000 per year, lifetime pensions estimated ~$700K

Halloween enhanced image of a pumpkin patch to get you going. (Ryan Dyck Photography)
Halloween displays around Chilliwack are always a treat

Here is a list of addresses where some of the more creative Halloween displays can be viewed

Google Maps screenshot taken at 7:56 a.m., Oct. 29.
TRAFFIC: Westbound Highway 1 crash between Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Left lane is blocked, traffic backed up to No. 3 Road

A woman holds a packet of contraceptive pills. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Chilliwack women’s organization among those lobbying for free contraception

Ann Davis Society says while it’s a women’s issue, all of society would benefit from program

Jeremy Bull, budtender at Dutch Bros. Buds outside the new store on Vedder Road in Chilliwack. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
Cannabis retail shops in Chilliwack roll through the pandemic

Opening Chilliwack cannabis store in pandemic was ‘interesting’ says a licensed store manager

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Most Read