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Varsha Adalja

Gujarati Author
Hailing from Gujarat, her father Gunvantrai Acharya was a freedom fighter, a prolific writer, a journalist, an  activist,  an  Editor  of a  newspaper  which fought  against  British  Raj.  The  paper  raised  a  voice against  injustice  and  atrocities  in  society ,personally  investing  the  news,  going  from  village  to  village sometimes  at  the  risk  of  his  life.    Thus  in  1928  he  had  unknowingly  started  the  ‘School  of   investigating journalism’. He  was  the  first  feminist  writer,  writing  the  stories  of  injustice  meted  out  to  women.   He  was the  head  of  story dep. of  ‘Ranjit Movitone ‘ and  many  films  were  made  based on  his  stories .He  was Associated  with  Ipta  theater, founded  two  drama  institutions.   He had more than 200 hundred books to his credits. He  is  fondly  remembered  as  ‘The  son  of   sea’  .He  researched  and  wrote  passionately  about  the people ,   traders  and  sailors  who  bravely  fought  the  battles  on  sea  against  mighty  nations  who  were engaged  in  slave trade.  His  amazing  knowledge  of  language, traditions,  folklore  of  sailors, His  fiery  language, descriptions of  ferocious  sea storms  has  made  him  immensely  popular  and  legendary  writer .His       novels still  go  into  new  editions and  are  textbooks  in  university.   Born in 1900 , his centenary  was  celebrated  by British  Gujarati  Sahitya  Akademi  in  the  year  2000  in  London. Varsha  her  writer sister  Ila  were  the  special guests at  the  “Diaspora  literature’ conference dedicated  to  the  memory. That was the proudest moment of her life  Experience and Exposure     She grew up in the atmosphere of literature and theater.  Since  childhood  she participated  in  plays .At  the  tender  age of  ten she  was  doing  adult  roles as  there were  few  girls  in  1950  who came  out , or  were  allowed  to  come  out  to do  activities . She  played  leading roles  in  many  classic  plays like Ibsen’s “Dolls  house’, Tennessee Williams’ Glass Manejari’ ‘Dial M for Murder’ ‘Mrachhakatikam’ and  other  classic plays. She won coveted award critical acclaim and rave reviews.   She did her B.A. (Languages) and M. A.(Sociology) from Mum. Uni. worked as an announcer All India Radio. She has participated as a Radio artist, wrote innumerable Radio plays, Talks.   She has written Full length plays and her novels have been adapted as Stage plays which have been staged  in India and abroad.   She won Sahitya Academy award for her novel ‘Anasar’ (An indication), a moving story of leprosy patients, was staged in London and read in episodes on All Indio Radio to reach out to reach to masses.   Her other novel ‘Bandivan’ (A prisoner) was adapted as a play and was considered a first ever presentation     of Theater of cruelty in Gujarati.  The  novel  and  play came  just  after  emergency in India and hailed  as the  document  of  corrupt prison system  in  India.   She  is elected  member  of  central  committee and on  Executive  board  of  Gujarati Sahitya  Parishad  since last  35  years.   President of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad 2012- 2013 Elected Vice-president of G S.Parishad. 2006-2009 Elected Vice-President of G. S. Parishad 2002- 2006 Elected on Guj.Advisory Board of Sahitya Academy-Delhi 2003-2007. Elected member of Guj. Advisory Board of Sahitya Academy 2008-2008-2012 Elected  member of council of Sahitya Academy 2008-2012.   She  has  worked as  an  Editor of  ‘Sudha’-Womens’s Weekly of  Janmbhoomi  group of  newspapers of  Mum. She was Editor of ‘Femina’ (Gujarati) Women’s’ weekly   of   Times group.   A  distinguished  journalist  writing  freelance  for newspapers  and  magazines. Selected  works from  her  writings  have been  recorded  in  her voice by  U. S. Library of  Congress for  “Archives  of  World Literature on  Tape ‘for Bicentennial  Recording  Project in  December 2000 and   has been  preserved  in  Library  of  Washington D. C.   Her many novels have been recorded for ‘Talking Books’ in U.k.   The first T.v serial produced by Mum. Doordarshan was way back in 1972 was based on her prize winning novel ‘Mare pan ek ghar hoi’ (I dream of my own home).   Again the same novel was made in to anther serial, a teleplay and adapted for Gujarati film, for which she received ‘Best original story’prize from Gujarat Govt.   Wrote other serials Screenplays, dialogues based on her novels and other classic novels of Guj. Literature.         Her serial ‘Aparajita on ETV Guj. Channel won the best serial award from Transmedia.Her another serial ‘Sami sanjana samana’ on Zee T.V Gujarati won the best serial award from Transmedia.   She was nominated as a delegate by Sahitya Academy to the International Book fair in London in April 2009.   Writings   She has about 50 books to her credit, Novels, short-story collections, one-two act plays, essays, travelogues, edited compilations.   She started her writing carrier in 1966 as a fashion and beauty columnist and soon started writing short stories Wrote first novel a murder mystery which was soon published. The second novel ‘Timirna padachhaya’ (The shadows of darkness) was made in to a Gujarati film and a play which ran in too many shows in India and abroad. Third novel ‘Mare pan ek ghar hoi’ won the Best novel of the year prize from Gujarati Sahitya Parishad was made in to a serial in 1972.     She started writing regularly for Radio, T.V., and Newspapers and soon established herself as a leading Gujarati writer.      Varsha has written many issue based novels ,stringing together  real characters ,incidents and weaving imaginatively in to an interesting  human story.     She extensively researches, read reference materials. Visits locations, interviews people concerned. She wrote first such novel on Vietnam War in 1970 “Aatash” (Fire”) depicting the plight of a common man and how the war disintegrates society when power hungry giant nations collide. Since ancient times the  Strategies for war have been developed never for peace.It is truer today.The novel won Gujarat Sahitya Academy award and Soviet land Nehru award.   Other novel “Bandivan” (A prisoner) is a glimpse of what actually goes on behind the high walls and dark cells of Jails. It depicts the horrible and inhuman treatment of prisoners and under trials, the nexuses between politicians and criminals with the background of cast ridden Bihar. The truth is embellished with creative imagination. It is an eye opening chilling picture of prison system of India and political scene of  Nation.   The novel was written in 1986 after the horrors of emergency, and the blinding of prisoners of Bhagalpur that shook the Nation. Even today the novel is relevant because nothing has changed not only that the political and social scene has worsened .She visited jails of  Mum, of the   ‘Ganth chhutyani vela’ (Time to untie the knots within) is the plight of Aadivasis of Madhyapradesh-Gujarat border, their miserable lives and exploitation and a lone man’s struggle to bring little sunshine in their lives.   She stayed at ashram in Zabua district. Novel is considerd a major work in Gujarati literature and won Bhagini NIvedita award.     ‘Khari padelo tahuko’ (A bird that could not sing) is the story of the tender relationship of a mentally challenged child and her mother.   She worked with handicapped children the hospital to understand their problems and psyche of the mothers .It is the Heartwarming   Story of hope and despair.  ‘Aansar’ (An indication) is a landmark novel in Gujarati literature that portrays the lives of leprosy patients and deals with theme of leprosy.         The novel three prestigious awards, Sahitya Academy award, Bharatiya Bhasha parishad –Sabarmati puraskar, kolkatta and Gujarat Vidyasabha sanman.         It is the heart wrenching story of mother Rupa. When a spot occurs on the skin she is thrown out of the house by the loving husband and doting mother-in-law. Then her torturous journey begins through hellhole huts. Over crowded charity hospitals and ultimately Ashram.        Varsha stayed at the Ashram with leprosy patients, made one hour documentary film for Ahmadabad Doordarshan. The novel has been translated in to Marathi and Rajasthani languages and well received. A full length play, based on the novel was staged in London. The novel has gone in to many editions.      Through her fiction she has explored various aspects of Women’s identity and of changing social values and family structure. She foregrounds issue that a woman faces in day to day life in a subtle way gently changing the way readers look at common situations to make them more aware of human rights and wrongs.       She believes that Feminist writing is not about only women –centric writings but it is about looking at world from a women’s perspective no matter which subject one is dealing with.      Her one act play ‘Mandodari’looks at the war from a sensitive Woman’s angle.Mandodari meets Sita in Ashokvatika and pleads to her that, surrender yourself to my husband King Ravan,together we can stop this bloody warfare, save thousands of innocent people and build a strong Nation. Great dreams demand great sacrifices.      The play won two prizes as the play of the year, from Gujarati Sahitya Academy and Gujarati Sahitya Perishad.  Her story “Menopause” explores the Emotional and physical aspects of a woman’s body. Her novel “Shag Re sankoru” (I light my own candle), she depicts the plight of a housewife who is deprived of sex from her husband who is a fanatic about religion and its external rituals. After years of loneliness and a listless life, she with help of grown up daughters wants to be free from shekels of marriage.       In’Trijo kinaro”(A third bank of a river),a woman is in search of her own home away from the”Home”given to her by her father by birth and her husband by marriage.       Her books have been textbooks in universities and many students have prepared ph.D.thesis on her works.        Her many short stories have been included in anthology volumes of “Best short stories collections “of the year.   . In 2005 she was bestowed with the most prestigious honor in Gjarat, Ranjitram gold medal for her literary contribution to Gujarati Literature. She was awarded Sahitya gaurav Puraskar-Lifetime achievement Award for excellence from Guj Govt.-Gujarati Sahitya Academy. In 2009-10 She was rewarded Jivan Gaurav Puraskar –Lifetime achievement Award from Maharashtra Gujarati Sahitya Academy.