M.M. Ahmed from Manipur gets Sahitya Akademi's Translation Prize 2021
- on 30th September 2022 in Trissur, Kerala -

Dr. Syed Ahmed *

 M.M. Ahmed from Manipur gets Sahitya Akademi's Translation Prize 2021 on 30th September 2022
M.M. Ahmed from Manipur gets Sahitya Akademi's Translation Prize 2021 on 30th September 2022

India's premier literary institution, Sahitya Akademi, presented the Translation Prize 2021 to M.M. Ahmed on 30th September 2022 at the Presentation of Translation Prize 2021: Translator's Meet and Abhivyakti held at K.T. Mohammed Samaraka Theatre, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, in Trissur, Kerala. The function was organised by Sahitya Akademi from 30th September to 2nd October 2022.

Ahmed was selected for the prestigious award of Sahitya Akademi for his translation of the popular Urdu novel, Umrao Jaan Ada, into Manipuri. He is the first Manipuri Muslim to receive the award.

A total of 24 translators in different languages were conferred the Translation Prize 2021 at the function, which was graced by President, Sahitya Akademi, Chandrashekhar Kambar, Vice President, Sahitya Akademi, Madhav Kaushik, Secretary, Sahitya Akademi, K. Sreenivasarao and Eminent English Writer and Translator, Ranjit Hoskote (as Chief Guest). The prize carries an amount of Rs. 50,000 and a copper plaque.

Translation Prize Winners 2021

Pori Hiloidari (Assamese)
Neeta Sen Samarth (Bengali)
Indira Boro (Bodo)
Neelam Sarin (Dogri)
Shanta Gokhale (English)
Sonal Parikh (Gujarati)
Dharanendra Kurkuri (Hindi)
Guruling Kapse (Kannada)
Piarey Hatash (Kashmiri)
Geetha Shenoy (Konkani)
(Late) Shikha Goyal (Maithili)
Sunil Naliyath (Malayalam)
M.M. Ahmed (Manipuri)
(Late) Kumar Nawathe (Marathi)
Sanjib Upadhyaya (Nepali)
Gourahari Das (Odia)
Bhajanbir Singh (Punjabi)
Sanjay Purohit (Rajasthani)
R. Ganesh and Shashi Kiran B.N. (Sanskrit)
Damayanti Beshra (Santali)
Meena Gope Rupchandani (Sindhi)
Maalan (V. Narayanan) (Tamil)
Kakarla Sajaya (Telugu)
Arjumand Ara (Urdu)

The books were selected for the Translation Prize 2021 during a meeting of the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi held at Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi, recently under the chairmanship of Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar. The books were short-listed on the basis of recommendations made by the Selection Committees of three members each in the languages concerned in accordance with the rules and procedure laid down for the purpose.

Umrao Jaan Ada was originally written in Urdu by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa (1857-1931), a native of Lucknow. The novel was first published in 1899 by Gulab Munshi & Sons Press, Lucknow. It is one of the early modern novels published in India.

The novel is also one of the 13 Urdu books which have been translated as part of the 'UNESCO collection of Representative Works.' He also published several other works, which include a poetry adaptation of Laila-Majnu, Afshai Raz, Zat-e-Shareef, Shareef Zada, Akhtari Begum, etc.

It is a tragic novel set in the 19th century British India. It narrates the story of Amiran, a girl, who is abducted from her family in Faizabad in 1840 and sold to Khanum Jaan, the caretaker of a brothel in Lucknow, by a man named Dilawar Khan, who had served jail terms after Amiran's father testified against him. The caretaker trained Amiran to be a courtesan. She became popular by the name of Umrao Jaan.

She developed relationship with a man from a rich family, Nawab Sultan. However, the Nawab's father disapproved of the relation. The helpless Nawab Sultan left her. Thereafter, Umrao Jaan falls in love with a bandit chieftain, Faiz Ali. Ali was shortly killed by police. Around the time, British attacked Lucknow. She fled from the city and finally returns home. However, her brother disowns her as she is a courtesan. She returns to Lucknow only to find the brothel plundered and abandoned.

The novel is based on realism. The author tries to present a glimpse of the socio-cultural life of the 19th century Lucknow, a major cultural centre of the time. It focuses on the social customs and traditions, such as music, dance, poetry (mushaira), courtesan culture, the life of Muslims and the nobilities (nawabs).

Over the decades, the novel has been translated into several languages. It is translated into Bengali by Anwar Hossain Monju, into Kannada by Santarasa, into Marathi by Anil Kinikar, and into English by Khuswant Singh and M.A. Husaini, to name a few.

Further, the novel has also been popularised by Bollywood films, particularly Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jann (1981) with Rekha playing the title role, and J.P. Dutta's Umrao Jaan (2006) with Aishwarya Rai essaying the title role. It has also been adapted into theatrical plays over the decades.

M.M. Ahmed's translation of the novel is well-received by the passionate readers of Manipuri literature. He was already conferred the Ahanba Ningthoujam Ningthemjao Ningsing Khorirol Mana in 2021 by Loktak Khorjei Lup, Bishnupur, for the translation.

Ahmed was born on August 21, 1953 to Muhamuddin and Kusum Bibi, a Manipuri Muslim family, in Singorband in Cachar District of Assam. He acquired his education up to XI standard at Jiribam Higher Secondary School, Jiribam.

He came to Imphal for higher studies. He was admitted in D.M. College, Imphal, in 1971 and got his graduation degree in Arts (Geography and Political Science) in 1974. He then studied LLB at LMS Law College, Imphal.

After getting his Law degree in 1979, Ahmed registered himself to the Bar Council of Assam-Manipur in 1980 and since then he has been working as an Advocate. In 1984, he joined the Election Department, Government of Manipur, as Assistant Election Officer (on ad-hoc basis). He worked for just one and half year.

Ahmed developed interest in literature from an early age. He was introduced to the Manipuri literature of Khwairakpam Chaoba Singh, Hijam Anganghal Singh, Dr. Lamabam Kamal Singh, Ashangbam Minaketan Singh, Arambam Dorendrajit Singh, Elangbam Nilakanta Singh, Hijam Guno Singh, Gitchandra Tongba, to name a few, in his college days.

From 1992, he was associated with the literary and cultural movement initiated among the Muslims by Pukhrimayum Kayamuddin and Abdur Rahman. He joined Islamic Cultural and Research Association (ICRA), a body formed under the initiative of Kayamuddin and Rahman in 1988 to promote Islamic education, research and culture.

It has published several Islamic literature, organized seminars and exhibitions, and recognized and felicitated Muslims who have excelled in literary and cultural fields over the years. He has been actively involved in the activities take up by the Association.

Ahmed developed keen interest in writing from a young age. Over the years, he has published several books on various topics that include socio-cultural studies of Muslims in Manipur, Islam and Islamic law, biographies, short stories, and translations.

His published works are:
Muhammadki Punsi Wari (1983),
Quran Quiz (1996),
Sirah Quiz (1996),
Kulfa-e-Rasidin (1999),
Wakf Law amasung Wakf Chatnarakpa (2002),
Hazrat Muhammad (2004),
Sahityagi Ichelda Manipuri Muslim, Manipuri Muslimgi Chatnabi amasung Harao-Kumhei (2011),
Pangalgi Khunung Esei neina wareng (2013),
Pangal Saknairabasing (2016),
Umrao Jaan Ada (2018),
Pangal Canuralaktagi, Yekharaba Maee (2021) and
Kayamuddin amasung magi Sahitya (2022).

He had edited Pambei (Issue No.8-11 of February 2013), a journal publish by Writer's Union, Imphal. He also published several essays in journals, and presented papers in seminars and conferences.

Besides ICRA, Ahmed has been associated with several literary and non-literary organizations.

He worked as the General Council Member of Manipur State Kala Akademi for 2 terms (2006 to 2009) and (2009 to 2012), served as Member of Wakf Board, Manipur (2009 to 2014), worked as Joint Secretary of Manipur Sahitya Parishad, Imphal, for 3 terms (2006 to 2015), still associated as Life Member, served as General Secretary of Writers' Union, Manipur (2003 to 2009), presently working as Vice-President of the Union, Executive Member of the Managing Committee of Sadar Bazar Jame Masjid (established in 1896), Imphal, and also Member of All Manipur Bar Association and Bar Council of Manipur. Ahmed lives with his wife and two daughters in Jiribam.

It may be mentioned that two translators from Manipur received Sahitya Akademi's Translation Prize 2020. H. Shyamsunder Singh received the prize for the translation of R.K. Narayan's The Vendor of Sweets, into Manipuri, entitled Athum-Ahao Yonba Nupa, while Bhawani Adhikari, a Manipuri Gorka, received the prize for his book, Euta Pistol Euta Kunda Puspa, which is a Nepali translation of Elangbam Dinamani's Manipuri short story collection, entitled Pistol Ama Kunda Lei Ama.

* Dr. Syed Ahmed wrote this article for
The writer is Assistant Professor at D.M. College of Arts, Imphal
The writer can be contacted at syed_ahmed4(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 05 October 2022.

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