Sobti in 2011
18 February 1925|
Gujrat Punjab, British India
|Occupation||Fiction writer, essayist|
Krishna Sobti (Hindi: कृष्णा सोबती; born 18 February 1925) is a Hindi fiction writer and essayist, who won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980 for her novel Zindaginama and in 1996, was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, the highest award of the Akademi. In 2017, she received the Jnanpith Award for her contribution to Indian literature.
Sobti is best known for her 1966 novel Mitro Marajani, an unapologetic portrayal of a married woman's sexuality. She was also the recipient of the first Katha Chudamani Award, in 1999, for Lifetime Literary Achievement, apart from winning the Shiromani Award in 1981, Hindi Academy Award in 1982, Shalaka Award of the Hindi Academy Delhi and in 2008, her novel Samay Sargam was selected for Vyas Samman, instituted by the K. K. Birla Foundation.
Considered the grande dame of Hindi literature, Krishna Sobti was born in Gujrat, Punjab, now in Pakistan; she also writes under the name Hashmat and has published Hum Hashmat, a compilation of pen portraits of writers and friends. Her other novels are Daar Se Bichchuri, Surajmukhi Andhere Ke, Yaaron Ke Yaar, Zindaginama. Some of her well-known short stories are Nafisa, Sikka Badal gaya, Badalom ke ghere. Sobti Eka Sohabata includes her major selected works. A number of her works are now available in English and Urdu.
In 2005, Dil-o-Danish, translated into The Heart Has Its Reasons in English by Reema Anand and Meenakshi Swami of Katha Books, won the Crossword Award in the Indian Language Fiction Translation category.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Writing
- 3 Works
- 4 Honours and awards
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 Works online
- 8 External links
Sobti was born in Gujrat, Pakistan, and was educated in India, in Delhi and Shimla. She attended school along with her three siblings, and her family worked for the colonial British government. She initially began her higher education in at Fatehchand College in Lahore, Pakistan, but returned to India when the Partition took place. Immediately after partition, she worked for two years as a governess to Maharaja Tej Singh (b.1943), the child-Maharaja of Sirohi in Rajasthan, India. In her old age, when she was past her 70th birthday, she married Dogri writer Shivnath who, by a remarkable coincidence, was born of the same day of the same year as her. Thc couple settled into his flat in Mayur Vihar near Patparganj in East Delhi. Shivnath died a few years later, and Krishna continues to reside alone in the same apartment.
Sobti's use of idiomatic Punjabi and Urdu while writing in Hindi has expanded over time to include Rajasthani as well. Her ability to adapt dialect and language specifically to the region she is writing about has been praised by critics for lending authenticity to her characters. It has also been cited as a reason for the difficulty in translating her works to other languages. Although Sobti's works deal closely with issues of female identity and sexuality, she has resisted being labelled as a 'woman writer' and has spoken of the importance of occupying both, masculine and feminine viewpoints, as a writer. Her writing style and idiom, as also her choice of subjects, has attracted some amount of criticism. It has been said that she uses too much profanity in her writings, often gratuitously, and that her style of writing is "unliterary." She has also been accused of being obsessed with sex, the redeeming feature being that descriptions of sex in her works are always from the perspective of a woman character, and no work of fiction ever produced by her has failed to feature at least one intensely sexualized woman character.
Sobti initially established herself as a writer of short stories, with her stories Lama (about a Tibetan Buddhist priest), and Nafisa being published in 1944. In the same year, she also published her famous story about the Partition of India, called Sikka Badal Gaya, which she sent to Sachchidananda Vatsyayan, a fellow writer and the editor of the journal, Prateek, who accepted it for publication without any changes. Sobti has cited this incident as confirming her choice to write professionally.
Zindaginama and Litigation Against Amrita Pritam
Sobti submitted the manuscript of her first novel, titled Channa, to the Leader Press in Allahabad in 1952. The manuscript was accepted and printed, however, Sobti found on receiving proofs that the Press had made textual alterations, and consequently sent them a telegram asking them to cease printing copies of the book. Sobti has said that the alterations included linguistic changes that altered her use of Punjabi and Urdu words to Sanskrit words.
She withdrew the book from publication, and paid to have the printed copies destroyed. She was subsequently persuaded by Sheela Sandhu, publisher at Rajkamal Prakashan, to revisit the manuscript, and it was published by Rajkamal Prakashan as Zindaginama: Zinda Rukh in 1979 after extensive rewriting. Sobti went on to win the Sahitya Akademi Award for Zindaginama in 1980. Zindaginama: Zinda Rukh is nominally an account of rural life in a village in Punjab, in the early 1900s, but addresses political and social concerns of the time. It has been described by the writer and critic Trisha Gupta as a "universally acclaimed part of the Hindi literary canon."
Soon after Zindaginama was republished, the poet, novelist and essayist Amrita Pritam published a book titled Hardatt Ka Zindaginama. Sobti filed a suit in 1984 for damages against Pritam, claiming that Pritam had violated her copyright through the use of a similar title. The suit was litigated for 26 years and was ultimately decided in favour of Pritam, six years after Pritam's death, in 2011. Part of the delay was caused by the disappearance of a box of evidence containing original manuscripts of both, Pritam and Sobti's novels, from the court. Sobti has since expressed disappointment at the outcome of the suit, noting that her original plan of writing Zindaginama as part of a trilogy was interrupted by the litigation.
Sobti published several other novels to acclaim. Dar Se Bichhadi (Separated from the door of the house), published in 1958, was set in pre-Partition India, and concerned a child born from a marriage that crossed religious and social boundaries. This was followed by Mitro Marjani (To Hell with you Mitro!), in 1966, a novel set in rural Punjab that concerned a young married woman's exploration and assertion of her sexuality. Mitro Marjani was translated to English by Gita Rajan and Raji Narasimha as To Hell with You, Mitro and propelled Sobti to fame. Scholar and critic Nikhil Govind has said that Mitro Marjani "allowed the Hindi novel to break out of the straitjacket of social realism, or the more stereotyped notions of ‘women’s fiction’." Her next novel, Surajmukhi Andhere Ke (Sunflowers of the Dark) was published in 1972 and dealt with a woman's struggle to come to terms with childhood abuse, and was preceded by two novellas in 1968, Yaaron Ke Yaar (Friends of Friends) and Tin Pahar.  Ai Ladki, (Hey Girl) a more recent novel, narrates the relationship between an old woman on her deathbed and her daughter, who acts as her companion and nurse. Sobti has also written a novel that is a fictionalised autobiography, titled Gujrat Pakistan Se Gujarat Hindustan Taq (From Gujrat, Pakistan, to Gujarat, India). Her most recent novel is Dil-o-Danish (Heart and Mind).
Works published under her pseudonym, 'Hashmat'
Beginning in the 1960s, Sobti has also published a series of short profiles and columns under masculine pseudonym, 'Hashmat'. These were compiled and published as Ham Hashmat in 1977, and included profiles of Bhisham Sahni, Nirmal Verma, and Namwar Singh. She has said, concerning her pseudonym that, "We both have different identities. I protect, and he reveals; I am ancient, he is new and fresh; we operate from opposite directions." Her columns, written as Hashmat, have won praise from authors and critics, including the writer Ashok Vajpeyi, who said of them that "Nobody has written so endearingly of writers." as well as from Sukrita Paul Kumar, who has suggested that the use of a male pseudonym enabled Sobti to write without inhibition about her peers.
- To hell with you Mitro! (Mitro Marjani)
- Memory's Daughter (Daar Se Bichchudi)
- Listen Girl (Ai Ladki)
- Zindaginamah -Zinda Rukh (Urdu)
- The Heart Has Its Reasons (Dil-O-Danish)
- Mitro Marajani
- DarSe Bichchuri
- Surajmukhi Andhere Ke
- Yaaron Ke Yaar
- Samay Sargam
- E Ladaki
- Sikka Badal gaya
- Badalom Ke Ghere
- Bachpan [short story]
Honours and awards
Sobti won the Sahitya Akademi Award for Zindaginama in 1980. Sobti was also appointed as a Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, in 1996. In the citation given to her following her appointment, the Akademi praised her oeuvre and writing, saying that, "Renewing at every step her five-decade long creativity with fresh insights and dimensions, Krishna Sobti has regarded literature as the true play-field of life, and she has held a formidable mirror to this life." In 2015, she returned both, the Award, and her Fellowship, citing governmental inaction following riots in Dadri, concerns regarding freedom of speech, as well as comments made by a government minister concerning Hindi writers.
She was offered the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2010, which she declined, stating that, "As a writer, I have to keep a distance from the establishment. I think I did the right thing." She received Jnanpith Award in 2017 for her 'path-breaking contribution to Indian literature'. The Bharatiya Jnanpith mentioned in the statement that 'the language used by Sobti in her writings is influenced by the intermingling of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi cultures where her characters are always bold and daring – ready to accept all challenges thrown by the society'.
- Indian Women Novelists, edited by R.K. Dhawan. New Delhi, Prestige Books, 1995, (18 Volms.) ISBN 81-85218-40-4. (Vol. XVII, 10-12) 
- Sahitya Akademi Awards Archived 4 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Sahitya Akademi Award Official website.
- Krishna Sobti at The Library of Congress
- List of Fellows Sahitya Akademi Award Official website.
- Profile www.abhivyakti-hindi.org.
- Vyas Samman for Sobti’s novel Samay Sargam The Hindu, 1 February 2008.
- Uniquely Sobti The Hindu, 18 Sep. 2005.
- Author page
- Another award in her kitty The Hindu, New Delhi, 29 March 2006.
- Gupta, Trisha (2016-09-01). "Singular and Plural: Krishna Sobti's unique picture of a less divided India". The Caravan. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "The Original Rebel | OPEN Magazine". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- Kuruvilla, Elizabeth (2016-05-13). "Hindi is an epic language: Krishna Sobti". livemint.com/. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- Lal, Mohan (1992-01-01). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Sasay to Zorgot. Sahitya Akademi. p. 4126. ISBN 9788126012213.
- Miller, Jane Eldridge (2017-03-24). Who's who in Contemporary Women's Writing. Psychology Press. p. 64. ISBN 9780415159807.
- Gupta, Trisha. "The Insomniac". www.tehelka.com. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "Krishna Sobti vs Amrita Pritam in a long tug-of-war over 'Zindaginama'". hindustantimes.com/. 2016-05-03. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "Sobti, Pritam script 26-yr-old battle over title - Indian Express". archive.indianexpress.com. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- Govind, Nikhil. "Mitro Marjani turns 50". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "Partition, Hashmat & Krishna Sobti". hindustantimes.com/. 2006-04-12. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "List of Sahitya Akademi Award winners for Hindi". Wikipedia. 2016-12-29.
- "List of Sahitya Akademi fellows". Wikipedia. 2017-03-24.
- Sahitya Akademi (1996). "Krishna Sobti" (PDF). Sahitya Akademi. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1966. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
- "Two more writers return Sahitya Akademi awards, another resigns". The Indian Express. 2015-10-11. Retrieved 2017-03-24.
- "Look who declined Padma Bhushan this year: two giants of art, literature". Indian Express. 9 February 2010.
- "Krishna Sobti gets prestigious Jnanpith award 2017". THe Indian Awaaz. 2017-11-03. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
- The Moving Finger - Story
- Ai Ladki - Story
- Krishna Sobti works in Hindi, at The Library of Congress
- Phone Baj Raha Hai - Memoir (Hindi)
- Krishna Sobti: Musing on the Creative Process