Ranchi, Dec. 23: Ranchi-based educationist Nirmal Minz, now 90, has won the Bhasha Samman of Sahitya Akademi this year for his contribution to the development of Kudukh, a language spoken by the Oraon tribe.
The name of the former principal of Gossner College was announced as the award-winner for Kudukh, along with scholars of three other languages, Ladakhi, Halvi and Saurashtra, on Wednesday, along with the winners of the Sahitya Akademi.
Bhasha Samman awardees will get a citation and a cash award of Rs 1 lakh.
But, for Minz, money matters little in the twilight of his life. What matters is the recognition of his services to Kudukh.
Contacted this afternoon at his Dibdih residence, Minz confessed some friends had told him about the award but he was waiting for the formal letter. "I am happy to win this award as it takes me back to 1943 in Gumla, where I was a student of Class IX," he told this correspondent.
"One day in 1943, the headmaster of SS High School in Gumla had admonished a few of us Class IX boys for speaking in Kudukh," Minz said. "I was a simple Oraon lad till then, but something kindled in me that day. I decided to do something for my language," he said.
The boy grew up into a teacher but did not forget his promise. Decades later, when Minz and others from the GEL Church set up Gossner College in Ranchi in 1971, he started teaching tribal languages. This paved the way to open the PG department in Ranchi University in the 1980s with the late Ram Dayal Munda as its head.
In the mid-1980s, Minz was part of a team that organised a 10-day workshop on the grammar of Kudukh with help from the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. He has several books that helped enrich the language, one prescribed as a textbook in the PG department of tribal languages.
"His scholarly books have strengthened the position of Kudukh," said writer Mahadev Toppo.
But, the nonagenarian is not entirely happy. "Where is the new generation of Kudukh learners?" he asks. "There are just a handful of schools in the state where Oraon children can study in Kudukh."