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Image source: belaljafri.wordpress.com

Munsi Premchand


my earliest encounter with the simple yet captivating world of dhanpat raia shrivastava, popularly known as munshi premchand, was in class 8th with his ballad on friendship and loyalty: do bailon ki katha. not a single book fair i went to; missed out on mansarovar collections of the beloved hindi author’s collection, copies of which sit neatly in my father’s bookshelf too. the most recent interaction with premchand’s writing was when i attempted to translate his story on the ugly reality of caste oppression; thakur ka kuan. a story published in 1932 still resonated with the world of a person born 65 years after its publication. how does premchand do this? how are his stories still so relevant?

i was once told by a professor of hindi literature that if one wants to embellish their hindi, they should start reading works of premchand. his words are simple, there is a realness in his stories that stands the test of time despite being set in the socio-economic setting of the nationalist movement. the reason is that his tales of the common man struggling with poverty, identity, and life remain ever so prevalent, even today.

we root for hira and moti from do bailon ki katha because we identify with ideals of friendship everyone aspires for. more than that, it celebrates love, between friends, between humans and their companion animals making it a posthumanist tale in its own right. in the iconic tale kafan, we are disgusted by ghisu and madhav’s indifference towards ghisu’s dying wife because it unveils the ugly face of poverty and the brutality of human nature for us. again, in thakur ka kuan, we feel heartbroken for gangi’s unsuccessful efforts to get her sick husband clean water. how do these characters make us feel for them?

as mentioned earlier, they are a direct reflection of our reality. true friendship and love are still very much yearned. instances of animal abuse happen every day. millions of people still live in dire poverty. caste-based oppression has not been eradicated. premchand’s stories still hold a shiny mirror in the face of our modern-day world. his stories will stay relevant till the day we keep seeing our world in them.

you can read the stories referred to here: http://premchand.kahaani.org/2009/09/contents.html
for english translations, one can buy penguin’s collection; the complete short stories vol 1-4, (translated by m asaduddin)





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