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LANGUAGE DISCOURSE W R I T I N G Editor Mamta Kalia Volume 4 July-September 2009 Published by Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University A Journal of Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya Kku 'kkafr eS=kh
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Page 1: Hindi Varta Jul Sep


EditorMamta Kalia

Volume 4July-September 2009

Published byMahatma Gandhi International Hindi University

A Journal ofMahatma GandhiAntarrashtriyaHindi Vishwavidyalaya

Kku 'kkafr eS=kh

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Hindi : Language, Discourse, WritingA Quarterly Journal of Mahatma Gandhi AntarrashtriyaHindi VishwavidyalayaVolume 4 Number 3 July-September 2009

R.N.I. No. DELENG 11726/29/1/99-Tc© Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya

No Material from this journal should be reproduced elsewhere withoutthe permission of the publishers.The publishers or the editors need not necessarily agree with theviews expressed in the contributions to the journal.

Editor : Mamta KaliaCoordinator : Rakesh Shreemal

Editorial Office :E-47/7, Ist Floor Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-IINew Delhi-110 020Phone : 09212741322

Sale & Distribution Office :Publication Department,Mahatma Gandhi AntarrashtriyaHindi VishwavidyalayaPo. Box 16, Panchteela, Wardha - 442 001

Subscription Rates :Single Issue : Rs. 125/-Annual - Individual : Rs. 400/- Institutions : Rs. 600/-Overseas : Seamail : Single Issue : $ 20 Annual : $ 60Airmail : Single Issue : $ 25 Annual : $ 75

Published By :Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Wardha

All enquiries regarding subscription should be directed to theMahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Wardha

Printed at :Ruchika Printers, 10295, Lane No. 1West Gorakh Park, Shahdara, Delhi-110 032

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July-September 2009 :: 3


July-September 2009



Dussahas Premchand 9

Nasha Premchand 1 7

Short Story

A Woman's Feats Suryabala 23

Papa Dhirendra Asthana 28

Dhampur Meera Kant 40

Coming Back Musharraf Alam Zauqui 54

The Mistress of Phoolpur Pratyaksha 7 2


Six Poems Prayag Shukla 84

Three Poems Asad Zaidi 89

Six Poems Anamika 94

Six Poems Dinesh Kumar Shukla 1 0 5


The Earthen Cup Asghar Wajahat 1 1 9

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Premchand: As short story writer Bhishma Sahni 1 2 4

The sub-altern in Indian Literature:

Some Reflections on Premchand and

his Godan P.C. Joshi 138

Godan: The Back Story Kamal Kishore Goyanka 1 5 5

Text and Context: A Sociological

Analysis of Dalit Characters in

Premchand and others Subhash Sharma 1 6 2

The Truth About 1857 Ramnika Gupta 1 7 9


Premchand: Ghar Mein Shivrani Devi 1 9 0


Premchand: Interviewed by Pt. Banarasidas Chaturvedi 198


A Celluloid Journey to India:

Abdolhossein Sepanta and the

Early Iranian Talkies Lalit Joshi 2 0 1


Hindi in Guyana Satishkumar Rohra 2 1 2

Theatrical performance and

Hindi teaching:

My Japanese Experience Harjendra Chaudhary 218

Pages from a novel

T'TA Professor Manohar Shyam Joshi 2 2 1

Contributors’ Addresses 229

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July-September 2009 :: 5

Readers' Page

1) fgUnh dk u;k vad feyk ¼vizSy&twu 2009½A vad ns[kus ij igyh ckj bl Ikf=kdkosQ izfr vkReh;rk dk cksèk gqvkA ;g igys Hkh fudyrh Fkh ij mlesa fgUnh dkLi'kZ ugha FkkA vkius lEiknu esa cgqr Je fd;k gS] ,slh Je&fu"Bk vrhr dhckr curh tk jgh gSA esjh cèkkbZ Lohdkj djsaA

esjk ;g fuf'pr er gS fd fgUnh dfork] dFkk&lkfgR; vkSj vkykspuk ¼blesa IkwQgM+leh{kk;sa 'kkfey ugha gSa½ lHkh 'ks"k Hkkjrh; Hkk"kkvksa ls vkxs gSaA ,slh fLFkfr esa fgUnhrjfo'o osQ lkeus fgUnh dks ykus osQ fy, 1950 osQ ckn dh izR;sd foèkk dhDykfld cu pqdh jpukvksa dks izkFkfedrk nsuh gksxhA

esjs ys[k dk vuqokn vn~Hkqr gSA vuqoknd rd esjk vkHkkj igq¡pk nsaA

&uan fd'kksj uoy?kk?kk ?kkV jksM] egsUnzw] iVuk

2) I wish to congratulate you on relaunched ‘hindi’. Both the issues that have come

out so far, have been ably edited.

Being an author of high literary merit yourself, you are providing the literati with

an overview of eminent litterateurs including Phanishwar Nath Renu, Kunwarnarain,

Mridula Garg, Ravindra Kalia, Rajee Seth, Chitra Mudgal and Amarkant.

By running regular columns namely heritage, focus, conversation, poetry, films,

short story, discourse and language, you substantiate the parameters of Hindi.

The special attraction in your first issue (Jan-March 09) is the heartwarming

article on Kunwarnarain by his son Apurvanarain. He gets his father’s person

and poetry into perspective not only by giving us an intimate glimpse of his

flesh and blood but also by displaying his own power to gnaw into the sinew

of his father’s craft. His comments belong neither to a cuddled son nor a

captivated one. On the other hand, they are those of a discerning, erudite savant.

He also throws himself heart and soul into the translations of Kunwarji’s poems

Deepak Sharma

B-35, Sector–C, Aliganj, Lucknow

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3) ‘I was extremely impressed not only with the quality of the publication but also

its intellectual content. In fact, I was also very touched by the excellent views

expressed by the Vice Chancellor Shri Vibhuti Narain Rai.

Suchandra Chakraborti

Via email,

4) ‘I dare say that this volume (April – June 09) is not only well-edited, it, rather

comprehensively captures the scenario of contemporary Hindi writing well. Candidly

focus on Amarkant apart, the way you have highlighted the younger generation,

deserves hearty compliments. Really I am very happy that you have excellently

displayed editorial vision and insight in this issue.

Bharat Bhardwaj

11/A Hindustan Times Apartments

Mayur Vihar-I, Delhi.

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July-September 2009 :: 7

Editor's Note

The trimester of July, August and September causes ripples in the main land

of Hindi because of several reasons. Katha-samrat Premchant was born on 31st July

1880. He lived a short life but packed it with his penmanship. He wrote more than

280 short stories, 12 novels, quite a few essays, editorials and book reviews that

are ever relevant to the cause of literature. The month of July brings back his contribution

to Hindi which the Hindi world commemorates in various ways like holding lectures,

seminars and conferences. We have devoted some pages to the doyen of Hindi fiction

by translating afresh two of his short stories– ‘nasha’ and ‘dussahas’. These stories

express Premchand’s social concern and point towards the maladies of his times.

No wonder that progressive writers and thinkers like Bhishma Sahni and P.C. Joshi

have written about his art and commitment. Another scholar Kamal Kishore Goyanka

reflects on Premchand’s craft and craftsmanship in ‘Godan’. When Premchand was

writing about the have-nots of society, there was no specific bracket of dalit thought

in literature. Modern day analysis has resulted in making this a whole area of social

concern. Subhash Sharma reflects on the dalit characters in four important novels.

Premchand’s wife, Shivrani Devi wrote an extremely vivid and readable biography of

her husband entitled ‘Premchand: Ghar Mein’. We carry a few pages that reveal

the live-wire dialogue between the husband and the wife.

The issue carries poems of four poets, each of whom holds a special place

in contemporary poetry. Prayag Shukla and Dinesh Kumar Shukla have a sensitive

apparatus for responding to nature and its surroundings whereas Asad Zaidi and Anamika

spark off at gender anomalies and contradictions.

Asghar Wajahat has this wander lust in him which takes him to far off places

and he comes back with a bagful of memories. We offer only a window-view of

his trip to Iran and Azerbajan.

Our short story section has five authors whose works of short fiction provide

a variety of expressions. Dhirendra Asthana’s short story ‘Papa’ is a two way outlet

of emotions for father and son of a new generation whereas Musharraf Alam Zauki’s

short story ‘Coming Back’ elaborates on present day e-romance. Senior writer Suryabala

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has sarcasm reserved for husband-wife relationship whereas younger author Meerakant

gives a graphic account of a maladjusted woman’s agony. Pratyaksha is a new entrant

in Hindi and she experiments with a number of techniques.

The academics of cinema have always been of interest to men of letters. Professor

Lalit Joshi writes about the beginnings of Hindi cinema via Iranian movies. Satish

Kumar Rohra documents the hindi scene in neighbouring country Guyana and Ramnika

Gupta brings up a few queries about the historical unrest of 1857.

There was a tragi-comedy of errors in the previous issue when our translator

jumbled up a few poems. Vimal Kumar’s poem ‘to see that beauty was a new

experience for the mirror’ was published to Nilesh Raghuvanshi’s credit thereby doubling

the confusion. Vimal Kumar and Nilesh Raghuvanshi are both award-winning fine poets.

Our apologies extend to both of them. We shall atone by presenting them with

better care next time.

O yes August is very close to all of us for we love our independence. September

caps it with a Hindi Day on September 14. Hindi gets a huge facelift from government

offices, universities, colleges and voluntary organizations. The two have a close knitted

history of struggle, development and achievements.

There has been an increase in the e-presence of Hindi. Our author vice chancellor

Mr. Vibhuti Narayan Rai, in a recent dialogue unfolded the University’s project of

creating a website ‘’ to provide information of Hindi literature ranging

from Bhartendu, Ramchandra Bhukla, Premchand to Jaishankar Prasad. Its first phase

will comprise of works that are free from copyright. Mr. Rai hopes to make it a

prime network like classic and that serve their English readers.

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July-September 2009 :: 9


Translated by

Ravi Nandan Sinha

In the Naubasta locality of Lucknow, there lived one Munshi MaikulalMukhtar. He was a perfect gentleman, extremely generous andkind. He had such professional expertise that there was hardlya court case for which he was not hired by one or the otherside. He also loved the company of sadhus and wise men. Fromthem he had picked up a certain amount of knowledge of philosophyand the practice of smoking ganja and charas. And for drinking,well, that was his family tradition. After drinking, he could preparegood legal documents; wine would light up his intellect. Ganjaand charas improved his knowledge and wisdom. After smokingthe drug, he entered into a state of meditation and experienceda sense of non-attachment to worldly things. People in his localitywere impressed by him, not by his legal expertise but by hisgoodness born of generosity. Carriage drivers, milkmen, kahars,all were obedient to him; they would leave their hundred thingsto do something for him. His wine-generated large-heartednessimpressed everyone.

Everyday when he came back from the court, he threw tworupees before Algu kahar. He did not need to say anything; Alguknew what that meant. Every evening a bottle of liquor and someganja and charas would be placed before Munshi ji. And then,there would be a party. Friends would arrive. On one side, therewould be his clients sitting in a row and on the other his friendswould sit. The discussions centred on spirituality and non-attachment.Once in a while, he would also talk to his clients about a courtcase. The party ended at ten in the night. Apart from his legalprofession and those enlightening discussions on spirituality, Munshi



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ji did not concern himself with anythingelse. He had nothing to do with anymovement, any meeting, or any socialreform in the country. In this sense,he was really above worldly things. Thepartition of Bengal took place, theSwadeshi movement was launched,liberal and extremist groups were formed,political reforms began, aspiration forindependence was born, the country rangwith voices calling for defending thenation; but all that did not disturb theunbroken peace in Munshi ji’s life evenone little bit. Except for the court-officeand his drinking, he consideredeverything else to be maya; he had nointerest in anything else.


Lamps had been lit. Munshi ji’s partywas in place, the devotees had assembledbut the wine-goddess was nowhere to beseen. Algu had not returned from themarket. Again and again, people lookedtowards the door with eagerness in theireyes. One man stood in the veranda waiting;two or three gentlemen were in the streetin order to have advance information.But Algu was nowhere to be seen. Thatwas the first time in his life that Munshiji had to wait for such a long time forhis bottle. The expectation generated byhis waiting had taken the form of deepmeditation; he neither spoke to anyone,nor looked at anyone. All his facultieswere focussed on the point of waiting.

Suddenly news came that Algu wascoming. Munshi ji woke up from histrance, his friends bloomed with joy;they sat up alert, their eyes filled withdesire. Delay coupled with hope increasesthe pleasure of getting something.

Soon Algu was standing before them.Munshi ji did not speak angrily to himbecause it was his first mistake; theremust have been some reason for it. Withhalf open eyes full of eagerness he lookedat Algu’s hands. There was no bottlein them. That was unnatural, but hedid not lose his temper. He askedsweetly—Where is the bottle?

Algu—I did not get it today.


Algu—The swarajists are blockingboth ends of the street. They are notallowing anyone to go near the wineshop.

Now Munshi ji was angry, not withAlgu, but with the swarajists. What rightdo they have to stop my drinking? Hecontinued with some annoyance—Didn’tyou mention my name?

Algu—Yes, I did. I tried to arguewith them, but who would listen to me?Everyone was returning from there, soI also came back.

Munshi—Did you bring the charas?

Algu—There too it was the same story.

Munshi—Are you my servant or ofthe swarajists?

Algu—I have not become your servantto get my face blackened.

Munshi—O, so those scoundrels wereblackening people’s faces also?

Algu—That I did not see for myself,but everyone was saying so.

Munshi—All right, I’ll go myself. Letme see, who has got the guts to stopme. I’ll send each one of them to jail.After all we’ve a government here, it’s

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not an anarchy. Was there no constableposted there?

Algu—The inspector saheb himself wastelling everyone—whoever wants to goin, can go. Let him buy, or drink wine;but no one was listening to him. Everyonewas returning.

Munshi—The inspector is my friend.Come Idu, will you come with me?Rambali, Bechan, Jhinku, let’s all gotogether. Pick up an empty bottle, eachof you. Let me see, who can stop us.Tomorrow itself, I’ll teach them a lesson.


When Munshi ji reached the street leadingto the wine shop, there was a big crowdassembled there. In the middle of thecrowd, stood two very respectable men.One of them was Maulana Jaamin, a well-known religious man of the town. Theother person was Swami Ghananand, whowas the founder of the Seva Samiti anda great well-wisher of the people. Facingthem was the inspector with a numberof constables. When he saw Munshi jiand his friends, he said cheerily—ComeMukhtar Saheb, today you had to comeyourself. All these four people are withyou, aren’t they?

Munshi ji said—Yes, I sent my manfirst, but he returned empty handed.I heard that there is a ruckus here;the swarajists are not allowing anyoneinside the street.

Inspector—Oh no, who can preventanyone from going in. You can go freely.No one will say a word. After all, whatam I here for?

Casting a glance full of pride on hisfriends, Munshi ji entered the street.

Maulana Jaamin said to Idu politely—Friend, it’s time for your namaaz, howcome you are here? Can we solve theKhilafat problem with this kind of faith?

Idu felt as if iron shackles held hisfeet. Ashamed, he stood there lookingdown. He did not have the courage totake another step.

Swami Ghananand said to Munshi jiand his friends—Son, take thispanchamrit, God will bless you. Jhinku,Rambali and Bechan automaticallyextended their hands to receive thepanchamrit and drank it. Munshi ji said—Drink that yourself, I don’t want it.

Swamiji stood before him with joinedpalms and said humbly—Please havemercy on this mendicant, don’t go there.

But Munshi caught hold of his handand pushing him aside entered the street.His three friends stood with bowed headsbehind Swami ji.

Munshi—Rambali, Jhinku, why aren’tyou coming? Who has the power to stopus?

Jhinku—Why don’t you come back?We should listen to holy men.

Munshi—So, is this the kind ofboldness with which you started fromhome?

Rambali—I came here thinking thatif someone stops us forcibly, we willhandle it. But did we come here to fightwith holy men?

Munshi—It’s truly said, villagers arereally sheep.

Bechan—You can act like a lion, weare happy to remain sheep.

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With a show of great arrogance Munshiji entered the wine shop. There was noactivity there. The wine-seller was dozingin his seat. He sat up when he heardMunshi ji coming. He filled the bottleand then began to doze again.

When Munshi ji came back to theend of the street, he did not find hisfriends there. A crowd gathered aroundhim and started taunting him withinsulting words.

One of them said—What a drunkardhe is!

Another said—Sharmche kuttist kipeshe maradan bivavad (Shame cannotface men).

A third man said—He must be aconfirmed addict.

Meanwhile the inspector came anddispersed the crowd. Munshi ji thankedhim and set out for home. A constableaccompanied him for security.


The four friends of Munshi ji threw awaytheir bottles and began to walk home.They began to talk among themselves.

Jhinku—Once when they caught myhorse-cart for free work, it was this swamiji who pleaded with the peon and gotme released.

Rambali—Last year when my housecaught fire, he came with the Seva Samitiworkers, otherwise nothing would havebeen saved in my house.

Bechan—What arrogance this Mukhtarhas! If you have to do something bad,do it secretly. One shouldn’t be soshameless.

Jhinku— Brother, one should notspeak ill of anyone behind his back.Whatever else he is, he certainly hascourage. How boldly he entered thatbig crowd!

Rambali—That is no boldness. If theinspector had not been there, he wouldhave been taught a lesson.

Bechan—I would not have set footin the street, even if I was offered fiftyrupees for it. I could not lift my headfor shame.

Idu—By coming with him, I got intosuch trouble. Now wherever Maulanawill see me, he would scold me. Whyshould one act against religion that onehas to be ashamed of it? Today I feltso mortified. I take a vow today neverto drink again. I’ll not even look atwine.

Rambali—The vow of a drunkard isnever any stronger than a piece of weakthread.

Idu—If you ever see me drinking,blacken my face.

Bechan—All right, then from today,I also give up drinking. If now I drink,let that be cow’s blood for me.

Jhinku—Then am I the only sinnerhere? From now on if you ever findme drinking, make me sit in front ofyou and hit my head fifty times withyour shoe.

Rambali—I don’t believe you; evennow if Munshi ji calls you, you will gothere running like a dog.

Jhinku—If you ever see me sitting withMunshi ji, beat me with your shoe a hundredtimes. If a person is not true to his word,

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he is not the son of his father.

Rambali—Then friends, I also takea vow today that I will never drinkif I have to buy it. Yes, I don’t minddrinking if someone offers me.

Bechan—When have you ever paidfor your drink?

Meanwhile Munshiji was seen walkinghurriedly towards them. Although hehad won the battle, there was a certainlook of embarrassment on his face. Forsome hidden reason, he was not ableto enjoy that victory. Hiding in somecorner of his heart, compunction wasmocking at him. He could not understandwhy but that act of misplaced couragewas tormenting him.

Rambali said—Come Mukhtar Saheb,you took a long time.

Mushi—You are dunces, all of you;you were misled by a mere mendicant.

Rambali—These people have taken avow today that they will never drink.

Munshi—I have never seen a manwho, after being addicted to it once,can escape from its clutches. Merelytalking about giving up is another matter.

Idu—You will see it happening, ifI live.

Jhinku—One cannot live without food,but other things you can give upwhenever you want. You only have tofeel ashamed of it once. No one everdies for want of drugs or drink.

Munshi—Well, I’ll see how brave youare.

Bechan—What is there to see? Givingup drinking is not a big thing. The most

that can happen is that I’ll feel dullfor a couple of days. During the war,when the Englishmen, who drink winelike water, could give it up, it is notvery difficult for us.

Talking like this, they reachedMukhtar Saheb’s house.


The living room was deserted. The clientshad all left. Algu was asleep in a corner.Munshiji sat down on his seat on thefloor and began to take out tumblersfrom the shelf. He still did not believethat the vows of his friends were genuine.He was confident that when they sawthe redness of wine and smelt its pleasantscent, all their vows will vanish. I onlyneed to encourage them a bit; all ofthem will join me and there will be aparty. But when Idu began to leave aftersaying goodbye to him, and Jhinku pickedup his stick to go, Munshi ji caughtthe hands of both of them and spokein very sweet words—Friends, it’s notthe right thing to leave me alone likethis. Come, taste this a bit; it’s reallyvery good wine.

Idu—The vow I have made to myselfwill stand.

Munshi—O, come on, what is therein these things?

Idu—Do enjoy your drink, but pleaseexcuse me.

Jhinku—God willing, I’ll never evergo near it; who wants to be beaten withshoes?

Saying this, both of them freed theirhands and left. Then Mukhtar Saheb heldBechan’s hand, who was going down the

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stairs of the veranda. He said—Bechan,will you also betray me?

Bechan—I have taken a very big vow.When once I have called it cow’s blood,I cannot even look at it. I may be adespicable, worthless fellow but I respectcow’s blood. I say, you should also stopdrinking and spend some days in prayer.Haven’t you been drinking for a long time?

Saying this, he said goodbye and left.Now only Rambali was left there. Ingreat sorrow Munshi ji said to him—Rambali, see how all of them havebetrayed me! I never thought these peoplewill be so fainthearted. Come, today letonly the two of us share the drink. Twogood friends are better than a dozensuch false ones. Come, sit down.

Rambali—I am ready, but I have takena vow that I will never buy my drink.

Munshi—Ajee, as long as I am alivewhy should you fear. Drink as muchas you want.

Rambali—But what when you die?Where will I find such a generous man?

Munshi—Well, that is still in future.I am not dying today.

Rambali—Who knows when a personwill die? I am sure you will die beforeme. Then who will buy drink for me?Then I’ll not be able to give it up.It’s better that I am careful right fromtoday.

Munshi—Friend, don’t talk like thisand disappoint me. Come, sit down, takejust a glass of it.

Rambali—Mukhtar Saheb, please don’tforce me so much. When addicts likeIdu and Jhinku, who sold their wives’

ornaments for liquor and are completedolts, can give up drinking, I am notso shameless as to remain its slave. Swamiji has saved me from total ruin. I cannever disobey him. Saying this Rambalialso left.


Munshi ji put the cup to his lips, butbefore he could fill the second cup, hisdesire for drinking disappeared. It wasthe first time in his life that he hadto drink alone as if it were a medicine.First, he felt irritated with his friends.I must have spent hundreds of rupeeson these traitors and today they haverun away on such a trivial matter. Nowhere I am, alone like a ghost; thereis no one to talk to. One should drinkin company. When there is no pleasureof friends’ company, what is the use ofdrinking and then simply going to bed?

And how insulted I felt today! WhenI entered the street, hundreds of peoplewere looking at me with fire in theireyes. When I returned with the wine,they would have torn me into pieces,if they were allowed to. Had the inspectornot been there, reaching home wouldhave been difficult. Why this insult andthis disgrace? Is it not only for merelymaking my mouth bitter and burningmy heart for a moment? There is noone here to talk to or laugh with.

How worthless people consider thisthing to be, only today I understood,or else those who have been addictedto drinking for years would not haverejected my offer thus, only becausea holy man gave them a slight hint todo so. It is true that in their hearts

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July-September 2009 :: 15

people consider it to be evil. Whenmilkmen, cart-drivers and kahars cangive it up, am I even worse than theyare? After this insult, this going downin people’s estimation, this loss of reputein the entire town, this infamy, if I getintoxicated for some time, what greatachievement will that be? Is it rightto fall this low for some addiction? Thosefour fellows must be speaking ill of meat this moment; they must be thinkingthat I am a wicked man. I have fallenin the eyes of these fallen men. I cannotstand this. Today I will bring this passionto an end, I will end this insult.

A moment later, a crashing soundwas heard. Startled, Algu woke up and

saw that Munshi ji was standing in theveranda and the bottle was lying brokenon the ground.


Charas: an intoxicating drug.

Ganja: hemp.

Kahar: a caste of palanquin bearers.

Maya: illusion.

Namaaz: prayer by a Muslim.

Panchamrit: a holy mixture madeof milk and other things offered to thedevotees after a Hindu worship ceremony.

Sadhu: Hindu holy men.

Swadeshi: the Home-rule movementin the Indian Freedom Struggle.

Premchand (1880-1936) was born at vil lage Lamhi in Varanasi. He

is widely known as kathasamrat or emperor of f iction in Hindi. His

real name was Dhanpat Rai. He started writing in Urdu under the

pen name Nawab Rai. Later switched over to Hindi under the pen

name Premchand. His short stories depict rural and urban pre-inde-

pendence society in all its shades. In his memorable novel ‘Godan’

Premchand portrays the plight of farmers. He gave up his government

service to become a full time writer. His essays like ‘Mahajani Sabhyata’

‘Jeevan Mein Sahitya Ka Sthan’ are relevant to this day.

Dr. Ravi Nandan Sinha, edits The Quest , a journal of Indian literature

and culture established in 1987. Sahitya Akademi and National Book

Trust India have published books of Hindi poetry and fiction translated

by him. Presently, Head, PG Dept. of English, St. Xavier’s College,

R a n c h i .

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Translated by

Dhiraj Singh

Ishvari’s father was a big shot. Mine, a mere clerk. We weren’trich and landed like he was. But we were good friends. Friendswho’d argue all the time. I didn’t often have kind words for peoplelike him. I called them blood-suckers, compared them to all sortsof lowly things like the Amarbel, the parasite vine that grew ontop of trees. He spoke up for people like himself, though he didn’thave much of an argument. There isn’t much you can say intheir defence now can you.

I never bought Ishvari’s argument that equality between menwas a myth and that there were and always will be small menand big men. How could one anyway prove his line of thinking,without getting caught in a web of morality and ethics. In theheat of the moment I’d often say some very nasty things to himbut to his credit Ishvari always kept a cool head. I never sawhim even so much as raise his voice.

Maybe he was only too aware of the holes in his case. Butone could never accuse him of not practising what he preached.He rarely had a kind word for his servants. He had in him ahuge measure of that special contempt and lack of empathy therich have for those below them. Small things like an unmadebed, a glass of milk either too hot or too cold or a bicycle notproperly dusted would see him in a solar storm. A lazy servantor one that answered back was anathema to him. But with friendshe was the picture of chumminess. And I was his best buddy.Maybe if I was born in the lap of luxury I too would’ve thought



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like he did. I say this because my ownposition was not based on any deepconvictions about the equality of men,but came from the hopelessness of mysituation. But in my heart I knew Ishvariwould still be rich even if he was bornpoor like me. That’s because he wasdeep inside a lover of all things beautifuland all things rich.

Once during the Dussehra holidaysI decided not to go back home. I wasbroke and didn’t want to ask my folksfor ticket money. I knew they were anywaystretching themselves beyond their meansgetting me an education. Plus, there wasthe added burden of impending exams.There was so much left to study andI knew once at home I’d never goanywhere near my books. But I alsodidn’t want to stay back alone and hauntthe hostel. So when Ishvari invited meto go with him to his place I jumpedat the offer. It was a godsend. Besideswe could really study together. Despitehis other failings, he was a good andhard-working student.

However, there was one thing hewanted me to guard against. My rathervocal love for rubbishing the rich! Itcould, he said, land him in trouble. Hisold-world feudal family still ruled overtheir fief as if it was their divine right.But the other side of the story was thatthe fief also thought so. And thisequilibrium of thought was veryimportant to their co-existence.

This wasn’t exactly music to my ears.“Do you think I’ll go there and stop

speaking my mind?”

“Yes, I’d like to think so…”

“Then you’re thinking wrong.”

Ishvari was wise not to answer that.He simply kept quiet and left the matterto my obviously over-heated conscience.He also must have known how stubbornI was when it came to our argumentsabout class and equality.

This was a first for me. I had nevertravelled second class. In fact, I hadn’teven travelled inter class. Ishvari hadmade second class travel possible forme. The train was to arrive at 9 pmbut I was so excited about our journeythat Ishvari and I were at station soonafter sundown. We generally hung aroundat the platform and then decided to goto the Refreshment Room for dinner.Just by looking at us the staff theredidn’t take long to figure out who wasMr Moneybag and who was a hanger-on. I was surprised and angry at myselffor being so over-sensitive to thedeference they showed Ishvari whiletreating me like the hanger-on that Iwas. After all, Ishvari was the one footingthe bill. I assumed that my father’smonthly salary was probably less thanwhat these waiters earned as tips. Ishvarihimself left them 8 annas. Was I wrongto expect them to show me the samecourtesy they were showing my friend?Why was it that they jumped at his everywhim while my requests fell on deafears? Suddenly I didn’t feel very hungry.

The train arrived and we left the

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Refreshment Room. The waiters did allbut kiss the ground where Ishvari walked.They looked through me as if I werehis shadow. And to add insult to injury,Ishvari observed: “Just look at thesepeople, how well behaved they are. Andthen there are my servants… who knownothing about nothing.”

Still smarting from the slight I wasquick to add: “Maybe if you tipped themas generously… they’d be even morewell-behaved.”

“What do you think these people aredoing it for the tip?”

“No, not at all! Good behaviour andgentility runs in their blood.”

The train started. It was an expresstrain. Once it left Prayag it only stoppedat Pratapgarh. One man opened ourcompartment door to peek in, and Iimmediately shouted, “Don’t you knowthis is a second class coach?” He camein and gave me a look one reservesfor the very naïve and arrogant. “Yourhumble servant knows that, Sir,” he saidand sat on the middle berth. I had neverbeen so embarrassed in my life.

We reached Moradabad by earlymorning. There was a whole contingentwaiting to welcome us at the station.There were two well-dressed men andfive others who looked like workers. Theworkers picked up our luggage and startedwalking. The two others started to walkwith us behind the workers. One of themwas Riyasat Ali, a Muslim and the otherRamharakh, a Brahmin. Both of them

were regarding me with eyes that said,‘but Mr Crow, aren’t you trying too hardto be a swan’.

Finally, Riyasat Ali asked Ishvari,“Is this young sir your class mate?”For Ishvari this was a signal to startspinning his yarn. “Yes and not onlythat he is also my room mate. In factyou could say he’s the reason I amstill studying in Allahabad otherwise I’dbe dumped back in Lucknow long ago.You don’t know how much I had tobeg him to come with me. His folksmust have sent him at least a dozentelegrams but I sent them back. Thelast one they sent was ‘Urgent’ meaningit cost four annas per word. But thattoo I sent back.”

They both looked at me surprised.As if they’d been hit by the news ofa flood. At last Riyasat Ali spoke up,“I must say the young sir likes to keepit simple.” Ishvari had an answer forthat as well. “He’s after all a Gandhifollower… doesn’t wear anything exceptkhadi. Actually, he burned all his Englishclothes. You won’t believe it but he’sa prince. Their state’s annual incomealone is two and half lakh rupees. Butlook at him and you’d probably thinkI’ve picked him up from an orphanage.”

Now even Ramharakh seemed excitedby Ishvari’s story. “It’s rare to findsomeone so rich do that… I’d neverhave guessed looking at him.”

But Riyasat Ali had seen better. “Youshould’ve seen the King of Changli. He

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used to walk around the market placein a cheap kurta and coarse shoes. Iheard he used to work as labourersomewhere and next I hear he had openeda college worth 10 lakh rupees.” I wantedno part in this conversation butsomewhere in the depths of my heartI had already begun to like the soundof my quirky richness. It was almostas if with each line I was being pushedcloser to my dream life and the richesit contained.

When it comes to horses I am nocowboy and that is an understatement.My only experience with the four-leggedkind is hopping around on mules as akid. Waiting outside the station weretwo strapping horses to take us toIshvari’s house. I felt my knees wobble.But I made sure my face didn’t betrayany signs of trepidation. I was nowcompletely at the mercy of my friend.And I was glad Ishvari played the roleof a gentleman host to the hilt. Hadhe raced his horse I too would’ve beenforced to keep up with him and withoutdoubt I’d be under my ride in no time.I was glad Ishvari let me keep my headhigh and did nothing to pierce my fast-growing bubble.

His house was like a fortress. Thegate itself was like the Imambara gate,outside which there were liveried guards.Its inside was teeming with servants.An elephant was tied in the front yard.Ishvari introduced me to his father,mother, uncles and aunts with the sameenthusiasm as he’d shown at the station.

Meaning I was now not just a princein the eyes of the servants but in prettymuch everybody’s. After all, these werethe boondocks where even a policeconstable would be thought to be anofficer. For many at Ishvari’s house Iwas someone who simply couldn’t beaddressed by name.

When I caught him alone I askedhim why he was so keen on takingmy trip in front of his family. ButIshvari had his reasons. “Without this‘dressing up’ they wouldn’t even talkto you”.

Just then before us materialised amasseur. “My princes must be tired…let me press your feet,” he said. Ishvaripointed towards me. “His first,” he said.I was on my bed, lying on my backready to be given a foot massage. Thiswas my first foot massage, an act thatI had many times in the past crucifiedmy friend for, calling it names such as‘the kick of the rich’, ‘Big Foot massage’,‘opium of the asses’ etc. etc. And nowhere I was getting myself one.

By the time my debut was completedin right earnest the clock struck ten,which in these parts is a good enoughtime to announce lunch. But that toowas not without its rituals. We hadto bathe first. Usually I wash my ownclothes but here I behaved exactly likea prince and dropped off my dirtyclothes where Ishvari had dumped his.This was another first for me. I feltI couldn’t be caught dead washing myown clothes.

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In the hostel’s dining room we allsat at the table with our shoes on buthere things were done differently. Aservant stood outside our room to washour feet. Ishvari went before me andgot his feet washed. I too did likewise.In my head a tiny voice was beginningto ring, bloody hypocrite, it called me.

I had come here expecting to preparefor the exams and here I was whilingaway my time playing Big Prince. Ourdays were either spent crossing the riveron a reed raft or fishing or watchingthe wrestlers or playing chess. Othertimes we’d be feasting on omelettes madeon a stove in Ishvari’s room. And Iwas further getting spoilt by the batteryof servants that followed me around likebaby chicken. All I had to do was callout and things would be done for me.If I went to the well for a bath, there’dbe someone to pour water over me.If I lay down on the bed a hand wouldstart fanning me. The irony of the situationwas that everyone now called me ‘TheGandhi Prince’. It’s not as if I squirmedevery time a servant came to be ofassistance to me. I was enjoying everybit of the attention.

They’d all follow me around to seethat my breakfast was on time or thatmy bed was made. I had in this timebecome more rich than the rich. WhereIshvari would sometimes make his ownbed, I’d still be waiting for mine to bemade. As if making my own bed wouldturn me back into a frog.

And one day I almost had it. Ishvari

was upstairs talking with his mother.And it was already 10 pm. I could barelykeep my eyes open but just couldn’tbring myself to make my own bed. Atabout 11.30 Mahra came to my room.He was one of the favourite servantsof the family. That day poor chap musthave been out on some errand. But whatwas I to do, I was after all royalty.So that day poor Mahra received fromme the worst tongue lashing of his life.Ishvari, who was within earshot, cameinside and congratulated me for finallyhaving learnt the right way to deal withservants. “This is the only way thesebuggers understand.”

Another day Ishvari was invited outfor dinner and I was alone at home.The sun had set and still no one hadcome to my room to light the lantern.I just sat there stubbornly staring atthe matchbox and the lantern on thetable beside me. How could I, the two-and-half-lakh-rupee prince, light my ownlantern. This imaginary fact was burningme up from inside. What’s more, I wasdying to read the newspaper, but howcould I. Just then the family accountantRiyasat Ali passed by and lo and beholdmy anger erupted upon him like theVesuvius. “I don’t know how you peoplecan manage with such servants… in myhouse they’d be kicked out immediately,”I thundered. Finally it was Riyasat Aliwho lit my lantern, shaken as he wasafter my Vesuvius moment.

Thakur was another casual workerat Ishvari’s house. A loose canon of

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a man but a hardcore follower of MahatmaGandhi, he held me in very high regard.In fact, he could barely speak a fullsentence in my presence. One day whenI was alone he came and stood nextto me with folded hands. “My good siris a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, isn’tit? I have heard some rumours… likewhen we’re independent there would beno big land owners in the country. Isthat true?”

Suddenly, as if by magic I was myold self again. “Of course, who needsthese land owners anyway. Do you needthese blood-suckers?”

But Thakur was not convinced. “Youmean, my good sir, all their land willbe taken away?”

“There are some,” I said, “who’ll onlybe too glad to part with their land. Andthose who won’t will obviously be forcedto give up their land. But you knowwhat… we’ve been actually waiting todistribute ours among the people of ourstate.”

Suddenly Thakur grabbed my feetand started pressing them. “You are soright, my lord, the landowners here areterrible. Maybe, I could come and humblyserve you in your state and perhapsget a small piece of land in return.”

“Right now, my friend, I don’t havethat right. But when I do I will surelycall you over. Maybe I could teach youhow to drive and you could be my driver.”

Later, news came to me that thatevening Thakur got drunk and beat up

his wife. And as if that wasn’t enoughhe was also ready to bash up the villagemoney-lender.

This is how our holidays came toan end and we started off for the stationonce again. It almost seemed the wholevillage had come to see us off. Thakurin fact came with us till the train. Itoo played my part to perfection. Infact I was keen to tip them handsomelyto leave them a taste of my wealth andbreeding. But my shallow pocketsprevented me from doing that.

We’d already bought our returntickets. All we had to do was to boardthe train and say goodbye to theboondocks. But the damn train camepacked like a sack of potatoes. This wasthe Durga Puja rush. Most people werereturning home after the holidays. Thesecond class section was packed too.So you can imagine the situation in theinter class. And this was the last trainto Allahabad. If we gave it a miss, we’dfind none till the next day. But our powerand pelf helped us get some place inthe third class. Something that left me,the-two-and-a-half-lakh prince, ratherupset. What an anti-climax was this tothe journey to here when we had wholeberths to ourselves. Now we barely hadhalf a seat.

But the train was full of people. Therewere also people who had had an Englisheducation and saw no small virtue inthe ways of their masters. One gentlemanwas rather vocal about his love for theBritish. “When did we ever have a judicial

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system like theirs, where everyone isequal. Even the king can be taken totask if he wrongs a peasant.” Anotherseconded this claim. “You are so right.You could even sue their Emperor. Takehim to court if you will.”

Next to me was a man who couldn’tget a place to sit. So he remained standing,a big cloth bag hanging from hisshoulders. I think he was going furthereast, to Calcutta. I guessed he chosea place close to the door so that hecould get some fresh air. But what heprobably did not realise was that hewas pretty much cutting off my shareof air. And then there was his big bagthat rubbed on my face, once, twice,thrice… and then I could take it nomore. I stood up pushed him away andlanded two tight slaps across his cheeks.

The impact and suddenness of theact had made him angry too. “Why doyou hit me, man? I have also paid myfare.” This was enough to send my princelyblood boiling and I got up once againand further rewarded him with several

more slaps. Suddenly it was as if thewhole compartment had got into action.Everyone started raining blows on me.

“What man? If you’re so touchy youshould travel first class.”

“He maybe a big shot in his placebut here he dare not act too rich. I’dhave turned him into a pulp had heeven touched me.”

“What was the poor guy’s fault? Asit is it’s like a cattle train here.”

“He was only standing by the doorand this prince and a half felt insulted.”

“The rich, I tell you, are not human.”

“See, this is what your foreign ruledoes to people.”

An old toothless man also spoke up.“Not getting inside office but behavinglike an officer!”

Ishvari was the last one to screamat me. “What a bloody idiot you are, Bir!”

I could suddenly feel my spell crumbleto a thousand pieces and reality breakin around me once again.

Dhiraj Singh is a short-story writer, poet and painter based in Delhi.

An exhibition of his paintings was held at Arts Gallery, New Delhi

in August, 2009. He blogs at

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Translated by

Pooja Birla

I’m of average height and built, an almost-beautiful woman; youcan call me a lady; well educated, cultured and intelligent, perhapscan even say that I’m intellectual. I’m also married, to an almost-dignified, handsome and healthy man of five feet eleven inches,and am the wife of a husband who is a man of few words, andeven those - uttered softly… gently.

Kids? Of course, daughter and sons, born, fortunately, in atimely and convenient manner; kids that have grown into precociousand obedient young adults who complete their homework on time.Fortunately, we have adequate enough means to ensure that thislittle caravan of one husband, two domestic maids and three childrencan skip along the path of life, feeling happiness at every bounce.In other words, the children’s studies, after-school classes andextra curricular activities, midterms and finals, all take place ina convenient and organized manner. That’s us - convenient andorganized.

My husband gives me what I want to run the house; he letsme go wherever I want to go. He never interferes or stops me,doesn’t even question what I do. When I ask him to accompanyme, he comes along; and doesn’t when I don’t ask him to. Ourfood is also always simple and wholesome. If, occasionally, I repeatdishes too often, I murmur apologetically, “Sorry,” and he respondsextremely softly, “It’s alright.”

End of discussion.


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In other homes, I’ve seen enoughof calamity-causing, seismic husbandswho have convulsions because eitherthe salt is a little less or the chili, alittle more. First there’s the earthquakeand then the aftershocks of mollifiedofferings. It takes a good hour or twoto deal with the whole year’s casualtycalendar. But in my home, I swear, thishasn’t happened even once, which iswhy our friends and neighbors say myhusband is no ordinary man - he’s asaint.

We have one colored TV, two phonesand get three newspapers. Thenewspapers are scanned before and afteroffice; the TV is usually turned on whenhe’s home. He has no favorite channelor show. Irrespective of what is on, hewatches it; whatever the subject, hedoesn’t get upset or change the channel,ever. He’s never in a dilemma of whatto do with his time. It passes, on itsown, comfortably enough; otherwise mostpeople have a full-fledged workoutthinking of how to spend time, save time.No such indecisiveness pervades myhusband’s world. He is the ideal solutionof these problems, which is exactly whyour friends and neighbors say myhusband is no ordinary man - he’s asaint.

Oh but what can I say about myself?Just thinking about me is embarrassing.I have no wisdom or quietude to matchhis saintliness. The more angelic he gets,the more bent and misshapen I become.If I laugh, I chortle loudly, splitting

my sides, and when I cry, it’s a monsoondeluge, showing no sign of ceasing. Ifunction on a short fuse; even the smallestthing gets me fuming and frothing, atmy saint-like husband, without a syllablebeing uttered. I’m well aware on suchoccasions that it’s all my fault but he,in his quiet and gentle way (withoutknowing, hearing or understanding whyI’m furious), says, “It’s OK,” or, “Sosorry…” Our neighbors say that to datethey haven’t heard his voice raised. It’strue; when I haven’t heard it inside thehouse, how can anyone sense it outside?

Take for instance, a Sunday; if I seehim leaving, no matter how hard I resist,I can’t help asking, “Are you goingsomewhere?”




“Out, where?”

“I was to meet someone…”


“You don’t know him.”

“OK. When will you return?”

“I may come back soon, or it maytake time.”

See, didn’t I tell you earlier – softspoken, man of few words. Tell me, isthis any excuse to fret or hit the roof?No, right? But I don’t miss the opportunityto start an argument. To hell with hisequanimity when I want to squabble!One time, I got down to it pretty fast.

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I said, “You never even talk to me.All the time, it ’s newspapers, TV,computer, phones.”

He kept the newspapers aside, turnedoff the TV and said in matured, measuredtones, “I’m sorry. OK, tell me what shouldI talk about?”

Tell me, don’t you think he iscompliance personified? He is asking meto tell him what he should talk aboutwith me.

But when it came to suggestingsomething, my mind drew a blank.Nervously I tried to come up with atopic I could introduce but no luck.I got increasingly anxious; he was waitingfor me and I couldn’t come up withanything.

Faltering, I said, “Arey, if there’snothing else, tell me about your dayin office. So many big things must haveoccurred. Tell me about them.”

“Yes, sure,” he said and tried to recall.Then, in an even tone, he began tellingme as I prepared to listen attentively.When he reached the office in the morning,his peon, Pyarelal, had gone off, likealways, to get tobacco leaves fromanother peon, Kamta. The woman at theswitchboard came in late. By ten thirty,the packing department was on ‘go slow’mode because of which the consignmentthat should have been loaded by threethirty was still being loaded till fivethirty, in fact, five forty-five. The truckshad to wait longer. Tensions betweenthe packing department and the loading

people remained high because of all this.Cashier Baruha extended his vacationand several bills couldn’t be reimbursed.Makhija, the assistant at the chemicallab, was again caught stealing somecultures. Meanwhile there was a powercut for an hour-and-a-half…the tankerat Rehmatganj broke down. There wasa budget meeting from three thirty…and then I hear, “Should I talk moreor is this enough?”

His inquiring tone wrenches me outof my torpor. Uff! I had forgotten thatI had asked him to talk. He was givingme this long, faithful account of his officedrama to oblige me, whereas, I had heardthe first two sentences and then driftedoff. Who knows, maybe I fell asleep.I hadn’t managed to hear or understandmuch. Isn’t this the limit of myimpoliteness that first I attack him withdemands and questions and then yawnand get distracted while he tries toappease me with appropriate answers.Now he was forced to ask if we shouldtalk some more.

I felt dejected and to save the situationsaid, “Let it be. You must be tired. I’llmake some tea. Should I?”

He had turned on the TV once Ideclined his offer of more conversation,and was watching it serenely. He hadn’theard my question for tea. I waited fora while and then asked again, “Do youwant tea?”

“OK, I’ll drink some,” he answered,in a quiet voice.

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I walked towards the kitchen likea smart and responsible wife; put thepot on the stove. Suddenly, out of aplace I didn’t know existed, a wave ofexasperation rose within me, as if I washaving a fit; as if all the functioningrationality was being exploded moleculeby molecule; a destructive bulldozer hadmaterialized out of nowhere and wasdetermined to tear down and level allthe buildings standing in line like well-behaved school children. It seemed thatI was controlling this destructive forceand, at the same time, also screaming,all distraught, pleading for the bulldozerto stop. Amidst the internal strife, ofthe why and how, I could make outsome little meaning…

What does he mean, ‘I’ll drink some’!Is he doing me a favor? Why can’t hebe like other normal men and simplysay, ‘Yeah, sure, make tea. Even I canuse some right now’? Or he could havesaid, ‘Put ginger and black pepper too,make it really strong and spicy, OK?’

But this line of thinking was pointless,the daydreams obscene, unlawful even…these castles I built in air had comecrashing down, wrecked and razed tothe ground. What was left, tacked tothe detritus, was a sickening, depressingphrase, ‘I’ll drink some’.

This was the mirage of my privateworld. Outside, the water on the stovehad begun to boil; on the tray, as isour custom, I had arranged the cupsand saucers, the sugar and milk pots.

Abruptly, once again, the fit seizedme. This time the water was boiling insideme. The flame looked wild, leaping intothe air, scorching and searing thingsit touched. I had no control over mymind or body, the maddened andmaddening exasperation had takencharge. I tried to restrain myself butthe delinquent part threw a spoonfulof powdered black pepper into the boilingwater along with the tealeaves and groundginger.

As he takes the first sip, my heartis pounding inside my head and I forgetto breathe. He’s going to say somethingnow… now… now. I can’t wait any more.

My impatience gets the better of me.“What? What happened? Too muchpepper, right? Say… say it… saysomething!”


I will my heart to stop poundingas I ask him, “So?”

“It’s all right.”

“What?!” I can’t believe my ears. Nowthe internal demon is lawless,unmanageable. “All right… how is it allright? Why don’t you just tell me honestlythat the tea is not just spiced with blackpepper but soaked in it? It’s a damnedblack pepper soup… and I’ve made thisfiery soup deliberately, so that theseglacial walls between you and mecrumble; so that the ice melts and waterflows, and brings in a wind that ruffleseven if it is turbulent; wind, water, ice,storm, thunderous clouds and lightning…

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all together. Enough of this saintliness!Just a dash, but I want some madness,an irrationality, a reaction. I want thisarmor of precious metals to crack andthe real, alive, breathing man toemerge…”

I keep waiting but the storm doesn’tcome; no thunder or lightning; no angryclouds or pelting rain. I get up from

my seat, feeling remorseful. I hear myselfsay, “Sorry, I put too much pepper,I’ll make it again,” and I leave the roomwith the tea tray.

You don’t believe me, do you? EvenI was watching, stunned and shell-shocked, my ‘angelic’ husband andI, drinking tea together, quietly…peacefully.

Suryabala, born 1944 at Varanasi, U.P. is a known author of short stories,satires and novels. A number of her short stories have been adapted fortelevision. She lives in Mumbai.

Pooja Birla graduated from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Programin 2007 and has just received her second M.F.A. in Literary Translation.She has some intentions of becoming a writer. She loves to gossip, dothe NYT crossword, and drink chai. She misses the monsoon rains of Bombaybut has developed a deep appreciation of Iowa’s clear blue skies.

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PAPADhirendra Asthana

Translated by

Eishita Siddharth


The lines of the poem by Rahul Bajaj were creating a magicalhypnotism in the pin drop silent conference hall of Air India.Now, the reading of the poem of Rahul bajaj was a hard thingto find for the city. Enlightened people from far -fetched suburbsused to come by local, auto, bus, taxi and their personal carto be a witness to this moment. Rahul was the pride of the city.All the Indian literary awards conferred on him were splendidlydisplayed in a proud splendor in Rahul’s house. His study wasfull with the celebrated books from all around the world. Peoplefrom the newspapers, magazines and T.V. channels used to cometo his house persistently for his interview. His mobile phone hadthe number of the CM, home minister, governor, cultural secretary,police commissioner, page 3 celebrities and prominent journalists.

He was being taught at the universities. He was being invitedto Assam, Darjeeling, Shimla, Nainital, Dehradun, Allahabad, Lucknow,Bhopal, Chandigarh, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Patna and Nagpur. He wasliving contentedly in a comfortable and luxurious two room bedroomhall apartment in the miraculous city—Mumbai.

He travelled in maruti zen. He wore Raymond and Black Berrypants, Park Avenue and Van Heusen shirts and Red Tape shoes.


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He had cleaned and destroyed all thatwas awful, discolored and astringentin the past. But , do things get destroyedthat way!!!!


It was his intimate childhood friendBandhu who had started writing poemswhile in college. And stood at theconfluence of the naxal activities. Butbefore he could explode as a bomb hewas mercilessly killed by some unknownpeople in the valleys of Dehradun.

Rahul got scared. Not because hesaw death so closely for the first time.But the 24 year old Bandhu was theschool in the life of the 20 year oldRahul. He looked up and all the roadsof the city looked deserted and scaryto him. The beautiful city had beeninhabited by some cursed ghosts. Hewas totally alone and also unarmed. Hewas spending his life under amonopolistic shadow of his proud,autocratic, omniscient father who wasthe owner of Gita Electricals with someundone, unripe poems, some sort ofrevolutionary ideas some moral and puredreams and a pass certificate ofintermediate. But it was all so little andoppressive that Rahul lost his way. Thatnight he drank till late and came homeat midnight. He used to drink before

also but then he used to go to Bandhu’splace.

Rahul remembered , clearly. His fatherthrashed him with a curtain rod. Hecame in the porch while he was beatenand fell down after being knocked downby the hand pump. The big, long nailthat joins the handle with the hand pump,passed through his stomach and slashedit. This six inch black mark on the rightside of his stomach brings back thememories of his father every morningwhen he takes a bath. Siddhartha vanishedone night leaving his wife and son andwas called GAUTAMA BUDDHA. Rahulhad climbed on the same hand pumpand had jumped from the porch to theother side of the roof , in blood, whilehis father , mother and his three brothersand sister looked out from the room’swindow staring horrified. There was asea of fire on the other side and onehad to swim through it. Maybe motherfell with grief afterwards.

I have car, bungalow and servants.What do you have? Amitabh Bachchanis asking- wriggling with arrogance. ShashiKapoor is quiet. Baking in the warmthof affection. He said with a deep pride-I have mother. The arrogance of Amitabhcracked.

Rahul couldn’t understand. Why didn’the have a mother? Rahul was also notable to understand that why in this worldno son ever says full with pride thathe has a father. Why a father and ason are always standing at an unseenstrand of conflict.

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Rahul Bajaj’s poem was resoundingin the conference room of S.N.D.T.Women’s University. He got surroundedby young ladies after the recitation.

It was the conference hall of theHindi department of the KumaonUniversity. After a single poetic readingthe head of the department had senthis most intelligent student to take himfor a round to see Nainital. This studenthad a sort of an emotional and intellectualrelationship with Rahul through letters.She used to write letters to him afterreading his poems in the magazines.Twenty years before, on the street ofthe cold Mall Road this girl Ketki Bishta student of M.A. Hindi had held Rahul’shand and had asked suddenly- “Will youmarry me?”

Rahul was amazed. The throat wasdried up from inside. In this chilly Octoberof the hills his forehead was full withthe drops of sweat. There was an oceanof surprise in his eyes. Rahul at thattime held a reputation of a young, giftedand quick tempered poet. He used towork in a weekly newspaper in Delhi.But was this enough for marriage? Andthen he didn’t know much about thegirl. Apart from the fact that she wasbubbling with some rebellious kind ofnotions, that ,the challenges of life filledher with a desire to live. Her eyes werebrimming with intense confidence.

Will I be able to make my dreamsstand on their legs while I walk on thislane of confidence? Rahul thought andpeeped in Ketki’s eyes. “Yes!!”Ketki saidand started smiling. “Yes!!” Rahul saidand kissed Ketki’s forehead. The nearbycrowd started halting in astonishment.Twenty years before it was a surprisingthing. Specially, in a small town likeNainital. Mr. Bisht’sdaughter…………………….. Mr. Bisht’sdaughter…………………….. rumors ranthrough the air.

But the next morning in the presenceof the Bishts and the head of thedepartment Rahul and Ketki becamehusband and wife. The very same eveningRahul and Ketki came back to Delhi-to start their life in a small rented roomin Sarojini Nagar. Sitting in a chair inthe conference hall of S.N.D.T after theautograph session Rahul could see hispast running ahead of him.

Rahul was coming down the stairsat the Andheri station. Vikas was climbingthe stairs. He held a cigarette in hisfingers. Rahul held Vikas by his fist.The cigarette dropped on the ground.Rahul dragged Vikas and took him outsidethe station. After reaching a securedcorner he left Vikas’s fist and said panting-“I told you, to have your life’s firstpeg and first cigarette with me. Didn’tI say so?” “Yes!!” Vikas’s voice fell. “then?”Rahul asked. Vikas lowered his neck andsaid slowly- “Sorry papa! It won’t happenagain.” Rahul smiled. Said “You havea friend like Papa. Appreciate it.” and

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then both of them went their respectiveways.

Vikas was a first year student in theJJ College of arts, Mumbai. Ketki wantedto make him a doctor but Rahul sawthe artistic inclination of his son andso after he did his high school withscience he gave him the permission todo inter in arts and then take admissionin JJ. He wanted to be a commercialartist. In those days Rahul was an editorin a daily newspaper. It was his dailyroutine to come in the midnight andthen sleep till late in the morning.

One Sunday morning he asked Ketki,“Vikas is nowhere to be seen.”

“Finally , you remember your son?”Ketki was standing holding a satiricthread. “but the house is yours fromthe very beginning.” Rahul replied-unaffected. “This is not a home.” Ketkiwas bitter. After a long time she gota chance to be a part of a conversation.“It’s a guest house. And I’m the housekeeper. Only ,a house keeper. “

Rahul was not in a mood to beinvolved. The CEO has entrusted himwith a responsibility of making the outlineof the Pune edition. After lunch in theafternoon he wanted to shut himself upin his study and do the requiredhomework. He called up Vikas’s mobile.

“Papa……….” it was Vikas on the otherside.

“Son where are you?” Rahul was abit stern.

“Papa, I have a show in Rasberryin Bandra next Monday. That’s why I’mat my friend Kapil’s place since a week.Rehearsals are going on.”

“Rehearsal? What show ? “

“Papa do you ever remember anythingexcept yourself. It was only last monththat I told you that I have joined arock band.”

“Rehearsals can be done at homealso.” Rahul was getting agitated liketypical fathers.

“Papa you forgot even this.” A sortof satire started floating in Vikas’s voicetoo. “Only few days before when I waspractising at home you scolded me sobadly saying- it’s home and not a placefor dancing and singing.”

“Shut up!!!” Rahul switched off themobile. He saw Ketki was looking athim satirically. He lowered his head.He was going to his study slowly. Ketkiwas following him.

“What???” Rahul asked and discoveredthat his voice was breaking. This breakingcontained a sort of pain as if someexperiment has been provedunsuccessful.

“You failed Rahul.” Ketki’s eyes hadthe years old confidence.

“You also think so Ketki??” Rahultook off his shirt and vest. “Do youwant that Vikas should think of me likeI do for my father when I see this markon my stomach!”


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“Then?” Rahul had pain in his voice-“I tried to give Vikas a democraticatmosphere. I wanted him to take meas his friend not as his father. “

“A father cannot be a friend Rahul.He can behave like a friend but he isa father after all. And he must be afather.” Ketki completed her sentenceswiftly and went out of the study.

Rahul collapsed in his rest chair. Whenhe didn’t get up till late the next morningKetki called the family doctor. Doctortold- “Blood pressure has made a holein his life.”

Rahul’s eyes were filled with surprise.He didn’t smoke. He drank alcoholoccasionally. He never used to eat friedor oily food. He never used to drinkeven water outside his home.

“Then how?” he asked Ketki.

But till then Ketki had already leftfor the market to purchase the medicinesprescribed by the doctor.

After exactly one week of thedisastrous collapse of the world tradecentre in America on 11th. September2001 Rahul Bajaj was remembered byhis son Vikas at eleven p.m. in the night.In those days Rahul used to work ina news channel as an input editor andlived in Delhi along with his wife. Inthis channel’s job leave aside Vikas ,even Ketki used to spring up in his eyeslike some sort of a forgotten memory.He had left Vikas all alone in his wellsettled home in Mumbai. Vikas hadstarted working as a visualizer in a

multinational company’s Mumbai office.Usually Vikas’s mobile used to be “notreachable.” In fifteen twenty days whenhe remembered his mother he used tocall her on Delhi’s landline and chattedwith her. It was through Ketki that Rahulused to know that Vikas is doing well.His job is good and he has become arising rock singer. He used to tell hismother that the house maintenance isbeing given on time, and that the billsof the landline and power are being dulypaid. The people at the society missthem and that he has purchased a secondhand motor cycle from one of his friendsin instalments. He used to tell that thecrowd in the Mumbai locals is becominglife threatening. Now its difficult to boardand de- board no matter what the timeis. The traits of a well to do middleincome family were present even here.and even there. Rahul was passing hislife. And so was Ketki. Ketki had startedgiving some tuitions in Delhi to be busy.

That ‘s why the call from Vikas hadmoved Rahul.

“Baapu………” Vikas was under theintoxication of affection,alcohol andfreedom- “Baapu, we also had our headoffice in the world trade centre.Everything is finished. The office , andthe boss. Madam has closed the Mumbaioffice by sending an e-mail.”

“Now?” Rahul tried to be in control-“Now what will you do?”

“What else I’ll do, I’ll struggle. Forthe time being I have a month’s notice

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salary with me. After that we will see.”Vikas seemed reassured.

“You do one thing, you lock the houseand come to Delhi. I’ll fit you in mychannel.” After many days there soundeda concerned father in the all time busyand professional voice of Rahul.

“What papa……….” maybe Vikas gotirritated- “at times you talk what things.My career, my desire, my passioneverything is here…………you want meto leave all this and come there, whereeverybody goes off to sleep at eighto’clock. Where power comes scarcely.Oh shit……………………. I hate that city.”Vikas was being deluded. “mummy keepstelling me about the problems there.I’ll stay here. I love Mumbai, you know.Next month I’m going to Pune with myband for a show.”

“Whatever you wish.” Rahul gave up.“if there’s any problem then do inform.”

“Well done. Now that’s like toughguys.” Vikas gave a guffaw and said again-“Take care……….bye”

Rahul was disheartened. He tried togive himself consolation. After alleverything is there in Mumbai’s house.T.V., fridge, computer, VCD player,washing machine, gas, double bed,wardrobe, sofa, bedding. Our son iscapable enough to earn his meals fortwo times. He tried to be at peace withhimself but something was there thatwas making a hole in his peace. He cameback home after some time. When hewas coming back he called up the

secretary of the society and requestedhim that if the maintenance is not receivedon time he should give him a missedcall. The money will be transferred inthe society’s account. He then requestedthe society’s secretary to take care ofVikas. Secretary was a sikh. Goodhumored, he said- “You don’t worry.Your son is fine. I see him some timeson bike saying BYE UNCLE. “

Ketki was astonished when she sawRahul back home. It was only elevenforty five. Rahul never used to comebefore two.

“It was Vikas’s call”. Rahul told –“He has lost his job but there’s nothingmuch to worry.”

“Then!!” Ketki couldn’t comprehendanything.

“He was drunk.” Rahul lowered hishead. His voice seemed so distant asif coming from the other side of a century.Smeared in ashes, dull and helpless. Itseemed as if one of the coals sparkedafresh amongst the dying coals insideKetki. Maybe Rahul’s voice provided theneeded air.

“When we were coming to Delhi, Itold you not to leave Vikas all alonein Mumbai.”

“Ketki don’t talk like fools. Whenchildren grow up they go to London,America, Germany and Japan. Jobs comeand go. And then, we are still living.”Rahul sat on the sofa and started takingoff his shoes. “It’s not a big issue thathe is drunk. After all he is a young

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chap of twenty two.”

“So then!!” Ketki asked “Why are youlooking worried??”

“Am I worried?” Rahul told a lie,“Vikas is facing an adverse situation forthe time being. He is a talented boy.He will get another job. If he is notgoing to struggle now, when is he goingto do that? He needs to grow up throughhis own experiences and reality. “

“It’s for you to know.” Ketki tooka deep breath. “Hope these beliefs donot deceive you. “

“Don’t worry. I’m here.” Rahul smiled.Then he went to his bedroom to sleep.Rahul used to have his dinner in hisoffice. That night Rahul did only twothings. He rolled from right to left andfrom left to right.

The morning was busy as usual.Newspapers, phone, news, news channel,interview, administrative problems,controversy, marketing strategy, bureaucoordination, order, instruction,target…………………a constant chaos oftwenty four hours was forever present.In this chaos time used to fly like windand sensibilities melt away like wax.Amongst all these pre occupations theDecember of Delhi came. Shivering withcold, fog and rain. Vikas couldn’t becontacted anyhow. The phone keptringing at home. When some special dishwas cooked at home his heart skippeda beat. Don’t know what Vikas wouldhave eaten! The food declined to godown the throat. Ketki used to take shelter

under Kumar Gandharva and BheemsenJoshi. She used to try Vikas’s mobile.She used to call the wife of the society’ssecretary and ask- “How is Vikas?” Thereused to be a sole reply- “Haven’t seenhim since many days. I’ll ask him andcall you.” But she didn’t call. When Ketkiused to look at Rahul with her distressedeyes, he used to say- “No news is goodnews.”

“What kind of a father are you?” Ketkifinally collapsed one night-”There’s nonews of our son since three months andyou are enjoying.”

“Ketki!!” Rahul held her at her vitalspot. “I was twenty years old when Ileft my home and ran away. FromDehradun. Then I married you. Istruggled and earned a position formyself. Of course you were always therewith me. We went from Dehradun toDelhi, from Delhi to Lucknow, fromLucknow to Gowahati and from Gowahatito Mumbai. And, again we are in Delhi.Did it cross your mind for once thateven I had a father. That even I wasa son?”

“But where do I figure in all thismatter Rahul?” Ketki protested. “It wasbetween you and your father. But I’minvolved here. I’m Vikas’s mother. Myheart keeps whizzing all the time. I thinkI should go to Mumbai for a few days.”

“Fine.” Rahul got serious. “I’ll dosomething.”

Rahul flew for Mumbai by theafternoon flight of 12:35 on the first

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day of the new year. He had the keysof the house in his briefcase and thedebit and credit cards of three banksin his purse.

The house seemed strikingly faded,sad, anarchical and ruined. Rahul’s housewhich he had given to Vikas as a keepsake.The name plate at the door was obviouslyin Rahul’s name but inside it was castingits shadows like a handicapped housekeeper.

Slowly Rahul started getting scared-“Im being made from the other sideand being demolished from this side.”Rahul thought. The darkness of the twentyfirst century was adamant for stayingin his body like the future. His beliefs,his morals, his thoughts in which theeducated lot of the country believed,were lying scattered in his very ownhouse amongst the dirty, filthy clothesof Vikas. The book shelves in the hallwere covered with spider webs and lizardswere resting in peace there.

He picked up the receiver of thephone- it was dead. That means the bellused to ring in the exchange office. Theprecious and expensive works ofNagarjuna, Nirala, and Muktibodh alongwith the collected works of Kalidasaseemed to be panting under centuries’old dust. An electronic guitar was lyinglopsided on the sofa. There were threeashtrays on the T.V.,in which there wasnot even a pinch of space for ash. Therewere empty cigarette packets lying inthe corner along the showcase. The shoeswere leaving their imprints on the floor

while moving.

Rahul came inside- with a strongapprehension. There were many emptycans of 20 liters’ bislery placed in arow on the kitchen platform- empty,without cover. The cover-lid of thewashing machine was open and it wascompletely filled with Vikas’s dirtyclothes. There were stains of oil andspices on the curtains. There were postersof some foreign singers in foolish posturesstuck on the doors of the bathroom andtoilet. Rahul’s study room was closed.The computer and printer in the bedroomwas missing. Rahul opened the door ofhis study with the key- it was dusty,humid and damp but since it was closedthe room was as it was- just the wayRahul had left it. This tired, awaitingand sad room seemed to be giving Rahula sort of consolation that all was notlost. Rahul sat in his revolving chairlying in front of his writing table andstarted making a futile effort of callingVikas’s mobile which to his surprisestarted ringing.

“Hello”, it was Vikas, sounding exactlylike Rahul, vanished since three months.

“Papa”, Vikas shouted- “How are you?How is mom?”

“What do you care?”, Rahul gotirritated.

“Papa, my mobile was dead, gotworking just day before yesterday. I wasgoing to tell you. Good news! I got ajob just day before yesterday in Relianceinfo com. Pay is fifteen thousand. I was

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going mad without a job since threemonths. In between I met with anaccident. I was in the hospital for fifteendays. Bike got damaged. Sold it as junk”.Vikas was going on telling withoutstopping, without any grief, pain or guilt.Just like plain news.

“You didn’t inform us about theaccident”, Rahul was suddenly seized bystrange melancholy.

“What would have happened then?”Vikas was giving logic. “Your bloodpressure would have risen. You peoplewould have come here running. But it’sthe medicines that would have curedme eventually! Then, my friends werehere. What use would these bastardsbe!!! You would have been terrified ifyou had seen me papa. The left eyewas awful. It was completely bulgingout. There were seven stitches on theforehead. Lip was slashed. Everythingis fine now.”

“From where did the money come?”Rahul asked.

“Friends gave it. Had to sell thecomputer. Now I’ll pay them slowly.”

“And for how long you have not beenhome.”

“Maybe, since eight or ten days”.Vikas told soothingly.

“And the house’s telephone?”

“It’s dead.” Vikas said- “From wherewould I pay the rent? It was hard tomanage food.”

“Even the maintenance would not

have been paid?”

“Yes.” Vikas said.

“Don’t you think you should havetold all this?” Rahul got irritated. “Isthis the way your generation behaveswith mothers and fathers?”

“Papa, don’t start giving lectures.”Vikas also got irritated. “Nobody isstealing the house? Finally there’s a job,I’ll give everything. Now listen, let metalk to mom.”

“Mom is in Delhi.”

“In Delhi? So where are you?” Vikasgot a bit amazed.

“In Mumbai. In my house”. Rahulsaid.

“Ok bye. I’ll come in the evening”.Vikas disconnected the phone. There wasa streak of a vibration in his voice forthe first time. What is the difference?Rahul was asking himself. Just like Iran away from my home Vikas is awayfrom home- living and dying accordingto his choice. In his own, parallel world.He was tied with his mummy-papa bysome imperceptible thread, but even thisthread was missing in Rahul’s world.When ,after seven years papa died inJodhpur with brain cancer, mom brokeher silence. On his mother’s orders hisyounger brother found out his addressand sent him a telegram- “Father is nomore. If you want you can come.”

He didn’t go. If father was out ofhis life, if mother, wasn’t able to remaina mother, if his brothers and sister had

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disowned him, so why would have Rahulgone to open the door of a closed world?When he was jumping out of the house,immersed in blood , couldn’t his motherhave come forward and prevented hisexit. Did this notion ever cross the mindof his father how an inter pass twentyyear old boy is surviving in this world?

Rahul Bajaj found that a tear hadrolled down from his left eye onto hischeek. Maybe the left eye is connectedto the heart and the right eye to themind. Rahul thought and then smiledat his finding.

With the help of two house maidsthe house was set in order by evening.The secretary of the society had changed.The name of Rahul Bajaj was splendidlywritten on the notice board in the listof all those who have not paid themaintenance. Rahul cleared all the arrearsand gave post dated cheques for thecoming twelve months to the secretary.He also deposited a cheque of threethousand combining the previousfourteen hundred and the forth-comingsixteen hundred in the electricityaccount. He also gave the applicationto the secretary for the surrender ofthe telephone along with a cross cheque.He sent all the dirty clothes of Vikasto the laundry. He sold the T.V., fridgeand washing machine to one of Ketki’sfriends for a sum of ten thousand rupees.He was invited by this same friend’s(Revati) husband Lalit Tiwari for dinner.

Vikas came at eight o’clock in thenight. He had bought a bottle of Bag

Piper along with himself.

“It’s you who said, have the firstpeg with me”. Vikas said. “That didn’thappen but we will say cheers togetherto celebrate my new job”.

“Agreed!!!”, Rahul was unchanged.“I’m locking the house and going out.”

“Will do”, Vikas was not even a bitworried. “My office is in Marol. It isnot possible anymore to catch a trainfrom Andheri for Meera Road. I’mthinking of becoming a paying guestsomewhere near my office.”

Vikas didn’t go to Revati and Lalit’shouse for dinner. He ordered a chickenbiryani from Pushpak hotel for himself.

Next morning was Sunday. Vikas wasready when Rahul woke up. He had madea double omelet for his father.

“Where?” Rahul asked.

“I have my rehearsal”. Vikas said.“Today is my show in the evening atseven p.m. in Rasberry at Bandra.”

“Can’t I come in that show?” Rahulasked.

“What?” Vikas wondered. “You’llcome to watch my show! But you andmummy are the types for KumarGandharva, Bheemsen Joshi……………!!”

“After all, what you sing is also akind of music.” Rahul intervened.

“Yes!” he punched with his fists inthe air. “I’ll wait.” Then he picked uphis guitar and went down the stairs.For a long time Rahul was perplexed

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with the studs which hung in Vikas’sears and with his short, spiked coloredhair. When Ketki called up he was unableto figure out as to who he was with-Vikas or himself. Ketki was surely withVikas-”When you have closed the housefor him then why don’t you arrangefor his funeral side by side”. She wascrying. She was a mother and possiblyshe was with her son. Rahul doesn’t knowwhat a mother is. He was not even abit moved by Ketki’s crying.

Rasberry. A discotheque, for the newgeneration boys and girls. There wereposters outside- NEW SENSATION OFINDIAN ROCK SINGER Vikas Bajaj. Rahulbought a ticket of three hundred andwent inside. There was a crowd of weirdlooking boys and girls. The air was filledwith the smell of drugs. Beer was onits high. Youth was intoxicating. Therewas a passion to live for the moment.The contours of the buttocks were clearlyvisible from the jeans of the girls. Boyswere wearing tight t-shirts. Their hairwere tied up like plaits. Their muscleswere bulging out from their sleevelesst-shirts. The breasts of the girls weremoving like tennis balls inside their shirts-free from the clutches of their bra. MaybeRahul was the only adult there whomthe crowd of Rasberry saw with curiouseyes from time to time.

After a short announcement Vikascame onto the stage- along with his guitar.Bending his neck onto his knees he staredsinging some sort of an ear deafeningsong that filled the hall with applause,

the girls swayed and the boys starteddancing passionately.

This sort of a boy has been madeout of him? Rahul thought and was drawninto a corner by the constant pushingof the boys and girls. The crowd wentnostalgic and started shouting “Oncemore” for Vikas. Rahul’s heart was slashedinto two. He called up Ketki and saidslowly, “Can you hear the noise? It’sthe noise of Vikas’s success. I don’t knowwhether I’m happy or sad. For the firsttime a father is very uncertain Ketki.”He disconnected the phone and startedlooking at Vikas.

He came out after the break. Vikasalso came out saying “Hi guys! Hellogirls!” he had a cigarette in his mouth.He touched Rahul’s feet and said “I’mvery happy that my father is sharingmy happiness.”

“My child.” Rahul embraced Vikas,“Be happy wherever you are. I haveto go now. My flight is at ten fifteen.You will get all your ironed clothes fromRevati aunty’s house.” Rahul Bajaj’sthroat had choked- “Where will you stayfrom tomorrow? Should I leave the keysof the house………………..?”

Before a father inside Rahul Bajajmelted, Vikas was being called on stage.He again touched Rahul’s feet and said,“Don’t worry about me papa! I’m likethis. You go. Best of journey. Sorry.”Vikas waved his hand, “I can’t cometo the airport. Give my love to Maa.”Vikas went inside, amid the crowd, thefrenzy and the noise.

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It was very dark outside. In thisdarkness Rahul Bajaj was very lonely,helpless and confused. He longed to bewith everybody but he was with no one.He had neither father nor mother. Nowhe didn’t have even his son. And after

reaching Delhi even Ketki was going toleave him. Rahul stopped a taxi, satin it and said, “Santacruz airpot. “

A song was being played in the taxi-“BABUL MORA NAIHAR CHHOOTO HIJAAYE!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Dhirendra Asthana, born 1956 is a creative writer and a journalist. Rightfrom his first collection of short stories ‘log-hashiye par’ to his latest novel‘desh nikala’. Asthana has exuded a confidence of expression and experimentation.He also writes for films.

Eishita Siddharth, born 1984, is pursuing a post graduate course in Englishliterature at Lucknow University. She has already completed her Diplomain French. She is interested in literature and translates at will. Lives inLucknow.

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Translated by

Ranjana Kaul

Wonder why days and nights are an unalienable part of life, justlike legends. They follow each other one after another, neverseeming to end. Expending their lives pursuing each other. Doesthe night chase the day, or is it the day which wanders aroundlooking for the nights which succeed sorrowful evenings retreatingfrom daylight. The darkness increases, swallowing the doors andwindows of the house whole, without even stopping to chew themup. It is a hungry beggar, Nitya thought to herself as she turnedover on the bed. The roots of the mind are also very dark, entangledwith one another. How can one see through such darkness.! Theysay there are seven subterranean worlds below the earth. Howmany such worlds lie below the realm of the mind!

How can Nitya deal with the turmoil inside her? All she cando is turn restlessly from side to side like someone stirring apot of boiling milk to prevent it from spilling over. It seemsthis fire and this tumult will only ebb with the dawn. Everyoneawaits the gleam of daybreak even if it is stricken with frost.She will also see a dawn tomorrow. Time which is just a fewhours away is also called tomorrow but then what else can itbe called? Just as her house is called a home because it is one.So, tomorrow she has to go back home. Her own home.

She remembers a time when this word ‘home’ was like a beautifulrecurrent dream in her mind. Home is an aspiration, a desire,and having one of your own is a profound experience. This iswhat she had written with a lipstick on one of the large mirrored


t sto


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doors of the almirah that day when shehad first decorated Chandramohan’sroom in Ghaziabad and made it intoa home. Today, why does the same word‘home’ bubble in her mind like boilingrice. Suddenly, she sat up and told herselfnot to think about all this. Tomorrowshe has to return home, her own home.

She had not articulated these wordsin the night, how would her ears seethese words in the darkness? So, herears remained oblivious just like hermind. She picked up her pillow and cameout into the open. Perhaps her mindwould be able to breathe more freelyhere. She spread out the rush matstanding against a wall of the courtyard,placed her pillow on it and tried tolie down. The moon, shining with themild luminosity of the thirteenth dayof the dark half of the lunar month,seemed to be looking at her. In thatdim light she felt as though she hadbecome an image of stone or an ancientruin which lives both in the past andin the present.

An old yellowed memory floated intoher mind. Prabha bua sitting on a stringbed on the roof of this very houseembroidering a pillowslip and youngNitya sitting with an open book in herlap admiring the word ‘Welcome’ andthe roses embroidered on the pillowcover. Prabha bua was working on thegreen thorns around the rose.

“Bua how does one do such beautifulembroidery?”

“How would I know… ask the needle.”

Wrinkling up her nose in disgust Nityaburied her nose in the book. Prabhabua was smiling. Pulling the threadupwards with the needle she asked- “Areyou reading a story? Is it good?”

“How would I know…ask the book!”Nitya answered laughing so uproariouslyat her own wit that Prabha bua stoppedher work to stare at her. And then herlaughter was no longer solitary.

Nitya’s childhood was closely linkedto Prabha bua. What was Prabha bua’srelationship with her, apart from beingan aunt, her father’s sister? She wasan elder sister, a younger mother, anolder friend, maybe everything or nothingat all, because like the others even Nityadid not know where Prabha bua….! Nitya’sthoughts abruptly shivered to a halt.She remembered the letter sent by Prabhabua many years ago from Dhampur inwhich she had written only one quotationin her beautiful small handwriting-“Within all of us lies an immeasurablespace which has not been mapped orexplored. If we want to understand theturbulence and turmoil which exist insideus we must pay attention to this immensespace as well.”

At the end she had written- ‘I amnot writing the name of the authorbecause you don’t have to appear foran exam nor does it make any difference.’She had not even signed her own nameat the bottom of the letter. Perhaps thatwas of no significance either!

The world of the mind is full of theclamour of images, events and words.

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These frequently bump into each othereven as they attempt to avoid contact.Sometimes a word searches for an imagewhich sits leaning its head upon theshoulders of an event, or an image pursuesa happening which hides motionless inthe shadow of a group of words.

Today, in the dim light of the moon,resting her head upon the pillow slipembroidered by her aunt, Nitya wantsto recall all those moments when shereally discovered Prabha bua. But wherecan she find those lost moments? Themoments of the present smile feebly asthough apologizing for all thoseinnumerable moments which have alreadybeen massacred. Prabha bua often usedto say, “Nitu, history is not meant tobe forgotten but to be repeatedly broughtto mind.” Nitu tried to follow thememories of the past just as one triesto chase the sun in winter .But thenhow much of the winter sun does onemanage to capture!

The family of Prabha bua’s father,Kalicharan, had moved from Hapur toDelhi after Kalicharan’s elder sister PranoDevi was married to Ambika Dutt. Boththese orphaned young children had beenbrought up by their uncle. ThoughKalicharan was two years younger thanhis sister he was married off earlierbecause his aunt wanted him to marryher brother’s daughter. However, it tooka while to find a boy for Prano. Finally,a proposal came from Ambika Dutt ofDelhi, a man who had already lost twowives. Their good luck lay in the fact

that the gentleman had already receivedtwo lavish dowries but had no children.This time he did not have much interestin dowry, so Prano Devi, despite beingan orphan, become a part of this wellto do household.

Prano Devi was deeply attached toher younger brother, Kalicharan or Kali.Soon, she managed to persuade AmbikaDutt to invite Kali and his family tolive with her. At this moment Kalicharan’sfamily consisted of his wife and his son,Dwarka Prasad. Ambika Dutt owned aflour mill. The work was increasing everyday and he urgently needed someoneto take over the job of a manager ifhe wanted to save his life from beingdisfigured by the dust and chaff of thewheat. In such a situation, it wasimpossible for him to get a moretrustworthy and reliable manager thanhis brother-in-law. And then, therelationship being what it was, Kali wouldbe obliged to accept any salary withoutquibbling. He would never have the nerveto ask for more and Prano Devi wouldalso remain perpetually indebted to herhusband.

The rest of Kalicharan’s three children,Saroj Bala, Prehlad Prasad and PrabhaBala were born in the environs of theflour mill in Delhi. Prano Devi ruledvigorously over the household andAmbika Dutt governed their lives withequal authority. Which child attendedwhich school or college, how much heor she studied, all these decisions wereultimately taken by Ambika Dutt. He

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had only one son who did not burdenhim with the necessity of taking anysuch decisions on his behalf. The sonleft school after the eighth class andtook up the responsibility of becomingthe local bully. His behaviour promptedPrano Devi to speak to her husbandand Ambika Dutt immediately decidedto involve him in the working of themill. Keeping his nature and dispositionin mind he was assigned the task ofcollecting dues, a job which he cheerfullyaccepted. Gradually he began to controlall the finances of the enterprise andfill his own pockets. His poor uncleKalicharan was left helplessly scrutinizingthe incomplete pages of the companyaccounts books. He continued to drawthe salary decided upon many years agowhich, like an old and tattered covering,barely fulfilled the needs of his growingfamily. One month Dwarka Prasad wouldgrow out of it and another month itwould be Prehlad Prasad. However, lifeprogressed with relative peace of mindunder the shelter of Prano Devi’s loveand affection.

The first voice of revolt was raisedby Prehlad Prasad when he refused towork in the flour mill. He had decidedto study for a B.Sc. in Physics. The thoughtof doing a B.A. in Accounts like DwarkaPrasad and dreaming of the mill dayafter day was unbearable to him. Hemanaged to get his way as far as theB. Sc was concerned but when he pushedto do his Masters Ambika Dutt decidedto put his foot down. He decided to

cut off all financial assistance which theboy received from the family. Prehladnow began to support his studies bydoing tuitions. There was no rancourin his heart, on the contrary, he wasquite happy. He had never imagined thathe would be able to escape from themill so easily. His home lay within theenvirons of the mill but his world layoutside it.

The only member of the family whohad access to this world was PrabhaBala, that is, Nitya’s Prabha Bua. Prabhawas only three years younger than herbrother Prehlad. She was good at studiesbut in keeping with the wishes of AmbikaDutt she had been enrolled in a tailoringcourse after completing the 11th class.She enjoyed embroidery and stitchingbut her real interest lay in the booksshe borrowed from her brother Prehladbhai sahib. The fiction and romanceswhich Prehlad bhai sahib brought homewere never returned until Prabha hadread all of them. She had even visitedDelhi University with her brother a fewtimes and the library which was as bigas the flour mill. She also enjoyed goingto the Delhi Public Library near theRailway station with Prehlad bhai sahib.

Sometimes bhai sahib would go offin another direction leaving her alonenear the book shelves. Alone in thatvast room surrounded by innumerablebooks! She would feel a strange aridfear. So many books, so many stories,so much knowledge! Many ideas mustbe refuting and challenging each other.

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But they are all sitting here quietlywithout even a shadow of dissention.Isn’t it strange that opposing ideas cansit side by side mutely in the same roomwithout any debate or argument? Whenwords become silent, they alter theircharacter, and the opposite is also true,for when silent words speak up theytoo change. Prabha Bala gently caressedone word after another, just to determinewhether the words would speak up whenthey were touched. Prabha bua told Nityaall this one day standing in a silentcorner of the Delhi Public library. Atthat time Prabha was not yet married.

Nitya also knew that Prehlad chachawould sometimes take Prabha bua toRegal or Odeon or for a film festivalto see a movie, pretending that theywere going to the library. Later Prabhabua would narrate the entire story ofthe film to Nitya when they were allalone on the roof.

Prehlad chacha became a lecturerin a college within a few years. Prabhabua used to carry this victory of hisaround with her like brooch on a sari.He had been working for around sixmonths when the fateful day arrived.He went to Assam on a college trip.One day one of the boys suddenly slippedand fell into the Lohit river. PrehladPrasad also jumped in to try and savehim. And then neither of them was everfound. A glimmering bright window inPrabha’s life was suddenly slammed shutleaving her bereft. Nitya’s grandmother,that is Prabha’s mother, could not bear

the shock of her son’s death and shealso passed away.

Dwarka Prasad, Prabha’s elderbrother, had two children by now, Mukeshand Nitya. Saroj Bala, the elder sisterwas married and had gone to Bareilly.She also had a daughter. Prabha balawho was younger than Prehlad was quitefew years younger than Dwarka Prasadand Saroj Bala. However,she was nearlytwenty years old and Prano devi becamevery concerned about the marriage ofthis motherless niece of hers. She spoketo Kali and made him pay more attentionto this matter. Somehow, it proved tobe quite difficult to get a suitable groomfor Prabha and if one was found therewas a very high demand for dowry.Ambika Prasad was also becoming a littlelax and was gradually losing control overthe mill. His son was regularly showinga loss in the financial registers.

The doors of the house would openhopefully to admit prospectivebridegrooms and their families, and thenquickly close behind them as theydeparted. Sometimes, one opens a doorexpecting to see a particular person butfinds someone unexpected standing thereinstead. Similarly, one day Saroj’shusband, Prabha bua’s brother-in-lawDushyant jijaji, arrived from Bareilly.He had been sent to Delhi for six monthsfor training by his company. ForKalicharan, the absence of a young manin the house due to Prehlad’s death wasnow filled by Dushyant Kumar. He wastall, well-built and had the knack of

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narrating every incident like aninteresting story. The sea of silence whichhad invaded Prabha bua’s life was throwninto turmoil. She had the responsibilityof looking after Dushyant, keeping hislikes and dislikes in mind. When herbrother in law or jijaji left home lookingdashing and handsome, her eyes wouldfollow him. At that moment she felt asthough she was looking at Prehlad notat Dushyant. This was something jijajicould never understand, neither couldJanaki bhabi, who felt it was her dutyto warn her elder sister-in-law, Saroj.She wrote to her asking her to cometo Delhi.

Janaki bhabi pointed at Prabha andremarked to Saroj, “Bibi, look after yourhouse. Men are so fickle. God knowswhat kind of training will happen herewhile you are in Bareilly.” Saroj balabecame wary. Kalicharan was now quiteold and was suffering from Diabetes. Sarojsought the help of her elder brotherDwarka Prasad and the search for a groomfor Prabha acquired a new urgency.

It was decided that it would be betterfor Prabha to be away from the city,so they looked for a boy outside Delhi.Soon, Prabha bua was engaged to bemarried to Radheyshyam who was headclerk in the Income-Tax office in thesmall town of Dhampur. Both sides wereequally anxious to have an early wedding.When Prabha bua was dressed as a brideshe examined herself in the mirror. Nityanoticed the slight smile on her lips. Shepulled at the edge of Prabha bua’s sari

and told her affectionately, “Bua, youare looking pretty.” Prabha bua answeredalmost brazenly, “That is true.” Nityafound her frankness a little odd. Shewanted to know what was going on inher bua’s head, “Bua, what are youthinking about?” “Nothing, I wasremembering my mother. She used tosay that the worst thing that can happento a girl from Delhi,or a cow from Mathurais to be sent away from its hometown.”Prabha bua gave a short laugh,”Do youknow she was from a village near Delhiand went to Hapur after her marriage.”After a while she added gravely, “Buther luck changed and the entire familycame back to Delhi.”

Nitya was shaken to the core. Shecould not meet Prabha’s eyes but sheheld on to her hand and said, “Papasays Dhampur is a nice place… look,the colour of your henna is so beautiful.”“Just like Dhampur,” Prabha bua saidpulling her hand away as she walkedon ahead.

Even before Prabha arrived inDhampur to become a member of thehead-clerk’s extended family her ill-luckhad begun . The house already containedtwo elder brothers-in-law, their wivesand children. There were also two sisters-in-law, one unmarried, the other a youngwidow. The sisters-in-law were eitherdedicated to the kitchen or to jewellery.Prabha’s simple, handloom saris, manybought at the Khadi Bhandar sale, andher lack of ostentatious jewellery, sether apart from the other women of the

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household like a black cardamom in ayellow curry. Radheyshyam, the head-clerk was a typical small town Romeo.He was fond of having a good time andsaw every new movie within a week ofits release with his friends. When hissisters-in law teased him saying, “Whatsort of an ascetic have you broughthome?” he would feel even more alienatedfrom Prabha.

Prabha who used to accompanyPrehlad bhai sahib to plays in SapruHouse, or English movies like Ben Hurwhich she did not fully understand, couldnot find any enjoyment in occasionaltrips to the typically small townDhaampur bazaar. There was only onehope left– that the birth of a child wouldhelp to reconcile her to life in Dhampur.But this hope did not materialize forquite some time. Finally, one dayRadheyshyam babu took Prabha to Delhifor a series of medical tests andexaminations. As soon as the doctorsarrived at the conclusion that it wasnot Prabha but Radheyshyam who wasresponsible for the couples childless state,Radheyshyam abandoned the tests andreturned to Dhampur rarely showing hisface in Delhi or in the house of hisin-laws thereafter.

In fact, Radheyshyam’s aversion tohis in-laws even extended to Prabha.He seemed to revert to the days of hisyouth, his moustache aquired greaterdimensions, and he attempted to asserthis masculinity by spending most of hisevenings away from home.

His relationship with Prabha was nearthe end of its tether but the householdgenerally placed the blame on thewife.During this time one day whenPrabha opened her little box shediscovered that all her jewellery wasmissing. When the news of the theftreached Delhi everyone was stunned.

“What theft? There is barely any roomin that house. Three small rooms andmore people than possessions. There ishardly any place to put down your foot…when did the thief enter the house? Hemust have given it to some woman ofhis” said Kalicharan, wiping his mouthwith the ends of his muffler as he layon the bed he occupied in his old age.

Jijaji, Dushyant Kumar, had beentransferred to Delhi and had settled therewith his family. Prabha Bala had beenmarried only five years when she gotthe news that jijaji had died in an accident.The shock of this tragedy coming afterthe death of Prehlad bhai sahib devastatedPrabha. After her marriage she had onlymet her sister Saroj Bala occasionallyon festivals and that too generally amidsta crowd of relatives. During the mourningfor jijaji, when Prabha moved towardsSaroj to console her, Saroj pushed heraside with her elbow. Despite DushyantKumar’s death, Saroj had evidently notbeen able to erase the old incident fromher mind, or perhaps Dushyant had beenin the habit of occasionally referringto Prabha in glowing terms and this hadwounded Saroj. Dushyant’s death hadprovided Prabha with the possibility of

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mourning for her brother once againbut now she had to return homediscomfited, nursing the pain in her heart.These two tragic incidents made her feeleven more detached from life.

Saroj Bala’s daughter went abroadafter her marriage. Saroj had DushyantKumar’s pension and his house but herloneliness was not assuaged by these.Janaki bhabi was not likely to let suchan opportunity slip by, therefore it wasdecided that Saroj Bala would live withher and Dwarka Prasad and would givethem the rent she earned from her houseto pay for her keep. Her husband’s pensionwas enough to pay for Saroj’s needs.In this manner,not only did Janaki Bhabi’sfinancial situation improve considerablybut she could also try to convinceeveryone about how supportive andconcerned she and her husband wereabout their widowed sister.

Nitya had finished her schooling andwanted to study a foreign language.However, as she did not get admissionin a regular college she started doingher B.A. by correspondence besideswhich every evening she attended thethree year German course in Max MuellerBhavan. She also started learning musicfrom the Sangeet Kala Kendra.

Chandramohan was a talented youngman from the interior of Bihar who camewith his theater group to Delhi for avisit but then settled down permanentlyin the city. Other boys from hisvillage,who were studying in Delhi, hadtaken a room on rent in Katwaria Sarai.

Chandramohan also joined them. He hada good grasp of music so he soon startedgetting work providing music for playsand cultural programmes.

Nitya and Chandramohan decided toget married after they had been friendsfor nearly two years. Nitya first wantedto test Prabha bua’s reaction to thedecision before sharing it with the restof the family. Ambika Dutt had passedaway nearly a year ago but she wasstunned at the response she got fromPrabha, “Look Neetu, Think carefullybefore you say anything at home. Unclehas not yet departed from this house…nor is he going anywhere…this housebelonged to him and it will remain his…I am afraid…”


“I’m afraid in their anger they maymarry you off in Dhampur as well.” Thenafter a while she added softly, “God knowshow long babujis and other elders likehim will rule over households.”

Nitya’s decision stunned her fatherDwarka Prasad. Before Janaki could react,Saroj Bala started turning the beads ofher rosary agitatedly, “Neither caste norcommunity…and works as an actor…couldn’t she find anyone else in theworld!”

Nitya finished her German coursearound this time and started getting workas a translator. She would leave homein the morning, spend the day in a libraryand return home in the evening. Sherequired no financial support from her

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family. In these circumstances, at theurging of Mukesh, Nitya was marriedto Chandramohan despite a completelack of enthusiasm in the family.

The two of them spent the first fifteenor twenty days after their marriage inthe room in Katwaria Sarai which hadbeen vacated by Chandramohan’s friends,who had temporarily shifted to the roomsof their friends in J.N.U. This arrangementcould not last too long and soonChandramohan rented a room for anominal amount in the house of his friendin Ghaziabad. Nitya now shifted fromDelhi to her home in Ghaziabad.

Soon the leaves began to turn brown.In Delhi spring is overtaken by autumnvery quickly. During the long melancholyafternoons one could hear only the soundof one’s own footsteps on the leavesscattered on the wide silent streets ofMandi house.

Chandramohan was now quite busywith his theatre groups. Nitya had startedworking in a private company so shehad to travel to Delhi. Whenever shewas free she would do her translations.Both of them were busy trying to improvethe financial situation of the household.Days, months and years passed like emptycarriages before their eyes. Nitya nowhad the memories of Chandramohan’scompanionship rather than Chandra-mohan himself for company.

Living with memories is just anillusion. Whenever Nitya spoke to himabout starting a family Chandramohan

avoided the topic. If Nitya referred tothe matter more seriously he would blowon the tendrils of her hair and remark,“I am not in the mood to become afather yet, my dear.” If Nitya maintaineda stony silence he would try to persuadeher,

“Let us first get settled properly. Wehaven’t been married very long… don’tthink about all this … concentrate onyour job… pay attention to the foreigndelegations… do more translations…youknow darling, money... money is thereal necessity in life.”

“Once the child is here the moneywill also come.”

“Don’t talk rubbish…think big…we canalways have children…concentrate onyour work...on your work.”

At such moments she wouldremember Prabha bua. Once when shehad come from Dhampur she had toldNitya very sadly, “Nitu you didn’t seeyour grandmother... do you know shedidn’t have a nail on her forefinger?I used to find that finger of hers verystrange. I would often ask her- ‘Amma,why doesn’t this finger have a nail…isit broken?’ She would reply, ‘No it hasn’tbeen there since I was born.’”

“Since birth?” Nitya had remarkedin amazement.

“Yes…Then once I asked her… whyis the nail missing? And she answered,‘Because I am a mother. Anyone whois a good mother doesn’t have a nailon this finger.’”

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“Why?” Nitya asked with childishcuriosity.

“I asked her the same question- ‘why?’She replied-‘so that I can apply kajalto my children’s eyes without worrying.If anything gets stuck in their throatsI can quickly pull it out without hurtingthem.’” Nitya listened eagerly.

“And do you know Nitu…I thoughtwhat she said was true. I would checkthe forefinger of every woman who visitedus very carefully. But everyone’s nailswere intact and I felt very happy atthe thought that my mother was thebest mother. There was no one else likeher.” Prabha bua became silent. Shelooked at the nail on her forefinger,“Look Nitu,my forfinger has a nail…butI could never even become a mother,not better or worse…just nothing.”

Nitya felt that sediment of sorrowwhich seeped from Prabha bua’s bodyto her mind had now passed on to her.She checked her own forefinger and thenturned her eyes away, “Who knew whatfate had in store?”

Chandramohan often went out of Delhiwith the theatre groups and wheneverthere was less translation work Nityawould go to her parents house. SarojBala’s influence over Janaki had grownto such an extent that even Nitya wassilenced by the changed environmentat home. There was no one with whomshe could share her marital problemsand in any case her marriage had beenher own decision. One day she overheardSaroj Bua whispering, “Bhabi, be careful,

it doesn’t seem right for Nitya to comeand stay so often.”

“I am sure everything is fine…otherwise she would have saidsomething,” Janaki had whispered back.

“What can she say and how can shecomplain…but these are not good signs.One can understand it if she is expectingor she is ill…but I cannot understandwhy a married girl should visit her parentsso frequently.”

Saroj Bala used to give her brotherDwarka Prasad some money from herpension if the need arose. This was abig support for the family. After thedeath of Ambika Prasad his son hadtaken over the flour mill. Dwarka Prasadhad now been reduced to a mereemployee. Kalicharan had also finallyleft his bed and passed away. Mukeshonly managed to hold a job for a fewmonths, he had not yet been able tosettle in life or in employment.

Even before Nitya’s marriage SarojBala’s growing assertiveness hadincreased Prabha’s solitude and sadness.After her marriage, despite the fact thather brother and sister-in-law were notvery welcoming, Prabha would often comeon festivals and birthdays and try tobuild bridges of relationships. When sheentered the house saying, “HappyDussehra, bhabi,” Janaki would lowerher head under the pretext of pullingher sari over it and mutter under herbreath, “Here she is again ….she willbe stuck here for at least three or fourdays.” Then she would stand up and

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embrace Prabha saying, “Welcome bibi…you have come after so many days. Nityais really fond of you… she remembersyou very often.”

After a day or two Prabha bua wouldtell Nitya, “When I leave, just take outa handloom sari for me…even an oldone will do.” Nitya would always feelvery depressed as she handed over thesari. Anyhow these were all old memories.Now Nitya has already been marriedfor five years. Two years ago she hadbought a blue, black and white sari forPrabha, with the intention of giving itto her at their next meeting, even beforebua had an opportunity to ask for one.,“Bua your sari… I have bought it withmy own salary.” They say that thoughtsfollow one around like ghosts but inNitya’s case it was the handloom sariwhich haunted her since she never sawPrabha bua again, nor for that matterdid anyone else.

The last time Nitya met Prabha shewas astonished by what she saw. Onehot summer afternoon. Prabha hadentered the house with a cloth bag slungover her shoulder. Nitya was meetingher for the first time after her ownwedding. Prabha’s skin had become roughand tanned. When everyone dispersedfor a nap after lunch, Nitya persuadedPrabha to go with her to the bathroomand gave her a bath, scrubbing her topeel off layers of dirt. There was somuch dirt that Nitya had to keep onpouring water over Prabha. The drainwas flooded with soap scum and layers

of dirt. Prabha bua burst out laughingloudly, “Look at the flood of dirt… Itlooks as though Dhampur will get washedaway like the water in the drain.”

Then she wore an old sari of Nitya’sand both of them sat under the draftof the cooler. Gradually she stretchedout her legs and relaxed against thepillow. She closed her eyes and as hermind wandered off to some unknowndestination she slowly called out to Nityawho was lying down next to her, “Nitu.”

“Yes, bua.”

“Nitu, you know everyone has a heartand there is a nameplate on it. Thenameplate on my heart... sometimes Iwant to turn it upside down …reverseit….because it has sorrow written onit... but then I don’t do it.” Nitya’s sleephad fled. She was lying on her side withher eyes closed, feeling the presenceof Prabha bua. Her ears heard, “Do youknow why? Because behind the nameplateis written-happiness. If I turn thenameplate over then happiness will bein front and sorrow will shift to theback, clinging to the walls of my heart,closer than it was before.”

Prabha bua was not feeling sleepy.Perhaps she had become accustomed tothe sleeping pills which Radheyshyamuncle used to give her frequently. Itmust have been convenient for him tokeep Prabha in a state of somnolence.Her body would remain alive while thepassions of her heart would be stilled.Nitya thought this to herself with asarcastic smile on her lips. How would

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he understand that the passions of themind cannot be quietened? They canjust change direction sometimes…movingtowards a dead end, aimless andunfocused.

In any case directionless paths werebecoming a part of Prabha bua’s life,“I like wandering around on the roadsNitu…I like it very much and I especiallylike crying on the roads… houses belongto people… some have one, somedon’t…some have less, others have more…but the road belongs to it also belongs to me.”

Some day will she come across aweeping Prabha bua sitting by the sideof a road. Nitya remembered somethingelse Prabha had said, “Do you know Nitu,sometimes at home, when everyone elseis having their meals, I eat only fruitsbecause they are just like the roads….theybelong to everyone and no one.”

Mukesh said that she often came awayfrom Dhampur without informing anyone.At such times he used to escort herto the bus stop and put her on thebus to Dhampur. After a month or soshe would be back again. She wouldleave her bag at home and wanderthrough the streets. When she was tiredshe would sit down and watch peoplecoming and going around her, and returnhome late at night. In the morning Mukeshwould bundle her into a three wheeler,take her to the bus stop and put heron the bus to Dhampur.

Dhampur–Nitya repeated the wordwith tears in her eyes and a thin smile

on her trembling face. What is thisDhampur? Dham means a place to stay-a home, and pur means a settlement,also a place to live–a home. Both Dhamand pur?Home twice over? Nityaremembers how as a child one of thegames she used to play was– ‘house,house’. Little girls often hear their friendsrepeating the sentence, “Lets play ‘house,house,” and then once they reach thethreshold of adulthood the same sentenceis repeated by their parents and elders-come and play house, house. Housemeaning home, meaning Dhampur!Something which is not real but make-believe, like any imaginary game. Anillusion which constantly gives theimpression of truth, a reality for whichand with the support of which, womenspend their entire lives. An illusion forwhich women have been searching forcenturies.

There is another Dham which is thebody in which the soul resides. It doesn’thave any pur attached to it but it alsoslips away gradually, almostimperceptibly. Despite our knowledgethat this home, our body, is transientwe take care of it, live for it, sufferfor it. Though we beg God for deliverancefrom the illusion that is life, yet howdifficult it is to leave it!

The last time Prabha bua came fromDhampur, she reached home at sevenin the morning. She had either traveledby the night bus or had spent the nightat some religious guest house ordharamshala. As soon as she entered

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Janaki bhabi said irritably, “Bibi, whycan’t you live in peace in your ownhome... there are disagreements in everyhouse over one thing or another….onedoesn’t run away every time one is upset.”

“No, bhabi, there hasn’t been anydisagreement. Who am I to be upsetwith anyone,” Prabha answered and thenadded in a soft voice, “ I am generallyupset only with myself. I try to calmmyself but….”

“What will phoophaji,uncle, think?”Mukesh remarked.

“Son,beta, he has a lot of things tothink about. Don’t worry about him…Iam not staying on.”

“Come, I will put you on the bus…goback to Dhampur,” Mukesh said.

“Arre, beta, how many times willyou send me back to Dhampur….nowmy body is tired… I don’t feel like staying.Make arrangements for me in any placeof pilgrimage…. or if you know someonein Haridwar….” Prabha bua said, as shesank down exhausted on the floor andleant against the wall clutching her bundlelike bag.

“Listen, you make some tea,” DwarkaPrasad instructed Janaki coming out ofhis room, “Give Prabha some tea andrefreshments…this time I will personallyescort her to Dhampur.”

“All right bhai sahib, it is fine,” Prabhasaid. Then she gathered her strength andstood up, “Bhaabi, make some tea, I willjust be back.” she got ready to go out.

“Arre, where are you going,” DwarkaPrasad said in a thunderous voice.

“Nowhere, bhai sahib... I will go andget some biscuits of my choice fromthe market at the back…bhabi,make sometea… I will just be back with the biscuits.”Prabha bua departed in the directionof the market, with her bag slung overher shoulder. But after this she nevercame back. She did not reach Dhampur,nor did anyone ever see her. Who knewwhere Prabha bua was lost, what hadhappened to her? Maybe she was livinglike a vagrant in some dharamshala orwandering around the streets aimlessly.How could one find out? News papersdo not publish details of all the unclaimedbodies that are found. Nitya is waitingfor her, even today, with the blue whiteand black handloom sari and anincreasingly crippled hope.

Nitya is also waiting since the eveningfor the arrival of the morning. There isa faint orange glow in the sky. Often thislight, this sunshine halts at the verythreshold of the mind. Inside there areglimmers of light and shades of darkness,like at dusk. Nitya searches within hermind in the light of memories of the past.How long will this shadow war, this strugglein the wings continue? All her life?

Every morning, she opens her eyesto a new day which is not her ownand she has to live through the ‘alien-ness’ of this day. When she needs aday of her own she cannot find it anywherenear her. Perhaps she is only fated tohave as much of a day as the tiny pinchof salt one adds to flour or sometimeseven forgets to add.

And Prabha bua? Even her nightswere scorned, yet they must have seemed

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her own-dark nights just like herbenighted life. Did she ever considerscrubbing them, washing them till theybecame bright, making them her days?What would she do with all those chaoticdreams stored in the alcoves of hernights? Nitya thought, Prabha bua wouldtuck them away in her blouse. Therethey would be safely hidden from theday. In any case it must be years sinceanyone peeped in there.

The morning had arrived. Nitya hadher breakfast in a strange frame of mind.Everyone thought she was anxious toreturn home. They helped her in herwork and she left for the bus stop withMukesh, after saying goodbye. The busfor Ghaziabad was standing there andsome passangers were already seatedin it. The conductor was standing nearthe bus trying to gather some morepassengers… “Ghaziabad…Ghaziabad.”

Nitya walked swiftly in that directionwith Mukesh following her. The conductorsaw her and got ready to give her aticket, “One or two? Where do you wantto go?”

Mukesh had just put his hand in hispocket to pull out his wallet when Nitya

gave the conductor the fifty rupee noteshe had clutched in her hand-“Oneticket…Dhampur.”

Mukesh stopped searching his pocket,“Nitu?” He stared at her, forgetting hishand in his pocket. The conductorrepeated in a surprised tone of voice,“Dhampur!” But Nitya took the ticketfrom his hand and,slinging her bag overher shoulder, she boarded the bus withouta backward glance. The conductorshrugged his shoulders and also got intothe bus. The driver started the enginewhen he heard the whistle and the busmoved…….towards Ghaziabad orDhampur …who knows?”

Buses generally travel topredetermined destinations and carry theirpassengers wherever they want to go.But Nitya? Though she had boarded thebus to go to her Dhampur she had noidea whether it would take her to herdestination. She might even get off midway.She would take the decision now thatshe was in the bus. For the time being,she had bid farewell to all those peoplewho always and in every circumstanceensured that the daughters of the housewere put on the bus to Dhampur.

Meera Kant, born 1958, is highly awarded for her l iterary works like

Ihamrig and Nepathya Raag, both plays. She also writes short stories

and novels. She is editor at NCERT, New Delhi.

Ranjana Kaul, an Associate Professor at the College of Vocational Studies,

Delhi University, is a regular contributor to The Book Review , she

has translated This Capital , an award winning collection of short stories

in Kashmiri by H.K. Kaul for the Sahitya Akademi.

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COMING BACKMusharraf Alam Zauqui

Translated by

Shyamji Mishra

“Would that love had the tongue so that the covers of loverswould come undone. When the tongue unfolds the secrecies andthe ways of love, the heavens call out: O you, the concealerof love! Why do you conceal it? The wool and the cotton possessfire. The more you conceal them the more they manifest it.”

There was no computer at the time

‘You have forgotten her; no?’

‘Can’t say…’

‘But I can say confidently. She hasn’t been there anywherewithin you for the last five months.’

In the dark of night Tarana’s voice felt icy-cold..

‘Why should you believe so?’

She laughed out softly. ‘For, that world is only a make-believeone — a fairy land. And a fairy land is for children only. Butwhen men like you go there, you carry along with a lot of suppresseddesires that you can’t share with your wives even’ ….She becamea bit serious… ‘But to forget her just in five months!? Sanyal,at least you must keep from taking after the mould of other men.’

The dark over-powered me. The dark that, in spite of my quietlycoming out onto the balcony, has over-powered the whole ofmy existence. All that had happened all of a sudden, … all thethings. The whole world around me changed, and completely so.Time that had been moving on like rising waves, seemed to have


t sto


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acquired a magic wand in its hand. Timewaved it. ‘Stop, you moving age! Stopthere…. No. Recede back.’ Sailing in hismiddle age, on the threshold of his forties,the person was a young man once again.Time waved the magic wand once again.A very beautiful young lady was standingthere…

Perhaps no magic wand was neededthere. As soon as we entered that world,we grew romantic. It was the world whereyou just switched on a common electricbutton, there stood open all the doorsof internet on the computer screen…

There was no magic here…

No magic box here.

No horse of age… Only a river flowingalong the magical fairy land. There wasthe bazaar of beauty. And suddenly, likea supernatural happening, there was agirl belonging to any country, any religion,any community; and she asked you,

‘Do you like romantic chat?’

A fancy of the fairy land, emergingout of the fairy land, would brightenup, with all its elegance on the CAMor the Net Camera. I would set themicrophone wire in my ears. The sweetromantic sound of ‘Jalatarang’ … and…Theflowing stream of the gaining on age,with all of its images and beats of by-gone days would get obliterated…

Perhaps, the world was not so shrunkthen… The moon was shining in the sky.The sky was star sprinkled… Far away,…on the darkling sky a couple of floatingclouds were seen. But, the caravans of

the twinkling stars stretched those cloudsover themselves. And then leaving themoon and these caravans alone, thoseclouds proceeded on.

The computer did not exist then…No internet was there…No mermaids were there…

The age had its own limits. And thoselimits couldn’t be moved forward orbackward. But Love was there, even atthat time ‘the platonic’ was perhaps morefree then than it is now— the one thatwould settle down much deeper at heartthan stray externally. The nights weremoon-lit then. Should I look back, 16years ago, some well defined cities oftoday would look like villages or smalltowns. No refrigerators, no telephones.Mobiles couldn’t be thought of. Despitetheir complexities and inconveniencesthe life in small towns was beautifuland lovely. Love had its own identitythen. Had its own moods and manners,its own swellings of the sea. Like therain-emanated scents of imagination, lovelooked like a far high star shining inthe sky, and it was not possible for everyone to touch or even to see it.

But, perhaps, at the vulnerable stageof age, no sooner I befriended literaturethan the meanings of love changed forme. The keenly blowing wind that wouldcarry you along with itself, and beingblown away you couldn’t think, evenin the least, what was happening to you.But your whole existence got submergedin that moment and felt the thrill ofeach and every moment.

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And suddenly, in the small town,in the form of Tarana, I had the chanceof feeling myself lucky. The deer-likeTarana. With the whole of her being,she was made or written for me only.After a few brief meetings the feelingof airy flights…—people were, perhaps,not so very cultured in small cities tillthe time… or, so very commercial. Thingshad begun to take wings, to get speed.From our college to our homes, thetales and stories were gainingcirculation… Sanyal – Tarana……Tarana-Sanyal….

But, as it seems, both of us werefull of rebellion. Or, the family membersof both the houses were quite awareof the rebellion.

That day as Tarana met me, our love,gradually gaining momentum, waspreparing itself to create a new chapter.

It was a small narrow stream thatwe were standing by. At some distancethe keeper of a make-shift-shop was sellingonions and potatoes. Two dirty youngboys were laughing, looking at us… Taranatouched my hand: ‘Why didn’t you comehome? You are frightened…’

‘No. I’m not frightened.’

‘Don’t tell a lie. You are frightened;perhaps because of the stories touchingus are gaining circulation. Do you know…?’She tightened her grip on my hand. ‘Ikeep awake all through nights. The house,doors, windows, all disappear, as if theywere parts of a castle made up of airynothing. The whole of my countenance

gets transformed into a broad smile only.And you get transformed into a beautifulpsychic being…. I hold your hand, kissyou, soar away far and high; and I amall an embodied joy… a trance. Thereis an old well within the inner courtyard.I come out stealthily and sit silentlyon its parapet. While the whole houseis asleep, I keep looking at the moon.The moon sets and you… What’s thisSanyal?

The keeper of the small make shiftshop called out, ‘Potatoes, ..Onions…’Both the little dirty boys were still lookingat us. Tarana’s hand tightened on mine;

‘Tell me…. What’s this?’

‘Should I?’

‘O yes, do.’

‘The levels of Dopamine andNorepinecrin have gained in you.’

‘What?’ Tarana was startled. ‘Whatis it?.... dopamine?’

‘A chemical, darling, that producesthe feeling of pleasure or joy in themind…?

‘Tarana smiled, ‘That means love…andthat? … and that? .. Nove…


‘O yes, that very… so you are Sanyal…What’s that?

‘That also is a chemical that producescommotion and excitement at heart.?

Tarana gave a start, ‘So your loveis just this much?... to watch the levelsof dopamine and norepinecrin? Only this

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much is love? —an escape from literatureto the world of chemistry…and that…that happened to me!? At mid-night Iopened the door and quietly got outof the house, just to look for you inthe street. But then, I became awareof what I was doing. When I recollected,I got frightened. The whole of the streetwas deserted. Had people seen me atthe time, who knows what they wouldnot talk of me.’

‘Nothing. This shows the declininglevel of serotonin only.’

‘You mean…?’

‘The urge of sacrificing oneself forlove… to the verge of insanity…’

‘Slap you I will…’ Tarana burst outlaughing. The two boys too, looking atus, pealed with laughter.

On the balcony the night was well-lit. The stars were playing the game ofhide and seek.

The emotions of sixteen years agowere ready to fall in showers, all atonce. That long ago, only one namewas there enshrined at heart and themind — Tarana. And that name openedthe doors of fragrance… In a vulnerablemoment of solitude the swift-footed windwould cause a surge of excitementthrough the body, and then all mysenses would be taken in thrall by asentence of Tarana, “I know this muchonly that I must possess the object Ilove.”

It must be three o’clock at noonthat day. As soon as I stepped on the

threshold of my home, I came to knowthat Tarana was hospitalized. Passing onthe news to me my sister-in-law lookedat my face momentarily. My father, whowas sitting silently on a cot, also shiftedhis glance onto my face. I put my bookson the table standing nearby.

“I am going. I might not get backeven at night.” Having uttered this muchI got out of the room. I tried to, butit was difficult for me to guess the extentto which the level of chemicals —dopamine and Norepinecrin had shotup, or the level of serotonin gone downbringing her almost to a state of insanityleading to her hospitalization. Anyhow,the condition could not be normal. Inthe pervious week itself, trying to getdissolved into every fibre of my being,she had shown the symptoms of thehard struggle that was undergoing withinher. She had said:

“My breaths are breaking like thestrings of pasta, and getting dispersedtoo. They want to see you all the time.Why do you go away Sanyal? Why don’tyou keep with me in the way as stagnanttime lives with me in my room at thetime when thinking of you I get dissolvedin you.”

Her palms were the red-hot coal.Recovering herself she continued.“Sometimes, something like the mist fillsup the room, and then lots and lotsof things of the world seem to resoundin my room. You get lost in the mistand then it feels the string of breathwill get snapped…Don’t go away please.

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Stay by me Sanyal before the stringsof breath get dispersed.”

My feet moved fast. She was in thegeneral ward. A couple of some otherpatients also were there besides her.As small cities have their own senseof history and courtesy, a number ofwomen from her locality were also therearound her. As she saw me, a strangedelight that overspread itself on her facecannot be depicted in words. The nextmoment, despite the presence of otherpeople and her own family members alsoin the general ward, she was in myarms…weak...sickly… She was trying totell me that she could not speak, hervoice was gone. I pressed her in mypassionate embrace…. Tarana was crying.Holding her firmly against myself, andmoving my fingers round her eyes verylovingly, I was saying:

“Assuredly I am here…your Sanyal…your voice. Didn’t you tell me I hadthe finest voice on earth and that nohuman voice could be sweeter than mine?At the present time you only have tolisten to me, for I am the body, thevoice and the soul for my Tarana…yourvoice. I’ll put the music of this voiceon your lips, and your lips will be thoseof the most beautiful girl in the world.When you will converse with me in tunewith my voice, the music created thereby will be the sweetest one in the universe.But Tarana, today I am only an echoof yours. Feel my voice forgetting yours…

Tarana gathered up closer. Her handsfelt firmer on my back. My shirt was

getting soaked with sweat. As I liftedup her face, she was smiling — a smilethat might be seen in a few of the finestmasterpieces ever created.

I stayed on the bed next to hersin the general ward that night. It isknown to all that the wind had waftedaway the whiff of our odorous storythrough the small city. Now this storywill take wings, disperse…but, perhaps,considering all the possibilities of thefuture I rested reassured.

The Net was not there at the time;mobiles also were not there. Even littlecommon conveniences were far awayfrom the general life. But the magic oflove was there in all its profundity, andperhaps deeper than what it today is.

Outside, on the balcony the danceof stars continued in the milky shineof the moon. The young feeling thatwas there, sixteen years ago, stoodrevived.

But as any story began in the by-gone days, the stories told by the maternalor paternal grandmother, a magic worldwould come alive in the wonderstruckeyes of the children lying on their bedsin the moon-lit night under the canopyof the blue heavens…There was aking…There was a queen… There wasa demon…There was a magician… But,after sixteen years, in the modern world,the story will begin something like…Therewas a computer. A lake-fairy swam outon the Net. But there was no magic.Swimming on the water the fairy askedyou, “Do you like romantic chat?”

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What relations do you have with her?

Tarana came in my life. We becamea part of the rush of the cosmopolitan.And then we begot a little son too. Despitebeing a part of the rush of thecosmopolitan, the writer at my heartneither died nor did he go into oblivion,for Tarana did not let it fall into a slumbereven for a moment. Her love was neithertransient nor false. After our marriagetoo, to her eyes, her Sanyal was herlover. In my journey from literatureto serials, Tarana had sacrificed all thatcould be called hers. If there had occurredany change in her, it was the physicalone; the change that would co-occuras the mother begot a novel form ofher love, giving it a separate entity inthe world. The impressions of fulfillmentin seeing the child grow, changed thegirl in her into a woman. But in mostof her essentials she remained Taranaonly; the same Tarana of sixteen yearsago. But one day:

A computer arrived in the house,and the Net connection too. And therebegan a new story.

Is it that despite your loving someone very much, there remains a voidat heart to be filled up?— or, aninconspicuous suppressed desire to begratified? Is a person seeking to fill upsome nooks of his sexual urges withthe help of the Net, not a dividedpersonality, despite his having a veryloving wife and equally dear children?

The world of the Net was the worldof desires that lurked at the hearts of

unsatiated young men, the aged, andthe adolescent with a dream to feelsatiated. From Orkut to High forward,Love Happens…and the Dream Comesto COM, there is a big racket of boysand girls with fictitious names all overthe world, participating in the concernsof all — from children to the aged.

But there was a sense of guilt tooat my heart. Why should this world getpopulated for me when Tarana was there?After all, why should we cherish a desireto get acquainted with unknown girls?And that too, not just one but a thousandof them — a vast world of them takingin its fold so many countries,communities, religions; the vast worldof the internet.

‘Is it a sin to enjoy the vast pleasures,and satisfaction therefrom, that thismagical electronic world offers?’ I askmyself. One part of my self answers,‘No harm. They all do it’; but the otherpart cautions me, ‘The satisfaction isfalse. They leave you more thirsty thanotherwise.’

Despite the immeasurable love ofhome and relations, the new technologyhas opened up a new fountain head ofunlimited love. You can no more befully satiated with the homely love, for,you begin to feel the need of lots andlots of it. The sex urge, that was erstwhilechecked by moral and cultural codes,has attained explosively violentdimensions…. But, perhaps the worldbesides ugly faces, has normal and verybeautiful faces also... In addition to the

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evil there is much good too. In additionto the sex there is an urge to knowand understand one another. And oneday suddenly…

As soon as I opened the Net I receiveda message on Yahoo screen. And, dearreaders, there began this story. Themessage read: My name is Mahak. MahakAhmad. A resident of Lahore. Aged 23.Mother expired when I was five only.Thereafter I fell in the habit of twothings— reading literature and telepathy.I read a story written by you. And thenhad to spend a month looking for youre-mail ID. I don’t have much time atmy disposal to tell you all. It seemsthe whole of the system is poised totake a flight, the fastest one. I fell inlove with you without any pre-meditations, for I have been touchedby your story to the core of my heart.I would love you even if you were eightyyears of age. Should you receive mymail, please send a prompt reply. And,yes. I am putting in an ad on Yahoomessenger for you. If possible, pleasedo come in the evening. You know thereis a difference of thirty minutes betweenPak and Indian timings. Will you come?Yours Mahak.

God knows how many times I readthe message. Just kept on reading it.In the world of literature and serialsI had received so many letters beforethis one, had come across so many girls,but this e-mail made me feel flying inthe air; as if the blood in my bodywere running faster… ‘Even if you were

eighty years of age….’ The eyes wentthrough the line again and again. ‘I am23.’ Was there present within me a manwith unsatisfied desires? Or, there wasa man reaching 40 who felt pamperedwith the thought he could still be lovedby a girl aged 22 or 23… I don’t knowwhat the moment was, or what sentimentshad taken possession of me, by the timeI wrote ‘Yours Sanyal’, I had sent thee-mail.

That very evening, for the first time,she came on Yahoo messenger, and itseemed as if the world, like some fairyland, had opened its doors for me…

When you are in love, your loveneed not be declared. Its fragrance, likethat of civet; makes itself known. Thewhole of your behaviour shows it. Manya time, presenting myself before Tarana,or while holding her in my arms I feltlike a thief. But, as a man, I can tellyou truthfully and honestly that at anymoment of my love to Tarana, Mahakdid never have her presence within me.Does this mean that she was partiallypresent in me while Tarana was wholly;or, was it because of Tarana’s love thatalthough Mahak tried to occupy her placein my life she couldn’t? Or, remainingtied to a family was a compulsion onme? Or, in this glamorous world of theNet when do we meet physically?Perhaps, this excuse put heart in me,to some extent. But, although it wasacross the border, Mahak was presentphysically and of her presence I hadread in the Net CAM, was it love? Had,

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in any way, Tarana’s love faded? Andwas it because of that I had involuntarilybeen turned to Mahak? Or, the virilityof a man crossing forty had been revivedhaving gained the company of a woman,the woman who not only loved him butwanted to get him with all his physicality.

But, perhaps, it did not becomenecessary for me to keep the truth hiddenfrom Tarana’s eyes. Because, like thejungle storm, one day she came to knowthe whole truth. She was silent for awhile.

‘Do you also love her?’ Tarana’s wordswere ice-cold.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Perhaps you do…’ She took a deepbreath… but, the very next moment hereyes regained their age-old love…, thesame frenzy, the same passion. Onceagain she saved me from my enteringthe slough of guilt. While departing shesaid only this much, ‘How would youhave felt had there been any boy inmy life?’

‘Sanyal!’ — passing through the selfimposed ordeal I asked myself, ‘Sanyal,what will you do? What will you dothe next, Sanyal? Time is trying to carryyou alongwith its flow, but there is somestrong feeling too as your heart detersyou.’

In the evening as I set the Net on,Mahak Ahmad was there on the line.As AOA was on light she wrote, firstof all, AOA — the greeting ‘Assalam-u-Allaikum’. And then the stream of words

would open the doors of new utopia,and at the moment I was perhaps insome world above the earth, and wordsof Mahak were nothing but fragrance.

From the chat-room

She asked. She asked a lot. She asked,which of the two — a bird and a dream– is the better one. The answer was‘the bird’, because they breathe and theysing of love when it rains, or when itis ‘savan’: the month of rains and greeneryall around. Dreams are unfaithful. Theycome; they vanish away too.’

She asked, ‘Why is it so that star,her favourite star, shining in the skysurpasses the moon?’

She asked, ‘Why aren’t you a rose,the one that I should pluck and thenplace by my heart; that you shouldpervade, like the fragrance, in my breath,my heart…’ ‘Why aren’t you a butterfly,the one that in my forgetfulness, havingbeen maddened by the intoxication ofpining for you, I should chase throughthe beds of roses and having got myfinger pricked should write in blood:‘love’.

She asked, ‘Why aren’t you a rain-drop, the first born of the season, thatlike a heavenly blessing should descendon my open, uplifted palm; and thatI should kiss it and then place it onmy head with a dream in my eyes —the dream of getting evaporated, to losemy identity and be one with you, gettinglost to the world.

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She asked, ‘Before you stepped inmy life, the world was not so verybeautiful, or I had not perceived itsbeauty, why?’

She asked, ‘Why does a single momentnot contain a million of moments withinit? And those millions could enclose usand then forget to pass on!’

She said, ‘My death, if co-occurredwith yours would be much more beautifulthan this life is. Do come… taking mytrembling hands in yours, close youreyes… for ever… with the sense of mybeing with you. My body, swaying inthe most beautiful intoxication of life;my shining and singing eyes — whenthey open, they should open on anuninhabited island where there shouldbe none but you, wherever I shouldcast my eyes.’

And then she asked, ‘Listen, why didyou get born so very early? – muchmore early than me… What a cruel revengeis it of yours? Well, you were born alright,but why didn’t you wait for me? Whydidn’t you care for my dreams… Whydidn’t you hear my steps? For, I wasalways there in every particle of earth.In so many past, glorious years I wasin no other form but fragrance. I wasthere, my soul. My shadow was there.It was only that you couldn’t perceiveit.

She asked, ‘Why did you get marriedbefore I came? Why didn’t you wait forme?’

She asked, ‘Who are they that know

you more than I do?... My fragranceshould be there within you more thanthe impression of a flower, fragranceor dream. I should see you more thanthe wife, the sun or the moon does.I should touch you more than the blowingair does. I should descend upon yourbeing like a pleasant drizzle— the onethat ran through life.

She said, ‘The palanquin of our livesbe placed on the bed of flowers in anisolated island… and your arms like tenderbranches, be spread over my body…’.

And then she said, ‘Tell me the truth.Is there any one other than myself,breathing within you this moment?’ Andafter a moment’s hesitation asked, ‘Yourwife?’

Let it be the dead silence or din,each has a poetry of its own. The airbears its own verses, fragrances, rhythmand tunes of love. It was possible thatthis story would not have taken birth.And, that too for a person like myself,that is, a person devoted to creation,whose unperturbed state of being couldbe compared to that of the still waters,or the waves on the calm ocean.

But I beg your pardon. The timewhen this story begins is serious. Andit is necessary that the present timeand the human rights associated withit, be assigned the function of the witness.And much more necessary is the questionarising at the heart of lovers, floatingambitiously over the waves of love, thatwhy they are not birds or animals; and

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also, the watchful eyes of the HumanRights to watch if the community ofmenfolk is, in anyway, thwarting therights of the womenfolk. But please,excuse me, Here there is no violationof human rights. Contrary to it thereenters quietly a woman in the life ofa man aged over forty, and leading aquiet married life. The woman was nota wife but a lover aged 22 whose eyeswould transform into the rains, dreamsand rainbows from time to time. Gettingaside, she demanded, ‘Grant me my rights.’The answer given was, ‘This right belongsto somebody else.’ Before she couldexclaim ‘No’, she was as violent as agreat river in flood could be.


‘If it were any other person’s rightyou would not be here. Tell me, whyyou are here. Why aren’t you there withthe one who has the right?’

Perhaps she giggled…but she was stillasking … and she asked… ‘Why do youfeel so very frightened allowing me myown rights? Would I be here if you hadlost your right to love? Near you? Nearyour breath? In your movements…in yourrestlessness… in your worries…and inyour fingers…that while typing on thecomputer get abstracted from the wordto love, and from the word to a passionatepersistence… from eyes to the dream,and from lips to the song.’

And then she said, ‘ Listen to meFlood!...I fly… I swim. On dewyimaginations I weave the webs of waves.Time flies like little butterflies with their

colourful wings around me. Taking themto be the feel of yours I try to graspthem with my hands. Through the longlong days I have wings on my bodyto fly in the rainbow sky. During thenight, as I am flying with butterflieswith feeling of being with you, I graspthe time with a feel of you, and tyingit in a knot, conceal it in the coils ofmy hair…’

And then she asked, ‘ Does your sonknow that some one, besides his mother,has come into your life?’

This was the time when the heartof Venus throbbed, and the planet knownas the ninth one in our solar system,Pluto, had been exiled.’

I closed the Net quietly. Anyhow,for a little while kept looking on at theblank screen of the computer. The letterswere gone… No, they were shining… andthe combinations of them was givingshape to the face of a girl having comefrom some dreamland. Eyes were loston the island that was Salan’s eyes…Allthe words on her flower-petal lips werefor Salan only…The body trembled. Igot up, opened the side-door and beganto feel the words typed by Mahak. Theyseemed to peep from the blue sky acrossthe balcony. I felt as if she were standingin front of me asking, ‘ How much doyou love me?;—the words that weremeteor shower; as if an explosion hadoccurred; as if a shiver ran through thespine…She, too, was looking at him witha smile that expressed pleasure andmystery, both, simultaneously.

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‘Why don’t you speak? Tell me howmuch you love me.’

‘I don’t do any.’ I typed the fewwords. She burst out like the torrentialrain.

‘You do, but you dare not…Well, howdeeply does Tarana love you?’


‘More than I do?’


‘No. She can’t do more.’ She seemedreassured.

‘No. None can love you more thanI do — not even the heart that beatsin your body; not even the eyes thatwould strike up a melodious tune oflove just by casting a look ...and…andyour lips that play with the name canlove you to the extent that I do.’

Mahak stopped. The conflict arisingat her heart could be seen on the CAP.A thousand shadows arose and drownedin her eyes…Once again her fingers wereon the type. My heart throb took aleap because of a flood of unfamiliarquestions arising therein.

She said, ‘Well, listen…How much hasTarana touched you? I too wish to gettransformed into ‘Savan’, into the rains,into the wind that should pass touchingyou…How does Tarana play on your bodywith her fingers?...Very gently? …Veryquietly? — like the dew drops fallingdown the leaves? How much has sheseen your body? How much has Taranaknown…? Isn’t it only that much as much

a woman, bound to the role that shehas to play as a wife, could know? Isn’tit only that much as the pain orhunger…there is at a time in thebody…would warrant? Isn’t it only thatmuch as much there is the fever ofhunger and sex-urge together in the bodyat a time? But how much does she seeyou when the two bodies are one? Howmany dreams can she visualize in everyhair on your body? How much can shediscover you in the commotions of yourbreath? Does Tarana see in you, or shedoesn’t, a new flood in you? — a newsong, a new dream and a new flood?...?

Mahak continued to type and itseemed as if I were bathing in the rainsof wonder every moment. What is this?Why do I become so very helpless assoon as Mahak comes. The cacti ofquestions begin to raise their heads fromme within… ‘You have a son aged twelve,…on the threshold of becoming a full grownyouth. She is older by ten years only.’

Do you know the meaning of havingcrossed forty years of age if you areborn in an Indian family?

It means— a grave personalitydevoted to your family, the one whounderstood the responsibilities towardschildren. Having reached this age youemerge a mature person who is lookedon by your society with reverencebecause the society knows this personis an invaluable symbol of our idealsociety, is a representative. This personcannot love. And, to him, thinking ofany extramarital love is nothing less

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than his getting doomed. Here there isno room for any unexpected occurrences.

Even then Mahak had got in throughthe back door that had remained open,only god knows how. She had come in,and was asking for her full right to love.

Tarana and question

Love is eternal.

The tales of global and geographicalchanges also are true. In the race ofprogress and development, there is alsoa row of mysterious happenings standingalong with our worldly race; from miraclesto inventions, from the system of down-loading a man’s brain to the cloningof the human being. In this world ofinventions and miracles the heart ofVenus ceased to throb long long ago.Only God knows how long ago theheavenly star, that was love, goteliminated from its orbit, got shatteredinto innumerable number of pieces andwas dispersed through the solar system.Plato, the symbol of trust was also exiledby the observers of the celestial bodies.But the splinters of the star — that waslove — getting attached and detachedwith the masses of ice, seemed to beposing questions before mankind, ‘whydid love get lost? Where did loveevaporate? Why did you arrive on theland of hundreds of thousand years agowhere there would be no life, the sunsans its fire — just a cool spherical body,and the lifeless earth…? At that timethere shone a spark, and emerged outa ray from the star that was love itself.

And after centuries a love story tookbirth… in the age of inventions, mysteriesand the Jurassic… in the form of Tarana,in the form of Sailaan, or in the formof Mahak Ahmad.

‘Well, what did you think?’ Tarana’seyes were peeping into mine.

‘Don’t know.’

‘There is an honesty in you that youdid not fail to disclose to me that youtoo love Mahak…’

I remained emotionless with my downcast eyes.

‘Well, tell me; do you have romantictalks too with her?’


‘Very much?’


‘Perhaps you would hold her handtoo if she were in front of you…’ Tarana’stone was icy.


‘No. Not perhaps. You would. Or,possibly more than that…,’ she checkedherself in the mid-sentence.

‘Sanyal!’ she continued, ‘Didn’t youremember me, even for a moment whiletalking to Mahak?...

Suppose you spent three hours withher in a day, it comes to 90 hoursin a month, yes? …Don’t you rememberSanyal…’ Tarana held my hands. Swayedby the tender recollections of the by-gone days her eyes were misty. ‘Don’tyou remember? —you used to say a man

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who met a woman other than his wifebut with the same fervour of love… maybe deemed as having dismembered apart of his body. A person who metsome other one again and again, is asgood as the one who has dismemberedall his body parts. Didn’t you say that?And you also said how such a personcan take his wife or his children in hisarms if he has already lost his limbs.’Tarana looked at him, smiled, ‘I hopeyou are intact Sanyal, for me and mychildren…’

At my heart, my own shriek, smearedwith blood, lay loaded with slabs of ice.In a moment, fighting against my owndesperation, I took a decision.

‘That’s the truth of the Net, not ofthe body…’

‘Oh…,’ Tarana laughed out amiably.

‘They all Net, Where is the personwho doesn’t do?

‘And people don’t share theirexperiences with their wives even.’

‘I don’t know the people, my love.I know Sanyal only…’ There was notthe least resentment in Tarana’s voice.‘You said that was the truth of the Net.Had you had romantic chat with her?’


‘Took her hand in yours?’




‘Not perhaps; say ‘yes’.’


‘On the lips?’


‘Well, let it be on the lips, the eyes…or as you like… for it is not easy toput into words how intense love is ata given moment, … but suppose youwere before her … would you do allthat Sanyal?’

‘But the condition is, if I were beforeher…’

‘You would turn into a ‘Tsunami. Isn’tit? Don’t get frightened Sanyal. SometimesI feel like talking about petty things.Yesterday I kept thinking for a longtime. After all where had I blundered?Where did I leave a void within youin the past sixteen years? Where Sanyal?Tell me. But don’t think I’ll hinder you.I’ll just try to make you understand…for I have loved you. I have loved youintensely. It went all through my tenderage. I won’t keep you from …. I willconvince myself that my luck had onlythis much for me in store…. Where lovefalls under compulsion, is restrained,doesn’t remain love any longer…selfishness comes in there…’


‘Tell me what you have thoughtabout…’

My words got stuck to my throat.‘Mahak wants to marry me…’


‘She says she will come to India…’

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‘Ask her to come.’ Tarana took myhands in hers gently. ‘Ask Mahak tocome.’

‘And you…?’

Tarana smiled mildly. ‘You know yourTarana. Never liked divisions ever sincemy childhood… placing Mahak’s handin yours, I’ll quit quietly’. She turnedaway her face.

I felt ponderous thunderclapsoperating at my heart. And during themoments that followed, there came beforemy eyes every aspect of Tarana’sbeauteous face, her adornments — thesixteen year old Tarana. I felt, it waseasy to slip into make-believe world,but very difficult to tread on the stonypath of reality. While I was lost in mydreamy reflections. I felt as if I heardthe soft musical sound of Tarana’s ankletwith bells, and in an instant, there wasTarana and Tarana only in my eyes,saying… ‘Then, do call her…’ I don’tknow the reason why in the history oftales, till now, the wife is not the heroine.How is it that only the second or thethird woman that comes in the life ofa man is the heroine? Is it because offeringher springs and dreams to her husbandthrough the years of her youth, she getslost somewhere? But, actually, havinghad her share in the history of thepleasures and pains of the household,she, in all her splendour, stands on thepedestal of the heroine supreme, havingbeen observed and weighed everymoment. She is the fairy of the flowers.What is needed is the eyes that should

recognize this flower-fairy. I was notin any sort of doubts. Detached fromthe waterfalls and rains of love, I wastrying to study all the colours of thisflower-fairy. And on that day, perhaps,my thoughts and sentiments reachedMahak. She asked me for the last time:

‘Tell me. Should I come to Delhi?I shall not be a burden on you, Sanyal,not even financially. I need yourcompany only, the feel of your presenceonly. Yes or no, I demand your answerthis very moment.’

There was no echo within me, neitherthat of a fire-work nor that of a blast.Giving much thought to it, I typed quietly,‘No.’

Mahak signed out. She didn’t meetagain. Moments rolled on to covermonths, unawares. Perhaps five monthspassed.

To die in your town

And after the five months—

Perhaps, this was the time when Iwas alarmed to see a meteor turn intoa long line of brightness to get lost only.But, perhaps, such a void gives birthto an elegy. Or, such a love, once again,gives to the world such a masterpieceas the Taj Mahal. But perhaps, at thattime I had no idea that the visualizationof such images as an elegiac compositionor the Taj Mahal by seeing a shootingstar could disturb me to such an extentin the future.

Tarana would ask, ‘you forgot her.No?’

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‘Should she really have come, then?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘You are telling a lie…’ Her eyes wouldgrow mischievous by the touch of love.‘Had she come you wouldn’t have beenable to exercise any control on yourself.’

‘I can’t say.’

‘Why does it happen so? Wheneverything is going on smoothly in life,there enters some one quietly?’ Shehesitated momentarily and then added,‘There was no shortfall anywhere, in anyform. Perhaps, we had not left anywhereany void, even such a one as couldbe natural in the life of a married couple,like an unattended door, or a gap throughwhich any one could jump in to reachyou. But, perhaps, a life that has beengranted for once only…

There is a free sheet of paper also.A person feels no guilt or remorse writingthe name of any other person on it.Because it is the most exclusive roadlying in between the person and his soul,the road that your wife and your childrenare not allowed to walk along.

Tarana turned to him. “Well, supposeshe should come suddenly and standbefore you, then? What will you do Sanyal?Will you deny her? Will you ask herto turn back? Or, say, that you haveno relations with her. Or, … tell me.’

So many missiles continued to beshot into the sky, simultaneously…

“Listen to what the flute says.

It complains of our separation”

(From the verses ofMaulana Roomi)

It was a morning as usual. But,perhaps, not quite as usual. It couldn’tbe as usual as other mornings for Sanyalin particular. Just a night ago there wasa Mahal ke kho jane ka tazkera.Everything was normal a night ago. Afterhigh waves in the ocean there were deepwhirlpools but there was quiet after it.The waves were calm. And suddenly onthat bright morning so many stones hadbeen hurdled into the water, and somany webs of the waves were formedin the river.

A knock at the door at 7 in themorning.

The door bell seemed to have broughtin an unexpected storm. The boy whoopened the door was looking wonderfullyat the woman standing before him. Duskyface, sky-blue kameez and a salwarmatching in colour. A dupatta hangingdown the shoulders.

‘You are Asif, aren’t you?’

And as Tarana came, she embracedher and cried as a sister would.

‘And you are Tarana…? I am Mahak.From Pakistan. Came last night. Whereis Sanyal?’

The room seemed to have been caughtby a tremendous earthquake. The son,nonplussed, looked at her. Tarana’s eyesstill innocent, or concealing their truthwere looking at her. As I came out the

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two impatient eyes were transformedinto the eyes of a stone image that emergesout in mystery stories. She was pointingtowards me with her finger. Words werelost to her. The feelings or sentimentshad transformed the face and the bodyinto a book, such as no human soulhad been able to behold as yet…

The voice of Mahak trembled. ‘Tarana,could the two of us be in seclusion fortwo minutes…Could we talk?

The son, somewhat frightened, wasin his mother’s arms. Tarana, smilingvaguely, seemed to be saying… ‘O, yes;why not?”

But, perhaps, Tarana was not ableto look into my eyes. Or, I could notmuster up the courage to look at Taranaor the son. When and how she cameand stood close to me, I couldn’t perceive.

‘Which room is yours?’ Her voicewas cool. To my mind the fragrancefrom Pakistani garments was not differentfrom the Indian ones.

The room was transformed into anobject quite strange to the world. Deepwithin me there rose the waves of firethat seemed to burn my very existence,trying to turn everything to ashes. Thewords were lost, disappeared into achannel or a cave. It was difficult toconjure up my thoughts about my sonor Tarana standing outside the room.A cold wave had taken the room inits folds.

She was touching me : every jointof the finger, the nails, my clothes, my

body, my soul, or the soul of my souls.

‘You are Sanyal. No? How can I believemyself. No. I can’t be so very fortunate.You…so close…so very …close… No. Don’tstop me… let me touch you. These areyour fingers…these your garments…I cansee you, touch you. I am so close toyou and… how is it that I am still alive…seeing you.. Sanyal? Would that deathcapture me, this very instant while Iam seeing, feeling and living the thoughtof you. You never thought that Mahakcould come here too. Isn’t it? — Toyour country, to your city, into yourhouse. In the frenzy of my breaths,stealthily, I had made an enclosure andput you therein. I never gave a thoughtto the inconvenience you may incur bythis act of mine. Aren’t you all right?...Why don’t you speak Sanyal?

‘How did you come?’ came in alow tone, as some voice had resoundedthe valley of Kakeshiyan mountains, asall the freshness of the air carried alongwith the blood and circulating throughthe body had begun to inaudibly callout her name, forgetting all the thingsin the world…

‘Sponsored by the university a groupof twenty, boys and girls, has come tovisit the ancient monuments and buildingsin Delhi. We arrived here last night.Every moment of the night wastransformed into a breathing portraitof your name. The whole night I wasin the state of worshipping you and inthe morning as the first ray of the suntouched the earth, I concluded my

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prayers with the final bow and withouttelling any body…’

‘Didn’t you tell anybody?’


‘Suppose someone set out in searchof you.’

This was the first shock of theearthquake. Innocently, she was stilltouching my fingers. ‘Hina knows aboutyou, but not much.’

‘Who is Hina?’

‘A friend of mine…,’ she spoke gently.‘This morning at ten we have to reportto the police headquarters just to observesome formalities. But I am quite unableto go.’ She was shuddering. Her eyeswere closed. ‘I want to absorb withinmyself the feel of your presence.’ Andthen she added in a very low voice,‘The purpose of my having opened myeyes in the world will have been fulfilled…’

Like a child she turned towards me,and then she began to investigate thethings in the room. ‘Isn’t this your bed?You must be there in the creases ofthe sheet, isn’t it Sanyal? They bear yourtouches of the private hours too. I needhave all the feel of your touches. Speakto me; won’t you?’

She promptly advanced and lay downon the bed. For a moment she closedher eyes… then got up… adjusted herdupatta. She was laughing. No; she wascrying. ‘Well, I visited my home too.Lay in bed too, saw my room also. Makeme stay here with you please. Don’tlet me go..’

Somewhere, far away, the tune ofMaulana Roomi’s flute was there in theair, ‘Listen to what the flute says…’ Theflute had turned these moments intodisastrous moments. My face wastransformed into a stone image. Thinkingof Tarana and the son outside, I feltmyself to be overcast by the dark cloudsof misgivings; and Mahak with her eyesalmost closed, resting her head on mychest, was lost in some alienworld…perhaps I was trembling. As Igently reached my trembling hand ontoher back, she seemed to get lost intomy chest, my breaths. But misgivingswere there, holding their question-spears,‘If Mahak did not depart?... How shouldI ask Mahak to go? Her not going backmay create a disastrous scene. The matteris concerned with a girl, come fromPakistan, and now missing. And, then?

The recollection of so many stories,ranging from terrorist activities to suicidebombing, deeply disturbed me duringthose eternal seconds. But, probably,it was not possible to tell anything toMahak. And, the fact is — I did notwant that Mahak should separate herselffrom my body. Her love, elevating itselffrom just an intoxication to the levelof worship, was getting dissolved intomy very existence. And then time cameto a stand still… In a flash Mahak stoodapart from me, turned to me with astream of tears running through her stonyeyes.

‘I am going away. I’ll trouble youno more. I can’t even see my love worried.

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But it was necessary to see you once,to touch you, to preserve the feel ofyour touch at my heart.’

Her face bore a strange smile — ‘Don’task me to stay… And yes, don’t havea misconception that I shall get backto Pakistan.’ She smiled gently, ‘If I can’tlive in your city, I can die here at least.’

Coming forward she pressed her hotlips on mine, and then swiftly got outof the room. And before I was ableto comprehend anything, I felt the earthshake under my feet. The notes of theflute were nearer…

‘Since you have made me drunk,don’t impose confines on me. Codesof religion are not operative on theinsane.’

(A verse from Maulana Roomi)

It seemed as if she had left hereverlasting ‘presence’ in the room. Sheseemed to be breathing still on the bed,in the garments, on every joint in thefinger. I was shivering all through. Herdeparting words still rang in my ears:

‘I may not live in your city,But I can die here, at least.’

Musharraf Alam Zauqui describes himself as an obsessive, compulsive writerin Hindi and Urdu. He has written numerous short stories and a novel‘bayaan’ which centres round the tragedy of the Babri Masjid’s fall. Heis also involved with television and cinema. He lives in Delhi.

Shyamji Mishra, a teacher by profession, translates from Hindi to English.

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Translated by

The Author

She squatted down. Her saari crushed between her thighs andcalves. Her feet were very fair, broad with small fingers. Thenails were cut deep and short and there was a broad band ofaalta1 along the soles miming the strap of a slipper with a threeleaf clover in the centre, then two straight lines and at the endthree red dots, dot in the centre announcing the completion ofthe aalta design.

Before she arrived the women present there, hummed

- Oh! who does she deck herself for ? Her husband has lefther, gone, God knows when, where?

The humming caught from one end to the other, slitheringlike a snake before disappearing.

- If it had been any other woman … Misraaeen is a stonehearted woman, see how she laughs all the time.

All eyes widened in disbelief. The women pulled their pallusover their head, held it in place between their teeth and smotheredtheir low laughs. Before any other juicy revelation could occur,Misraaeen arrived and immediately the gossip changed course.

- Hey Nanku, hey lad, come give me the basket. Now, youcan go, sit in the shade there.

Nanku after handing over the basket went towards the shade


t sto


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to play marbles and after sometimeslipped into slumber.

From the basket today, came outcrochette. White fine lace, God knowshow many meters. The women assessedthe weight of the lace by holding thebundle in their hands and their praiserose in the air like a song.

In winters the women would knitsweaters with colored wool and needles,in summer it would be U-pin andcrochette. Every winter Misraaeen wouldmake innumerable sweaters, when onecould see that there was no one at hometo wear them. She had woven metersand meters of lace, dozens and dozensof pillow covers, made needleworkdesigns on bed covers, cross stitch onmatty tablecloths, satin stitch and lazydaizy dainty tiny flowers, curvingcreepers on saree borders, smiling ducksand chicks on children’s smocks.

The faster their hands moved overthe crochette needle, faster their gossipworked itself into a juicy frenzy. Thewomen would touch her saree, giveenvious sighs over her corset blousewith puffed sleeve. It was the tailor wholived in the city away from their smalltown who could stitch such stylishblouses. Phulwaria Misraeen would admitwith pride that the tailor charged twentyrupees more for the stylish blouse overthe ordinary one. She would take outthe paandaan and cut the betelnut intodelicate slivers. Then the lime, katthaand the delicious aromatic spices. Everymouthful of the betel would spice up

the gossip. The cackle of women woulddouble up in malicious laughter. Theywould widen their eyes in disbelief. Asmall germ of a gossip would be builtup. Something would be added andremoved. The things hidden deep insidethe stomach would arise and fermentand become sour. In that hour or so,in fact, they would discuss the wholeworld, the world that they were awareof and thus energized they would trudgeback home. It would be the time fortheir children to come back from school.Their husbands who worked asinsignificant clerks in this small town,who traded wares, and attended courtsas petty munsifs and peshkaars, returnedhome in the dusky twilight, burdenedwith baskets of vegetables and their daylong tiredness and transformedthemselves effortlessly into monarchsimmediately upon setting foot inside theirhomes. Their women would then standon their toes pandering to their needsas if in awe of their nobler duty of earningthe bread for their families.

Phulwaria though didn’t have anyhusband. Meaning now. No, no, eventhis is not correct. She had had someonetagged as husband. Only now, he haddisappeared in some godaweful cornerof the world and Phulwaria had noawareness of his whereabouts.

- Re Nanku, come!

She would hand over the basket toNanku, take care of her purse and getup. The group would disassemble. Herwhite spiky clean laced petticoat would

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show a bit underneath her flower printedsaari. The clean white bra strap wouldpeep from the deep neck of her blouse.Not like others who wore beautiful saarisbut the underclothes would be so dirty,the edges so filthy with dirt and grimethat you could almost puke.

Nanku would run ahead like a littlesahib in his old shoes. Near the cornerbetelshop, the loafers of the town wouldbe gathered in lazy groups. “Puntureis made here”. The signboard boasted.And underneath the board, wearing achecked lungi and kurta,the ‘mustachio-ed’ guy presided over the lumpen crowd.Every time he saw Phulwaria pass byhe would start singing without fail.

- ‘badan pe sitare lapete hue.. ai jaanetamanna kidhar jaa rahi ho’ (where doyou go the love of my yearnings, wearingall these stars on your body)

Phulwaria would pull the pallu overher head primly, hold it in place byclenching the edge between her teethand begin to increase her pace. But ifa naughty wind swept away her palluat that very instant, if not the wholeworld then at least the mustachio-edguy could see that the song broughta smile that hovered on her face. Butsadly it had been years since any suchnaughty wind blew across the lanes ofthat small dusty town. So the mustachio-ed completed the opening stanza of thesong, then before Phulwaria disappearedcompletely from his vision, finished thelast lines. Then, with the pride of havingdone some noble work to satisfaction

proceeded with scolding the ladsrepairing the punctures before lollingdown lazily on the bench. In the meantimethe boy from the nearby dhaba, showingall his teeth in glee, arrived punctually,carrying a wire mesh basket holding sixglasses of strong special spiced tea. Bythe time the lads would finish tea,Phulwaria would be reaching home.

In the outer portion of her homewas a provision store and next to it,covered by an asbestos sheet was a shed.In front of the shed a board displayedin bold letters

“Flour is milled here”.

So many times she had thought to

get the sign board corrected, to replace

flour with wheat, but these small chores

just eluded getting done. Beneath this

board there was a smaller hard board

displaying the milling rates of wheat,

black gram, pulses etc. Phulwaria and

her father in law took turns to run the

provision shop. The milling work was

taken care of by Ajmeri.

Ajmeri’s story was also strange.

Hamidan and Mukhtar had a good income.

Cows, hens, ducks and some farms too.

By the grace of God, the crops tilled

were abundant. It had been long years

since they married but Hamidan’s womb

remained barren. The cows would bear

calves, the first milk would be distributed

as per custom in the neighbourhood.

The hens and ducks would produce their

chicks and the courtyard would fill with

tiny wool balls of cloud. Even a handfull

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of seeds thrown casually in the wet soilof the courtyard would flower into sturdyplants. But her body remained dry, barrenand nothing sprang out of her body,not a seed not a flower.

Her sister who lived in Ajmer, askedher to come, pay obeisance at the Dargah.The Peer would fulfill all wishes. Hamidanstayed there for a month. While returningshe fell sick. So much nausea, so muchvomiting. Her head reeled. By the time,she reached home she was drained ofall energy.

Nadiman’s husband was the localhakim. She sent for some yunani medicinebut nothing helped. Her health took aturn for the worse. Even a seasoningof asafoetida, normally used in cooking,would induce a sense of intense panicin her. The mutton,she cooked turnedinto ash and Mukhtar who nevercomplained about anything wouldsuddenly rise up in anger,

“What bibi? The mutton you cookis like weeds and grass, no taste at all.”

The plates would remain untouchedand fleas would hover over the leftoversin hungry swarms.

The other day she had gone toNadiman’s place to collect the medicineand the sight of fried papad filled hermouth with an unexpected burst of saliva.Swallowing her sudden greed she asked,

“Baji, the papad looks delicious.”

Why I had got it from your houseonly sometime back.

She ate one, then another. Ten, oneby one. Nadiman had seen all her life,children being conceived and pregnanciesbeing carried to full term, infants beingborn, as a routine way of life ever sinceher childhood. But, here was a barrenland of twelve years. She hesitated insaying anything premature. A sense ofapprehension kept her mute.

After a month, the situation becameso critical that Hamidan would go a littlebit berserk even at the sight of the kitchenstove clay. The edges of her tinselledlaced dupatta would be constantly soiledby the smoky clay kept safe in the foldsof the knots for any such heart wrenchingyearnings. The smoke filled taste of burntstove clay held such a mystery ofunexplained hankerings.

For instance, the other day she hadgone to buy some provisions and nearby,next to a bench, Badku’s mother hadset up her temporary three stove eatery.Since morning a huge kettle would beboiling merrily over the fire. Heaps ofboiled rice, cooked pulses and friedpotatoes with roughly cut thick slicesof onion and green chillies adorned theshop. The rice would rise in a slopedcairn on a shiney brass platter. Withall available artistry summoned to herdisposal, the four fat slices of onionand then a curved beak of a huge fatred green chilli would declare with greatpride the wonderfully deliciouswholesomeness of this simple meal.

This sight aroused such an intenselonging of hunger in her throat. It was

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like a snake uncoiling itself from thepit of her stomach with a lightning speedand lodging deep inside her chest. Herwhole body shivered with yearning, withhunger, with anticipation. She claspedtightly, the Peer baba’s talisman, threadedwith black thread around her throat,and ran back home. She ate yesterday’sleftover rice with the help of onion andgreen chillies with such haste and tastethat her whole body settled down ina stupor of satiety. Her very soul roseabove her body relishing this stupor.

Lying flat on the cot, looking at thebeams supporting the roof, her palmscaressed her stomach and suddenly hertummy heaved as if a fist hit her. Herheart stopped a fraction then beat afast tattoo as realization finally dawned.Her stomach was heaving in lightundulations. There was no space for doubtanymore. She held the talisman to herclosed eyelids with reverence, thankedAllah and then began cooking a meal,after a long long time for Mukhtar, ameal entirely of his choice.

In the night, sharing a morsel togetherin the dim yellow light of the lantern,the couple once again thanked the Lordfor this long awaited bounty.

Hamidan who had always beenslender, started to fill out now. Not onlyher belly, but her hands, her feet, herface, everything. And as her body swelled,in the same proportion the house andother things around started diminishing.This season the crop failed. Then, thehens began dying one after another. Some

strange epidemic swept across. With greatdifficulty half a dozen chicks could besaved. Still the long awaited arrival ofthe child was celebration enough to tideover these small mishaps. Mukhtar askedhis aunt to come and take care of Hamidanduring her confinement. The aunt wasa childless widow. Her eyes rimmed withkohl, her teeth stained with beteljuiceand her hooked nose highlighting thehuge mole beneath them, all contrivedto make her look like an eagle or asharp eyed falcon. However, inspite ofher harsh appearance, she was a kindhearted person and now that she gota place where she could pass the restof her life in considerable security, sheput all her energy and compassion intaking care of Hamidan.

A few months later Ajmeri was born.Since the name had already been decidedupon, soon after the child was deliveredkhala came out and declared to Mukhtarthat Ajmeri had come into this world.

Mukhtar, the forever simpletonMukhtar, was so delirious with happinessthat it never even ocurred to ask whetherthe child born was a girl or a boy.

The boy began to grow older andas time passed it became increasinglyclear that he neither resembled Mukhtarnor Hamidan. It is said that God hascreated every person so unique that notwo people, in this whole world lookalike. But strangely another boy exactlylike Ajmeri, roamed the streets of Ajmerwith kohl rimmed eyes and skull capadorned head. And as days passed

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Ajmeri’s face more and more resembledthe boy’s in Ajmer. And as theresemblance grew, the dry yellow sandof the far away place crept insidiouslyinto this small eastern village trespassingsurreptiously, creating havoc in a placewhich was already on the road to evolvinginto a town. A little bit like a childwalking helter-skelter wearing oversizeslippers of some one elder. The villagewould transform into a town when thetime ordained but in the meantimeMukhtar Mian fell victim to a debilitatingattack of paralysis and took to bed.

By this time, the fertile land hadturned into a barren hillock. All thecows and buffaloes had died one by one.Half a dozen hens survived and the eggslaid by them were arranged carefullyin the aluminium wire mesh basket, tobe sold in the neighbouring houses byAjmeri. The courtyard would be filledwith the droppings of the goats, the tornfeathers of the hens and the painful groansof Mukhtar Mian.

Paralysis had affected Mukhtar Mian’sface in such a manner that it appearedas if an earthquake had raised one partof the earth. The entire symmetry ofthe face was disturbed. Half portion ofthe lip was raised above the other. Salivaconstantly dripped from the droopingcorner of the lip. With unblinking eyesMukhtar Mian would look at Ajmeri andcompare his face with all his knownunknown friends and foes.

Confined to bed, this was the onlypastime he indulged in. His health

continued to deteriorate. It was ordainedfor him to go but like those funny quirksof fate, it was Hamidan who went first,due to a snake bite. She was found nearthe trees at the backyard pond. She hadgone in search of some mushrooms,planning a spicy meal. A bunch of rottenbundle of mushrooms were retrievedfrom the knots of her dupatta muchlater by khala.

A few days later Mukhtar Mianfollowed suit. He went away withoutknowing for sure whether Ajmeri washis own flesh and blood. The lad roamingthe streets of Ajmer was one of thegood Lord’s strange miracles. God alsocommits one of those rare errors oncein a while. But, this was not known eitherto Hamidan or Mukhtar or even Ajmeri.

In that haunted ruined dilapidatedhouse, only two people remained now,khala and Ajmeri. The rest of the survivinganimals also perished and so did Khala,one night, peacefully in her sleep. So,the untold theme of that house that eitherthe crops, the cows, goats, hens andducks would flourish or the child borneby Adam and Eve, was reinforced. Soin the beginning the crops were rich,the cows and goats and chicks and duckswere a plenty and with them, with thisbounty, flourished Mukhtar and Hamidan.Then, Ajmeri arrived and the rest went.The earth swallowed the ruins of thehouse so greedily and so fast that sometermite and wood louse infested brokenwalls and misshapen roof beams werethe only remains of the once proud house.

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But, how was Ajmeri to be blamed forall this? Had he ever wanted to set footin this world?

The night Khala passed away, thesame night Ajmeri too disappeared fromthe village. A week later, he was foundfast asleep on the outer verandah ofRamavtar Misir’s house in Phoolpur. Atthe crack of dawn, Misraeen, meaningPhoolwaria saw him for the first time.

Ramavtar Misir was a wrestler typeof man. He had a passion for wrestlingand for thick creamy milk. Givinga m p l e p r o o f o f h i s w i s d o m a n df a r s i g h t e d n e s s , h i s f a t h e r w h i l econtinuing with the ancestral workof priesthood, had also opened agrocery store. The Phoolpur grocerystore. The shop ran efficiently, makinga decent income. The religious priestlywork was super bumper. Money flowedin the house from all directions.

Ramavtar was the only son. Therehad been three others earlier but beforethey could take their first breath, theyhad departed to the next world. Thenafter various vows and prayers,innumerable religious rituals to appeasethe deities, Ramavatar was born, a boonfrom the Gods. And, after him as if thedam broke and in quick succession, agirl Savitri followed, then the twins Rajjuand Bijju and another, Binnu and Mannu.But, again, the hardy survivors wereonly two, Ramavtar and Rajju. Maybesome serious lapse had occurred whileperforming the rituals, so thoughtMisraeen, the first.

As Ramavtar continued to grow intoa handsome youth, Misraeen felt a priderise in her chest. And as Rajju grew,it also simultaneously becameincreasingly clear that, however, old Rajjugrew he would ultimately remain thesix year old Rajju only.

Clasping Rajju’s sorrow like a bundle,tight inside her chest, the first Misraeendeparted untimely from this world.

Who would look after the householdnow? There were only two options. EitherMisir marries for the second time orRamavtar gets married.

Ramavtar’s penchant for wrestling,his participation in them, his being adevotee of Lord Hanuman, his emphasison celibacy, all these factors pointedtowards the prudence of tying him downby matrimony. This despite the secretyearning of the elder Misir for a renewalof marital bliss through second marriage.So when the mediator brought Phulwaria’shoroscope, the similarity of the girl’sname and the name of the grocery storeindicated a divine intervention and Misirimmediately gave consent for themarriage. Misir had prepared himself forspending considerable energy overpersuading his son for marriage butcontrary to this, not only Ramavtarabashedly agreed immediately but alsobegan to prepare for the forthcomingceremony and specially for the weddingnight by eating every morning almondsand nuts soaked overnight. Themyrtyredom of forsaking a second chanceof marital bliss going waste disjointed

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the equanimity of Misir but nothing couldbe done now. So, he began preparingfor the wedding and a month later,realizing the delicate situation of ahomestead without a housewife, thebride’s family arranged for the ‘gauna’immediately after the marriage and thusPhulwaria of Khusrupur came to Phoolpuras Ramavtar’s newly wedded wife.

The wedding night came and RamavtarMisir lost his senses at the sight of hispale, fair as a banana stem, wife. Hewas in such a condition that a womanof even very average looks would havepleased him. His yearning for a wifewas so intense that nothing, neither looksnor behaviour, nor attributes, that islack of them would have come into hisway. But, to his amazement the newwife’s doe eyed beauty made himdelirious. From beneath the border ofthe saree peeped her flat broad fair feet.The sight of feet evoked such a thrillof anticipation which even a slendershapely feet would not have. The hintof her rounded graceful arms was killinghim.

In front of him was his woman, hisnewly wedded wife sitting hunched upin bridal finery and here was Ramavatar’swell nourished wrestler’s body, his manicdelirium, his restless impatience, hisardor, his madness, his passion and hisamateurish ignorance. He lunged overhis wife, his rounded wife, his ripe asa fruit, fair as a flower wife. Phulwariawas sitting coyly under her veil, a littleabashed but filled with strange yearnings.

She had witnessed many such weddingnight scenes in the only cinema hallof Khusrupur with her mother and sisterin law. Her sister in law had loadedher with many naughty wedding nighttips, her married friends had whisperedmany juicy details but nothing hadprepared her for this attack. Herhusband’s rough amorous advances filledher with a momentary panic. Then, afierce pain broke into her body. A surgeof nausea rose high from within, bringingalong with it a shrill scream. Ramavtarclasped her mouth, stifled her screamwith his huge calloused palms and fulfilledhimself. Two sharp teeth marks on hispalm, however, bore witness to thisphysical intrusion.

In his amateurish awkwardness andignorance, misguided by his friends,Ramavtar lost the tender connection withhis wife. And after that night wheneverhe came near her, she became stiff asa log. Ramavtar was in reality a softhearted person and any physical coercionand force was not in his inherent nature.He gradually began to withdraw fromher. During that time, a Swamiji hadarrived in the town. It was said thatRamavtar could be seen in the Swamiji’sencampment day and night paying homageto him with all his heart.

It is hearsay that Swamiji asked himto remain away from female contact.Ramavatar placed himself completely inSwamiji’s hands. Swamiji’s fingerscaressed his head. The next day, theencampment was disbanded. Ever since

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then no body ever saw Ramavtar inPhoolpur.

After being abandoned by herhusband, Phulwaria turned her attentiontowards her home. She began to lookafter the household, to look after thefifteen year old Rajju who was mentallyonly six year old, to look after her fatherin law and to look after the PhoolpurGrocery store. Not only she handledall these but also handled them well.And when during those days the vagabondAjmeri landed up, she took good careof him as well.

Rajju’s hair would be oiled daily andPhulwaria would make two tight plaits,pulling all the hair back tightly and tiethe ends with red ribbon bow. Rajjuadored red colour. The plaits would befolded, wound up above the ears in atight wreath round the head and finallythe ribbon would end up in a floweredbow. Rajju would look at herself in thesmall mirror held in her hands, makehappy faces, laugh and simper andgenerally be happy while her hair wasbeing made up thus. Rajju liked her sisterin law. She liked her because once ina while bhaujai2 would hand over hervanity case to her and Rajju could spendhours playing with bangles and bindis.Phulwaria had stitched dark colouredsalwar kurtas for Rajju. During hermenstrual periods, Rajju had no senseto take care of herself. Despite all careshe would stain clothes and to preventthis, Phoolwaria invented a way. Shewould not let Rajju out of house during

those five days. To keep her occupiedindoors, she would woo Rajju with smalldolls, tiny utensils, lace, trinkets, coloredmarbles.

The moot point was that Misraeensecond took better care of Rajju thaneven Misareen, first who was Rajju’smother. On the other hand, Misir hadsuddenly aged after the departure ofhis son. His face with a two day blackand white stubble, looked hollow andsick. The broken front teeth also addedto the emaciated look. When he openedhis mouth to talk the air would passthrough with a hiss. He was graduallylosing his appetite, partly because ofhis son and partly because of the brokenteeth. He would eat sloppily a few rotissoaked in milk in a big brass bowl, andsit languidly in the shop. It was hisduty to take care of the shop in themorning. Then, the sales would be slow.After three in the afternoon, whenPhulwaria took charge the sales wouldpick up and become so brisk that theincome poured in much more than inearlier years.

Ajmeri lived in the small room behindthe milling shed. He had grown intoa sturdy young man by now. He wouldtake care of the milling work and keepan eye on Phulwaria who sat in theshop. He would often declare boldly,I am the boss!

So, for all practical purpose lifewithout Ramavtar was not too tough.Phulwaria was still ripe and her youthwas at its peak. The loafers of the

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neighbourhood heaved a lustfull sigh ather sight, passed frivolous provocativecomments. Not paying any attention toall this, Phulwaria would take care toget ready, meet her friends, have a goodtime. When sometimes during the longlonely hours of night, the thought ofRamavtar ever came into her mind, herface would burn at the humiliation ofthat fateful night, at the memory of hersharp teeth marks on his palms. Butdespite this sometimes, during the hothumid nights, lying flat on her back,she would remove her aanchal and somecaterpillar crawled below her navel. Thelustful comments of street loaferscaressed her body, the song which themustachio-ed sang beat a drum beat onher chest. During these long hot yearnfulnights, she stayed awake craving forsatisfaction of her body like a femalesnake shedding her skin.

And during the passage of such hotcold nights, one day an accident tookplace, as if destined to be so. It hadto happen and so it happened. The destinywhich everyone foreknew. And onceagain, the medium for this happeningwas Phulwaria just as she was for thedepature of Ramavtar. It so happenedthat for Rajju it was the time of themonth when she was not allowed to goout. The same was followed this monthtoo. But this time for no rhyme or reason,Rajju was not the quiet Rajju, the obedientRajju, the adorable sister in law of aloving bhaabhi. What made her broode,no body knew. She ventured out, came

back in. A woman from the housenextdoor, caught hold of her and broughther back. Her clothes were soiled, hersalwar stained, her kurta dirty. She wasadmonished. In the evening, shedisappeared once again. And this time,she so disappeared that two torturousdays passed without any sign of her.Elder Misir went berserk with grief.Phoolwaria cried her eyes red. Atlast,the police was informed. People gossiped,they expressed grief, bitched about,looked down upon Phulwaria, questionedher handling, her intentions. In short,did everything that others do. But,nothing righted the wrong and thevanished girl remained lost in someunfathomable invisible realms. Two dayspassed and then her body was discovered.It was said that something terribly badhad been done to her. That, her bodywas naked and that most likely it wasthe work of someone known.

Whatever happened was, however,too terrible to forget. Once upon a time,the yellow fine dust of the sand hadcreeped in Ajmeri’s house. Now, ithappened in Phoolpur. The Phoolpurgrocery store came on the verge ofclosure. It was not as if people did notcome to the shop for provisions. Peoplecame even now but Misir, who had becomethe aged Misir now became the crazyold Misir. He would constantly whisperloose insane things to himself, weighthe provisions for the customers all wrongand chatter incessantly meaninglessthings to the four walls of the shop.

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Phulwaria, on the other hand, stoppedmoving out of the house. When thisstopped, the lustful songs and lewdcomments from the good for nothingmotley crowd too stopped. And whenall this stopped, her life itself stopped.In the strange oppressive loneliness ofthe house, lying all alone beneath theslow moving fan, she felt as if her lifewas over. She did not feel like sittingin the shop. It was not because shewas so fond of Rajju, but it was becauseshe had seen her dead face. And now,whenever she looked at herself in themirror while combing her hair or applyingbindi, Rajju’s poor little broken deadface loomed over hers, throwing herin an unimaginable state of terror. Ayearning for pushing her face close toa man’s chest, hit her.

Looking at her woebegone lost face,Ajmeri would stare at her hard. Hismuscles shivered and his eyes closedthin and sharp into slits. The dreamswhich had filled his nights these pastmonths began to take concrete shapeand colour. He craved to bury his headdeep into the ripe bosom of Phulwaria,to fill his nostrils with her wild fruitsmell, to become tipsy with the rawlocal wine. He waited for the right time.He waited for the dream to become real,the dream of replacing the old boardof Phoolpur grocery shop with brightmarigold decorated board of AjmeriPhoolwaria provision store, of sittingin the shop with Phoolwaria like a kingwith his consort.

But, how could there be anycomparison between Phulwaria andAjmeri? Phulwaria Misraeen, who wasa Brahmin woman, who was the ownerof Phoolpur grocery store, who wasneither married nor a widow and wasthe owner of this house and this store.And, where was Ajmeri? Arisen fromthe effects of the wishes and prayersfrom the mosque of Ajmer, with neithermother nor father, with neither familynor house. A servant only, a servantalways. Still, the fine golden hair onthe broad wrists captured Phulwaria’sheart. His broad chest, the mole on theblack threaded talisman adorned throatmade her heart go insane. His masculinesmell and line of sweat beat a crazytattoo in her heart.

The small town called Phoolpur, whichin many ways slumbered uncoiled inpeople’s heart and mind like an overfed, satiated fat python in stupor, whichhung like a drop of sweat from the brows,neither falling nor remaining, held soin a point of time, trembling and holding,a small town steeped in unconsciounessof awareness, and amidst all this Phulwariastood at the centre of the most importantdecision of her life, her hand catchingthe erratic beat of her heart, her mouthagape at this courage within her, hereyes wide and unseeing. A flutter intime.

Everything stood still. The time stoodstill. The sky and the earth stood still.As if life itself stood still and with itPhoolpur stood still.

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Paulo Coelho has said that whenyou know what you want then the wholeworld conspires with you to achieveit. God knows Phulwaria’s dream andAjmeri’s dream were fulfilled or not.Whether Phoolpur saw for the first timea woman forsaken by her husband, getmarried again or not, whether for thefirst time a woman sought the companyof a much younger man or not, whetherfor the first time a Brahmin Panditayinsought the pleasure of a Muslim man’scompany or not, whether for the firsttime a woman thought of herself, ofher physical and emotional needs ornot? Such things have happened in other

places all the time, but in Phoolpur?No.. this has yet to happen in a placelike Phoolpur, which is still held in sometimewarp, like a butterfly frozen in apulse of time.

We will laugh, we will go throughthe newspaper, sip a cup of tea slowlyrelishing it and be engrossed completelyin the humdrum banality of our dailylives. And in this very timeframe, in thisvery geographical spaceframe, in someother Phoolpur some other Phoolwariaand Ajmeri will stand aghast at theircourage, eyes opened wide in awe, heldcaptive in that particular momentwaiting… Waiting for the right time.

Pratyaksha, born 1963, is working in Power Grid Corporation of India

Ltd as Chief Manager Finance, currently based in Gurgaon. Writing

stories and poems in Hindi since 2006, published in leading Hindi

literary magazines. A short story collection “Jungle ka Jadoo til t i l”

has been published by Jnanpith in February 2008. Has been writing

a blog in hindi. Interested in classical music, painting and photography.

1 aalta - red paint worn by married women on their feet

2 bhaujai - sister-in-law

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SIX POEMSPrayag Shukla

Translated by

Giridhar Rathi

In Delhi

Even in Delhi

Cuckoos call

Leaves fall

Ants crawl up the tree.

In Delhi, too

Sparrows fly

Squirrels hie

And red becomes the sky.

Even in Delhi

Rise the stars.

Even in Delhi

The butterfly darts.

These too,

Yes these too,

In Delhi.



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The ways of cookingIn memory of poet Raghuvir Sahay

Several are the ways of cooking,

Several the dishes,

And several the tastes of dishes aplenty.

A dish may still dodge

The ways of cooking,

And turn it sweet or sour.

A miracle this?

We could even say it’s a mystery.

The touch of the perfect cook, of course,

Does count. Though

Greater yet is the heart

That cooks.

And it’s invisible.

The palate can make out

The way the heart lay

While the dish was cooked.

And, as for the ingredients,

They, too, count.

For whoever heard of a dish

Without them! Though

We must know how they are acquired.

The taste goes the way they are acquired.

That is: Ingredients,

The heart,

The dish,

And the Ways of Cooking.

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We were not aware

Unaware, that we had to meet some day,

We meet and feel this is how

It had to be.

We sit together,


Even restless. We,

That is, a flight of steps, trees, hills,

sometimes even the sky and the sun and the terrace,

and the sounds of the day and the night,

and myself.

whenever we meet,

we meet and feel this is how

It had to be.

The lost thing

The lost thing is untraceable.

Its vague resemblance in other things

and a glimpse in the dark eludes us.

We even pick and try to weigh up

a number of other things,

as we go on looking for the lost thing.

Years pass, yet the lost thing

keeps playing hide-and-seek

in our own homes,

in the streets.

And whenever one hears people talk of lost things,

that one pricks our memory,

the most.

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Between one poem and another

Between my one poem and another

There is all that

they could not contain.

You might glimpse it

in the stillness at dusk,

in solitude,

in a friend’s letter you received

after a long break,

in a dream of the house

in which you had lived,

or, in the thick

of the daily grind.

Sometimes it strikes you numb,

And at other times

It leaves you gaping at a tree

As if to prompt you to go ahead

And grasp it.

As the shadows of evening grow

As the shadows of evening grow

along a wall,

sparrows dangle

like fruits on a tree.

You hear a train whistling out.

The body wakes up

After a nap in the sun.

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Roads, platforms. Buses.

Small stations.

Dwellings beneath the bridges.

Monkeys with the jugglers.


Going home after washing the utensils.

Tourists emerging slowly

from the ancient fort.

Elephants. And the gardens mesmerized.

Playful noisy kids. Peasants

In fields. Boats in river.

Tea stalls.

Days at home within homes.

Rising smoke

The grass

touching the heart of the earth.

A poem engrossed

In search of the lost.

Prayag Shukla, born 1940, is a poet, essayist and an art critic. His

notable collections of poetry are ‘yeh jo hara hai’ and ‘yahan kahan

thi chhaya’. Has published his l iterary essays in volumes like ‘surgaon

banjari ’ , ‘sajha samay’ and ‘ardh viram’. He edits a theatre journal

‘rang prasang’ for National School of Drama and lives in Noida, U.P.

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Translated by

Rajesh Kumar Sharma



In the upper shelves of the almirah

there was, as ever, patience.

And silence too.

Below, so much lay scattered.

The things in search of which I had arrived

in this city,

I could find no trace of.

I went on putting –

on fly leaves of books, inside shirt pockets,

in the stitch of sweaters –

my name, the room number, the names of hostels,

addresses of the houses I had rented,

hoping for a form to emerge,

like the termite sensing the presence of wood,

or like the corpse getting identified by a washerman’s marker.

When you open this almirah,

the door, somewhat wobbly, lurches to a side.



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There is so much that is no longer in memory.

It is no longer here either.

Whatever remains

looks like some dead man’s last will.

I understand that the things you gaze long and attentively at begin

to return your gaze.

When you have held the scissors for a long time,

you do begin to feel the urge to run them through something.

In These Words

(In Shabdon Mein)

There is no more any form in these words.

There was once – might have been.

Mere cold letters they are now

that do not even say what they want.

Time was

when I had written ox in these words,

I would think it wasn’t any ox.

Now it seems to have been an ox only.

I used to speak certain truths in these words

- such that it would have been better to pull my hair

than speak those truths.

The Sun shines –

words of such indication have long since been put out.

Words did not have the longevity of hills.

Many did not have the durability of socks and chappals even.

I used to think that the only way was to speak them,

and I could speak.

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we have been reduced to coal said the sisters sinking into sand

cover us up now if you want we shall stop here you may go

the sisters kept visiting us during day changing appearances

we had fever in evenings

visiting even more heat upon our burning eyes the sisters would come like

curses into our delirious raving lives on roads overflowing with traffic

would hover over our heads like troubles

consoled the sisters would sometimes sit

the sisters stood guard in our wives’ dark pregnancies

the sisters would curse the thieves who take us by surprise stealing onionsin the darkness at the back of hearths

the sisters were pleased to see the possibilities brimming with our happilygoing jobs

the sisters told the tales of fairies and dervishes to children

the sisters brought forests and beasts into their imagination

the sisters augmented what they had not seen

with gradual accretions of their wealth of ignorance.

“if anyone says this fuel wood will not catch fire we shall not take it kindly

what for after all are we girls

how the fuel wood catches fire we know you know

we are fuel wood we girls

we shall give out smoke as long as we are wet

but what can we do about this? we are

the cooking pots of your home, brother father

“mother look we are the cooking pots

our soot will be washed off

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if it is not we shall become soot and grow, stuffing flaky tatters into our bodies

as long as wetness and taste do not go

we shall dry only at our own pace

“we shall wither we shall make fluttering noises in the stillness of the earth

in wind-holes on hearths during noons

we shall beat our bowls

do you kindly fill our bowls

water one can drink from drains you our people know

but grain one cannot find in cattle-dung heaps

do please fill our bowls

“we shall be as mere spiders in your world

we shall be spiders

we shall lie in any forgotten corner of the house with our webs pulled over us

we shall be spiders of dust-filled corners

we shall be dust

we shall be termites in the cracks of doors

we shall manage to live at the bottoms of boxes

we shall live on neem and lotus seeds

we shall chirp like crickets during nights

propping up the sleep of our people we shall be the crickets.”

we have become mere coal

said the sisters sinking into sand

become mere coal

said beaten with shoes



the sisters sigh, “we are ashes –

ashes we are – the dust having risen shall settle on every forehead

layers of guilt shall cake in your eyes

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on your neck a film of oil shall gather,

just see”

the sisters shall become grime one day

one day they will be removed from memories washed out with soap

except from knees and elbows

yet die they will not, but linger for centuries in homes

trampling on the sisters the world passes on

across life’s creaking bridge

trying to suppress somehow with downcast faces the screaming horns of families

and gloating over their blisters

one day when blood will be trickling down our noses

sinking into the earth

the saltish bodies of the lost sisters will rise from earth’s folds

with their anchals dirtied with the mud of toil the sisters will come to standaround us

will want to save us with their dry roughened hands

many years will pass

so many that we will not be saved.

Asad Zaidi, born 1952, is a creative writer as well as a journalist.

Has been consultant of National Literacy Mission. Recipient of Sanskriti

award. Has a number of published works. To name a few– ‘behnen

aur anya kavitayen’ and ‘kavita ka jivan. He has also edited ‘yeh

aisa samay hai’ . He lives in Delhi.

Rajesh Kumar Sharma, is professor of English at Punjabi University,

Patiala and has translated several important poets. He lives in Patiala.

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Trnslated by

Usha Mishra / Arlene Zide

Letter Writing Woman

It is said about women that they

Pen letters ceaselessly, spread over several sessions.

There is a world within them-

Collected over centuries.

Their outpourings inexhaustible, as if bewitched

By the demon’s fabled pigtail.

And their letters extend interminably,

Like Draupadi’s saree.

A letter-writing woman is

Like PC Sarkar’s magic.

A woman has the blessed capacity

To meditate amidst chaos,

In a bus, or sitting crouching on a bench at a railway platform,

She can suddenly shudder and squat

And picking up a paper cone, news paper, circular

Can write anything, as

‘I miss you lots, please come over.’



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Don’t know which little girl comes over and

Rolls chapattis, so big that it hangs out of the hot plate

And is quickly kissed by the lolling flames

In the chest of the night thunders the solitude

And a shiver resonates

Of dead leaves and fluttering pages

As if the teliya masan1 time says

‘Turn around’

‘Can’t you hear it, stupid, turn around and see.’

Women are not scared

In relating anything over

They are not ashamed to accept

That they bear within them both water and earth

And both these are sans all beginnings and ends.

Women write incessantly as a result.

Earth and water are after all a non-ending letter from God

Addressed to all...

Mother tongue

Like ancestral jewellery and antique bronze

Mother treasures my sphinx riddles,

A few funny moments of my early years

And some obsolete words of mother tongue

Mothers don’t only nurse babies

They also nurture urchin words

Words never ensconced in a thesaurus

Mothers make languages mother tongues

And each mother tongue smells of mother’s milk

Mothers conserve mother tongues

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Imagine my Hindi without my mum!!

Often I resolve, to write her a letter as big as the earth

But the computer lacks Hindi fonts

I left Hindi in the eighth grade

And cheerfully adopted

A language branded with

‘my god’, ‘hit-shit’, ‘shut-up’, ‘yes sir-yes me lord’, ‘hire and fire’, ‘thanks’,‘held-up’

Get out, hello, hi, sorry’,

Language apt for petitions and submissions

Resume and applications,

But a letter to mum,

Needs a language of dreams and memories

In the no-man’s land fenced with yes and no

The language stood draped in dew,

Green and elegant

This language for me, could only be Hindi

Hindi? Can I handle?

Mother worked hard on my spellings

Would now blow her top off

If I misspelt

Thanks to feminism, I dare not mix genders

But words escape me and I chase them

Like a child chasing a butterfly!!

Alas, words like horses need to be reared!!!


We were read

like the torn pages of children’s notebooks

made into cones to hold warm chanajorgaram

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We were looked at

the way grumpily you squint at your wristwatch

after the alarm goes off in the morning.

We were listened to


the way filmsongs assail your ears

spilling from cheap cassettes on a crowded bus

They sensed us

the way you sense the sufferings of a distant relative

One day we said

we’re human too.

Read us carefully

one letter at a time

the way after your BA, you’d read a job ad.

Look at us

the way, shivering,

you’d gaze at the flames of a distant fire

Listen to us

as you would the unstruck music of the void

and understand the way you’d understand a newly-learned Langauge

The moment they heard this

from an invisible branch suspended in limbo

like a swarm of gnats

wild rumors went screeching

“Women without character

wild vines draining the sap

from their hosts

well-fed, bored with affluence

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these women

pointlessly on edge

indulging in the luxury of writing

these stories and poems –

not even their own”

They said, amused.

The rest of the stories dismissed with a wink

Hey, blessed Fathers

you blessed men

spare us

spare us

this sort of



These days I’m reading only ancient scripts

Can manage to make out even the Harappan script

Every language is a langauge of pain

ever since I understood

I could read a message even

in the most obscure of langauges

In my own infinite emptiness

this is the only thing I’ve done

I’ve learned the tottering notation of music

in every tone of pain.

There’s a fire in me

to write something on the pages of the wind

and then crumple them up and toss them under the broken charpoy

Unfolding these crumpled scraps,

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my mother reads them

and her glasses fog up.

This is where my fire gets transformed into water.

My bound hands are restless

they want to do something.

There’s strength in them still.

Milk, they can draw from the breasts of the mountain

What if only a mouse turns up

when you’ve dug it all up?

My bound hands are rough and cold –

they’ve never had the chance to sweep up the sweetness of the earth

Never has a tattered dupatta been held spread out between these hands

and laughingly begged those berries.

The moon is no longer that pale

There’s a layer of dirt on its yellowness

it’s as grungy as the greyed pages of a miserly bania’s ledger

The sunlight slowly fading,

like the tired, dusty beauty of an unwed elder sister

Hey, butterfly, tell me

how far is the last sigh from infinite desire.

This ‘should’, what kind of a bird is this?

Has it ever alighted in your courtyard?

perched on your hand?

So how can they say

a bird in hand is worth more

than two in the bush?

Wringing my hands, I often wonder

are my hands two flints

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will they ever trigger fire?

I never get a wink of sleep

My life is the chaos at a call-center

that might close down any moment, who knows?

“To Be or Not to Be”

“My marriage bed is above the noose” Mirabai

This much English I learned to understand

the meaning of this line

but wish I could’ve learned Englishness well enough

to tie a knot in a noose, a tie,

my shoelaces too,

I can’t even tie ribbons on right

again and again on my way to school they came undone

the red ribbons at the end of my braids!

Really annoyed, my poor brother

each time he had to tie them back on

And now when it’s my turn to tie a noose

it comes loose, opens up

like the amulet of folksongs.

“To be... or not to be...” Shakespeare reminds us

It’s a whole ritual, turning your sari

into a noose on the fan

It’s not so easy to tie it on

There’s a thick layer of dust on the fanblades

Before I hang myself, should I wipe it away with my anchal?

“To be dust, or wipe it away, “that’s the question

Where are Birbal and Vidushak of the Sanskrit plays

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July-September 2009 :: 101

The wise fools of Shakespeare, where are they?

Where is the sky wit of Telani Raman and Gonu Jha?

I met you in dusty folds of the stories my father told me

Come, get up and see me off!

Come, let’s giggle and gossip around the village fire

Let’s light the flames, there’s a chill in here

My skin’s not enough;

will they wrap me up –

my own warm ashes?

Inside my stiff bones burns a slow fire,

the sweet potatoes on it, will they satisfy my hunger?

Will lye and phenyl quench my thirst?

“To be or not to be...”

Tired out, both my kids lie sleeping

In the morning, will they be shocked?

The little one can’t even comb his hair

and the big one, even worse

can’t tell the right side of a sock from the wrong.

They’ll get up, try to wake me up,

“Missed the schoolbus and the milkman gone home”

Everyone has gone back home, shouldn’t I?

Strange are the ways of this king’s court

One sepoy holds me back by the wrists

while another’s ready to banish me forever

Yes, Shakespeare, I understand

Understand this whole rigmarole

of To Be or Not to Be.

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The 17 Year old Examinee

Child, when the milk first flows down

From the mother’s breast

She shivers with milk fever

That milk isn’t very delicious

But the doctors say –

If the child suckles

Then the baby will survive all diseases

The taste of first failure is like that –

Whatever happens, it doesn’t matter

(No dead-ends)

Whatever you lose, doesn’t matter

There’s no full stop in life

The desire to go beyond desire

Too is a desire

The process doesn’t stop, the road doesn’t break apart

They twine

Around your feet like a liana

And when you come back home and take off your shoes

There’ll be traces of them clinging to your socks

Sorry about this strange world you’ve inherited

Forgive me if you can

No one actually listens to the sound of flowers bursting open

No one sees with what skill and patience each petal unfolds

This is the fruit market, child –

Fruitful and fruitless

I wish you could have inherited a world

Where no one would have an identity divided and torn into different rows

Every flower is beautiful in its own way

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July-September 2009 :: 103

And beauty is beyond competition

You stay up all night in your chair

All your work on your desk

Watching the shrew on its catwalk

As you doze off you have a nightmare –

A shrew with an ounce

Of jasmine oil on its head

And a buffalo

Someone’s playing a pipe to

All falling on deaf ears a silk purse for sows...

And everything out of whack

And at break of dawn, a truck

Loaded with bricks.

When the bricks fall

The nightmare comes to an end.

They make you sit up

And then you ask:

Ma, why this sorrow

What is it?

What to do with it?

These shriveled breasts of mine are wet,

Not with milk

But with sweat

I’m not Mahamaya

Nor is he Buddha –

But the question remains

As it is –

In an old film song

There ran a line in Italian

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Che Sara, Sara?

‘What will be, will be’

Don’t ask what comes next

Whatever happens will happen for the best.

I sing out of tune and he breaks into laughter

“Enough, mama, enough

I remember the rest of it”

This free laughter

In the dead of night

Falls on the leaves like dew

His father, worried about the future

Smiles vaguely in his sleep

This half-smile of his gets the super serious house in a festive mood!

Anamika, born 1961, writes poetry and prose. She is recipient of numerous

literary awards including the recent Kedar Samman, Saviri Bai Phule

Samman, before which she already earned Bharat Bhushan Puraskar,

Girija Km. Mathur Samman and Parampara Samman. She teaches

English literature at a college in Delhi University.

Arlene Zide, born 1940 is a poet, l inguist and translator. She edited

and translated Penguin’s Book of Indian Women Poets ‘In Their Own

Voice. ’ She teaches at Harold Washington College, Chicago, U.S.A.

Usha Mishra is a senior consultant with United Nations who retains

her love for good poetry. She lives in London, U.K.

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July-September 2009 :: 105



Dinesh Kumar Shukla

Trnslated by

The Poet

A Drum in the Sky

A drum beat

deep in the sky

Continents adrift

Mountains rising

A kite churned

the liquid of sun

At my defeat he laughed

And became a serpent

And crept through the spine of earth

He hissed – now the richest man

A will of iron

melted in its own latent-heat

A drum beat

deep in the sky

Infinite and unfathomable

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Was the high-noon

A creation of Gods

entangled in the web of pain

tried to break free in vain,

Constellations burned,

Juices oozed from the fruits of hope

The weaver weaved on


A drumming roared in the sky

In the core of a tear-drop

exploded a new universe

The throat was on fire

Speech in flames and yet

The voice of water

reverberated inside everything

The Earth sighed

And the waves of solid rock

rolled across mustard fields

Yellow was the sound

of high-noon

A drum beat

deep in the sky

The world was flooded by

a twilight of resonance

And you, the half rhythm of my song

began to form but to fade,

You the fragrance of the great void

seeped into everything,

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July-September 2009 :: 107

Then everything vanished

flowing back into void,

As if in a protest

A neem tree stood alive

engraved in my memory

The tree

sways and sways and sways on

without a whiff of wind,

In its luxuriant shade

the high-noon sweated and slept

A drum beats in my heart and

the sky reverberates.

A surge

Suddenly all…..

All came to a grinding halt




The wail…..

The mundane rhythm

of routine

drowned by a silence

so abrupt!


It was you!

Now become a moon,

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rising behind the fence

of your nuptial roof

A primordial sound


through all the existence.

A Licence for Thought

‘Cause knowledge is yours

So science is yours…….

‘Cause God is yours

So Satan is yours

Your Ownership!

Mountains of money

You spent on research,

So rightly you own

the rise and fall of sun

and waning and waxing of moon

Now you are the owner of the air

of all biosphere.

For sure, without your medicines

We who commit sins

Shall soon get our unwieldy populations

Controlled and thrown in dustbins

The flowers now bloom

If you please

At your command thunder

strikes the disobedient

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July-September 2009 :: 109

The faculties of thought

shall work not

without a licence from you

After all thought is also a weapon

-a gun

Now none is allowed to clean

his filthy teeth

with the neem-twig anymore

No more turmeric shall

beautify the brides

because you now own

all patents

on neem and turmeric and…so...

Your exalted Ownership!

What should I say more

You are now sole lord of the mornings

with exclusive rights

on all the nights galore!



the two rivers in spate

rolled towards each other,


the same sentence

rolled down from our lips,

Even the weight of both voices

was exactly the same

down to a milli-milligram,

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We laughed

resigned to the spontaneous symmetries

of love


an endless sequence called day

kept on passing and passing

in front of us

Not a single bird or a cloud

or a kite


nothing appeared on the sky of our hearts

The rising tide of day

had spent its fury

on roads of the metropolis

and ebbed back into the veins

of the body-politic

Gardeners finished

first shift of the day

Four eyes of the fawns

living in the solitude

of Nehru Park

drank to their fill

the forbidden nectar of a day

in the life’s afternoon

In the shallows of the rocks of love

a little pool of water

was still alive with rippling waves

-the water from a rain of long ago

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On the white petals of shankhpushpi

the blue of a clear sky

Now reflected

Now faded

Now shimmered…..


*a wild flower

The Belly Dancer

Born in the ruins

of the city of Bamako

to the parents

from the line of dispossessed Kings


learnt the taste of bone-marrow

from decaying breasts of my mom,,

In her fading heart-beats I learnt to recognize

foot steps of death

I became an addict to life

while still an infant.

Brought up on royal diet

of dried grass, cactii, roots and berries

I learnt to roast and eat the mambas,

Salt of my blood came from rocks

Bones formed from the phosphates of Sahara

O merchant of bone-manures

Don’t drill through me

with your blind stares

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Slavery was abolished

they say

aeons ago

and Africa is free they say

But I know how to count and read

O merchants of crude!

Why is there so much of fire

in your eyes

blazing through our world.

Drowning me in the smoke of cigars

are you not afraid of

the revenge of my brothers.

No gazelle can beat me

in a race of grace

I dazzle the lightning everyday

with flashes of my dance

Like a tigress I can tear you apart

And yet

Your blind eyes keep on trying

to disrobe me

You perhaps don’t put much price on your life

O merchant of civilizations!


Tell me how you grew so obstinate!

Crossing the borders

one after another

Ravaging the earth and women alike

Leering at my pulsating flesh,

the dancing muscles of a tired belly –

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July-September 2009 :: 113

A belly dancing

to fill the belly,

My rippling muscles are fishes

hooked by hunger of death,

hook thrusting deep with every jerk

blood spilling

the dancing stage filled with gore and slush.

With such delicacies of revulsion

who else could have an appetite

excepting you

O merchant of fire and flesh!

A Scrambled Nocturne

The night, an ocean of fire-flies

Submerged in the night we moved

And crossed the borders of body and soul

and jumped

the barbed-fence hidden in a green hedge

We reaped wheat of heaven

Stole the nectar of the Gods

Ate the forbidden fruits

And played

on the branches of the immortal tree

In the light of the

burning stars

We saw ‘the Dark’ horse

moving with a regal canter

Grief wearing a golden crown

rode the horse in- state

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We glimpsed the face

of the King, the Chief, the Supreme..

a Kaleidoscope of Deceit,

We discovered and rediscovered

The source of king’s strength

hidden as Fear right in our innards

A falcon perched

On the gloved hands of Power

tore the flesh of might

in the night’s blood we soaked

Along the wall of the horizon

the directions scampered

hiding in blue black cloaks

trying to escape the marauders

We jumped the bail of time-space

We broke through the gates of the earth

We were joined by fellow inmates –

Chased by a hail of bullets

fired by guards of the invisible prison

We ran on pavements of freedom

Along with us ran a thousand eyes

Leaping and bounding like living marbles

The eyes-sovereign and free

from bonds of the body,

The eyes- full of hopes and visions,


ebullient as galaxies

danced with the dynamics of that night

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The milk-bowl of the celestial dome

was upturned by a Cat

We saw the Cat smiling

and hiding behind the moon

We wanted to feel the time

there was no time but only our heart beats

There was no night

but only a shadow of our being

A shriek pierced the deafness of the age

People now suffered only from

personal pain,

Speech was bereft of nouns

the verbs all passive

the language wounded by

hyphens and dots and dashes——

Now only the wails and cries

filled meaning in the words

Eyelids heavy with load

of nightmares,

Eyes enclosed us in their cusp

and rolled down an endless slope….

Mothers carrying infants

descending from terrace

to courtyard,

A cascade of sweet morning dreams

A string of little blue lakes

the eyes of mother earth sparkled

We floated like lotuse

In the ocean of an infinite night

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A fearless innocence

swimming in the great deluge

What a night of nights

woven fine like a fabric of living yarn,

In that illusive fog

We saw the omnivorous beast

of wealth and greed

At the foot of mountains of grain

Hunger was gulping down all living beings

We saw killer religions

Celebrating massacres

with prayers and thanks giving

laughing and ullulating

in orgasmic ecstasies,

We saw the boat of Manu sinking

We saw

mothers praying and

weeping in silence –

Illusion and Reality all rolled into one

That moment of difficult truths

was in a great hurry

It was turning the earth

faster and faster like a potter’s wheel

It wanted to create

one impossible and yet immortal shape

impossible and yet indelible colours

impossible but eternal

matter, life, love, language….

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In a ditch nearby

Death sharpened its knife

on the rock of darkness

lay in wait

taut like a crossed bow

ready to leap and shoot


As if out of nowhere started

Reverberations of

sounds yet unheard,

A procession of reflections of

things yet unseen,

A procession of the Unborn

trying to discover the original seed,

A wave of uncertain amplitudes -

A huge ship thrusting ahead

unhindred—breaking the icebergs

A tide rose sweeping away the hallucinations

of a false night

On the rocks in the foaming waters

the bow was floating broken

the broken sword

shone dull at the bottom of the sea

the anaconda of death

was lying crushed all along the coast

The first rays had yet to break

and East was yet to be red

The first sea-bird awakened by its

internal impulse

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rose in the morning breeze

and floated away into the east

to accelerate the sun

Dinesh Kumar Shukla, born 1950, is a poet and scholar with varied

interests. Has published several volumes of poetry, the latest being

‘akhar arath’ from Bharatiya Jnanpith. Has been honoured with Kedar

Samman 2008 for his poetic work ‘ lal-muniya ki duniya’. He is equally

at home with translation. He works at IIFCO and lives in Gurgaon.

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Translated by

Dhiraj Singh

Treeless and barren hills stared at us from both sides. The desolationwas so hopeless and complete that even the tufts of grass onthese hills had dried up waiting in the sun. The road like anasphalt snake coursed purposefully through this barrenness. Ithad brought me from Isfahan to Shiraz and now 60 kilometresahead of me lay the ancient city of Persepolis or Takht-e-Jamshed(literally, Seat of Jamshed) that I was most curious to see. AtShiraz I was told that one could take a ‘savari’ (meaning ‘ride’;much like the similar Hindi word) taxi to Takht-e-Jamshed. Buthere a savari taxi also meant a full vehicle where each passengerpaid an individual fare. This also meant that the ride would bemuch cheaper than a ‘private’ taxi. I had come to the bus stationin Shiraz in search of a savari but was convinced otherwise totake a private taxi by a wily taxi-driver. I was told a savarito Takht-e-Jamshed would cost five people 5000 rial each butsince I was the only man travelling the driver was expectingto extract four other passenger fares from me. After a journeyof over an hour we were at the parking lot of Takht-e-Jamshed.As far as the eye could see, spread the columns of Persepolis,as if it were one big birthday cake leftover from a party.

About 700 years before Christ a tribe that considered itselfof Aryan descent laid the foundation of what was to become amighty empire. An empire that spread from the Indus in theeast to the Danube in the west and from the Aral lake in thenorth to the Persian Gulf in the south. In history books these




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people were known as the Achaemenids.Not only was their empire a force toreckon with in its own time but it hascontinued to fascinate generations withits extremely progressive ideas aboutgovernance. One of its most importantrulers was Darius I (549 to 485 BC)whose human rights charter was in 1971taken up by the UN to be translatedinto the languages of member nationsand distributed among them. Thisdocument was found in the form ofcylindrical baked clay tablets. Darius hadissued this edit after he had conqueredBabylon. It is believed that Darius’ humanrights charter was even more progressivethan the manifesto of the FrenchRevolution (1789-1799). It is interestingto note the personal tone of the Dariusedict, one portion begins like this: “…NowI (Darius) who wears the crown of Persia,Babylon and the four directions of thewinds and on whose head rests the handof Ahura Mazda (the God of theZoroastrians) declare that for as longas I live I and the satraps of my dominionwill respect all religions, traditions andways of life that form part of my vastempire. I will not impose my suzeraintyon any kingdom. All people are freeto accept my dominion or reject it. Thosewho reject it I promise not to go towar with them. As long as I wear thecrown of Persia, Babylon and the fourdirections of the winds, I will not letanyone exploit anyone and if that happensI will be on the side of the wrongedand punish the wrong-doer. As long asI am Emperor I will ensure that no

land or property is bought without properremuneration. As long as I am aliveI will not allow labour to be misusedor go unpaid. On this day I declarethat every man is free to choose hisown religious path. People of my empireare free to live wherever they wish toand take up whatever profession theychoose provided it does not harmanother’s right to such freedom. No onewill be punished for crimes committedby someone related to him by bloodor marriage. I also abolish slavery inmy dominion and urge my satraps toensure that the trade of men, womenand children for the purpose of slaveryis completely stopped… not only in theEmpire but through Ahura Mazda’s wideworld. I also seek His blessing so thatI may succeed in delivering all promisesI have made in this edict.”

About 500 years before the birthof Christ, Darius the Great was of coursemuch ahead of his times running hisEmpire on a federal system ofgovernance. Satrapis or governorates hadfull rights to determine local, region-specific policy while a laissez faire centreensured that this bigger vision ofhumanity and human rights was takento the corners of earth. The biggest sourceof treasury income was commercial tax,a considerable part of which went intoproviding security to travellers on traderoutes. Darius also constructed a massive2500 mile long highway that connectedthe two far ends of his Empire. Accordingto historians the postal system of that

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time was so efficient that missives wouldtake not more than a fortnight to reachfrom anywhere to anywhere in theEmpire.

But for centuries Darius the Great’scapital city of Takht-e-Jamshed lay buriedunder the rubble of time. It is builton what is now known as Koh-e-Rahmatwhich translates as the Mountain ofMercy. Between 1931 and 1934 severalAmerican universities got together andconverted this area into a hugearchaeological dig bringing to light theglory of Darius’ capital.

The present Iranian dispensationthough not too keen about tourism hasnot been able to do much in reducingthe glamour of Takht-e-Jamshed. Thereis a big tourist centre here as well asother amenities for visitors that flockhere from around the world. Notsurprising, because the capital of oneof history’s greatest leaders belongs tothe world not just Iran.

Before I’d seen Takht-e-Jamshed I’doften heard how ruins tell the story oftheir lost greatness; after seeing it Irealised I’d had a vision of an epic.One that has on one side a giant colonnadeof irregular pillars and on the otherequally huge statues carved out of themountainside.

A long stretch of stairs brought meto the nucleus of this universe of stone.Surrounded by massive columns this wasthe court of Darius the Great. In itscomplete form this hall must have been

huge; in comparison the Diwan-e-Aam(Court of Commons) at Delhi’s Red Fortseems like a child’s playpen. If not morethe columns here are at least three timesthe size of those at the Diwan-e-Aam.In size too the court of Darius is atleast 6 to 7 times the size of Shah Jahan’scourt in Delhi. But what left me wonderingwas how the acoustics of the hall workedwhen thousands attended the court…how did Darius or his ministers getthemselves heard!

Darius began work on Takht-e-Jamshed known in the ancient Greekworld as Persepolis in about 518 BCand it took another hundred years tocomplete. The Emperor had not merelyplanned a palace or a fortress here buta seat of imperial power that the worldhad not seen before. He wanted thisplace to be a tableau of his Empire’spower, glory, wealth and intellectual andaesthetic superiority: an architecturalequivalent of his vast and diversedominion. Darius’ dream was only tobe completed by his son Xerxes (518-465 BC) whose inscription—“I promiseto complete that which my father began”—can still be seen on the walls here.

Above me was an unrelenting sunand before me was stretched a city ofruins that held within its walls manymysteries, many stories. Though the placewas cramming with tourists, in the vastexpanse of the city they seemed likebirdfeed scattered on the ground. Inthe far distant, some who had scaledthe heights of Koh-e-Rahmat to look at

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its giant relief statues seemed like ants.Behind the court complex continued aformation of ruins, buildings that oncestretched right up till the caves of Koh-e-Rahmat. It is impossible to see allthis in a day, especially when the giantreliefs before you beckon with storiesof imperial grandeur… of kings and thegods who helped them rule.

A few kilometres away from Takht-e-Jamshed is Naqsh-e-Rustam (literallyimage of Rustam). Rustam is a Persianhero who is immortalised in the 10th

century epic, Shahnameh. Firdausi’sShahnameh is a work of great mythicimagination and humanity. Rustam isa brave warrior and a romantic, a dutifulfather and a character in a tragedy thatrivals in pathos its Greek predecessors.Naqsh-e-Rustam is a flat stretch of landon the hill. It is believed Rustamperformed a dance here which is whythe hill flattened to even ground. Thehill of Naqsh-e-Rustam is like a galleryof kings. Not only is it a place whereAchaemenian (or Hakhamanesh) rulerscarved their victories in stone but alsolater dynasts from further north suchas the Sassanids used it for the samepurpose. Like the Egyptian Valley of theKings this too is the final resting placeof many rulers of the Persian peninsula.Naqsh-e-Rustam is also home to thefamous stone relief portraying RomanEmperor Valerian in chains kneelingbefore the equestrian figure of SassanianKing Shapur I (241-272 BC). Severalversions of this historic Persian victory

over Rome (260 BC) have it that ShapurI had insisted on Valerian crawling onall four all the way to his court. Whetherthis was true or not it had the effectof striking terror in the heart of Romefor centuries to come.

At Naqsh-e-Rustam I heard a guidepoint to a wall and tell his group oftourists that there was a time when itused to be so vigorously polished thatpeople could see their reflections in it.Naqsh-e-Rustam is the place for suchinstant mythologising. It is also believedthat another Persian mythic hero Jamshedhad a magic chalice called ‘Jam-e-Jamshed’ in which he could see boththe past and the future. Firdausi’sShahnameh has also talked aboutJamshed and his magic cup.

About 200 years after Takht-e-Jamshed was ready, the Achaemeniandynasty (550-330 BC) saw its end atthe hands of another world conqueror,Alexander the Macedon (323 BC). Notonly did Alexander burn down theglorious Achaemenid capital of Persepolisbut also sent home its immense wealthon the backs of over 5000 camels and20,000 mules. Perhaps Mirza Ghalibcould see in his mind’s eye the scaleof Persepolis’ desecration when he wrote:

“Jam-e-jum se toh mera jam-e-siphalaccha hai,

Aur le ayenge bazaar se gar tootgaya.”


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Asghar Wajahat, born 1946, is a remarkable author who has in his

repertoire novels, short stories, plays, travelogues, essays and memoirs.

This is the first chapter of Asghar’s travelogue ‘chalte toh achha tha’

about his journey through Iran and Azerbajan. His most notable work

is a play in hindi ‘Jin Lahore nahi dekhya woh janmya hi nahin’,

he has been honoured with K.K. Birla Foundation’s Vyasa Samman.

He is involved with cinema and painting. He lives in Delhi.

My earthen cup is so much betterthan Jamshed’s magic chalice,

I can always get a new one if itbreaks to pieces.

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Nobody knows for certain the exact number of short-stories thatPremchand wrote. Premchand’s own account has been the leastreliable on this score. His own estimate is said to have beenroundabout 200 short stories. He was too prolific a writer tohave kept count of all the stories that he wrote. Researches afterhis death have revealed that the number comes up to above 280.In the collections available today, 203 stories are found in theeight volumes of Man Sarovar, another 14 in another collectiontitled Kafan and other stories, and 56 more stories have beendiscovered through the painstaking efforts of Amritrai, Premchand’sillustrious son, and published in the two volumes titled GuptaDhan. This makes a total of 273 short stories, available in book-form. But scholars maintain that some stories, published in journalsand periodicals have yet to be included in the anthologies. Givingall allowances, it is safe to put the figure at 280.

Of these 280 stories, the number of stories written originallyin Urdu (which are found in his fifteen collections of Urdu shortstories) sum up to 194. Premchand began writing stories in 1907and it is well known, that during the first nine years he wroteexclusively in Urdu and his stories appeared in the well-knownUrdu journals of the time, Adib, Baharistan, Al Asra, KahakashanNaqad, Sabad-i-Urdu etc.

His contribution to both the languages has won for him theposition of a pioneer in short story writing in both the languages.All discussions on the short story in Hindi and Urdu began withPremchand. The Hindi short story before the advent of Premchandwas rather a juvenile affair. A good deal had been written before




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him, no doubt—Kishorilal Goswami, oneof Premchand’s predecessors, alone hadwritten 68 ‘novelettes’—but most of thesestories were stories of ‘magic andromance’ and moved in the sphere offantastic situations. The popular readingduring the two or three decades beforethe appearance of Premchand on thescene, consisted of such stuff as theArabian Nights, Tales of Sindbad theSailor, Baital Pacisi, Singhasana Battisi,Gul Bakavli, Tota-Maina, Tilism-i-Hoshruba, etc. or stories of love-intriguewith manipulated plots and concoctedsituations. In such stories for instance,adopted daughters of prostitutes turnedout in the end to be princesses andold door-keepers turned out to be kings.In one of the romances of KishorilalGoswami, ‘Taruna Tapasvini’ by name,the body of a girl is carried away froma cremation ground by a howling lion;the lion later on turns out to be a girlin disguise, and it also turns out thatthe dead person was not really dead.

This kind of writing had begun tobe disliked even before Premchand cameon the scene, and voices had begun tobe heard asking for a better and morewholesome literature. As far back as1884, in one of his famous addresses,Bharatendu had said,

Brothers, it is time we woke up fromour long sleep. Help your countryprogress in every way. Read the bookwhich contributes to your moral well-being…. Do not rely on foreign articlesand foreign language, make progress in

your own language.

In the same address, he exhortedthe parents,

Give up the old. Do not ruin yourboys by placing in their hands Mir Hasan’s‘Masnavi’ and ‘Indra Sabha’… Adopt thatwhich is in the interests of the countryand the nation…

This was a new voice of social concern,heard at that time. Small novelettes andstories written with the conscious purposeof imparting moral instruction had begunto appear during the last two decadesof the nineteenth century. Theyspotlighted social evils— ignorance,lethargy, sensual indulgence, prostitutionand the like, and laid stress on personalintegrity of character, efficiency, honestyof purpose etc. The heroes of thesenovelettes were presented asembodiments of good conduct. Asliterature, however, they were ratherdull and insipid. Little effort was madeto go into the complexities of humannature or of the social situations, andthe plots were invariably contrived, andthere was a strong tendency to sermonizein them. Nevertheless, they clearlyreflected a turn towards social realityin Hindi story writing. This socialorientation had been stimulated by theimpact of the reform movements of thelast century, notably the Arya Samajaand the Brahmo Samaja in northern Indiaand the growing national consciousnessleading to the formation of the IndianNational Congress in 1880.

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Premchand picked up these verythreads from his predecessors—sense ofconcern with social reforms and growingnational consciousness—but gave hisstories a dynamism not known beforeas also range and richness. He was acrusader from the very start, and tillthe end of his days he wrote withmissionary zeal and fervor.

The first phase of his writing whichcovered the years roughly between 1907and 1920, reveals, besides intensepatriotic fervor, a romantic impulsewhich seeks expression in imaginarysituations, and plots to suit his needs,but the stress is invariably on serviceof the nation.

‘Duniya ka sab se anmol ratan’ (1907)(The Most Priceless Jewel of the World’)was the first story he wrote. A lover,Dilfigar by name, is asked by his beloved,Queen Dilfareb to bring to her the mostvaluable thing in the world, if he wantsto be accepted as her lover. He firstbrings to her a tear-drop of a murdererabout to be hanged, who sees a youngchild before him. But the queen declinesit. He then brings to her a handful ofashes of a beautiful woman who hadsacrificed her life on the funeral pyreof her husband. This too is not regardedas the most beautiful thing in the world,by the queen. At last the lover meetsa dying patriot who has shed his bloodfor his motherland, and takes a dropof the martyr’s blood to the queen andis gladly accepted as her lover.

The story is charged with patriotic

fervor, which was to inspire much ofhis later writing. The writer seeks toexpress it through the imaginative formof a parable, thereby linking intensepatriotic feeling with his romanticimpulse. Similar sentiments are expressedin other stories too written at that time.In a story titled ‘Yehi Mera Watan Hai’a 90-year old Indian returns to hiscountry after having lived for sixty longyears in America, with the only wishthat he should die in his motherlandand have his ashes consigned to theGanges.

In some other stories of the sameperiod we find Premchand weaving anelaborate plot and contriving manyincidents, some of them quite incredible,very much in the vein of his predecessors,but with a view to bringing out someidea related to national emancipationor the glorification of his country’s past.

There is also a story written aboutMazzini, the Italian patriot, throwing lighton his privations and his platonic lovefor Magdeline.

‘Sair-i-Darivesha’, written at the sametime, also highlights the fidelity of anIndian woman. A globe-trotter fromBerlin, while touring the Himalayas comesupon an Indian lady, Priyamvada, whosehusband, Sher Singh, has been turnedinto a lion, under the influence of acurse pronounced by Priyamvada’sfriend, Vidyadhari. The curse had beenpronounced under a misconception.While helping both Priyamvada andVidyadhari to get on to a swing, Sher

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Singh’s body had touched Vidyadhari,and the latter believed that it had beendone intentionally with an evil motive.Priyamvada serves her lion-husbanddevotedly and undergoes suffering. Anintricate plot follows in which Priyamvadasaves her friend’s husband twice fromthe jaws of death; she also saves a princefrom the clutches of her own lion-husband,as a reward for which she inherits halfthe prince’s kingdom, and begins to ruleover it in the spirit of selfless service,helping the poor and the needy.Eventually the curse is lifted and thelion again becomes a man. In the end,the globetrotter exclaims. “Chastity isa great spiritual force and if you wishto know the miracles it can work, visitIndia.”

Such were the stories being writtenby Premchand in the first phase of hiswriting. On the one hand, his mind wasafire with national aspirations, on theother, he was groping for a form suitedto the expression of these aspirations.He was having recourse to parables orweaving imaginary plots andmanipulating situations. He had as yetnot found his real genre.

His first collection of stories, Soz-i-Watan appeared in 1908-1909 andcontained the five stories mentionedabove. The book pointed clearly to thedirection in which he was to write. Aswe know, the book was considered aseditious work and its young author wasasked to deliver all the volumes to thegovernment, and also to submit, whatever

he wrote afterwards, to the governmentfor scrutiny before it was given forpublication. It was then that the authoradopted a pen-name of Premchand andstopped writing under his own nameof Dhanpatrai. The fact that he adopteda pen-name in order to be able to continuewriting in his own vein, and did notdeviate from his own path, shows hisdeep sense of commitment to the causeof his country.

Soon enough, Premchand turned tolegend and history in search of suitableplots for his stories. The impulse wasthe same, only he was seeking a moreconcrete habitation for his ideas. AndRajput history came in most handy forthis purpose. Here were grand exploitsin the cause of the motherland performedby heroes and heroines of Rajput history.Seized by patriotic fervor he soughtillustrations for the glorification of India’spast, the valour of its people who wereshown to be capable of offering supremesacrifice, its cultural values, its self-sacrificing women and the like. One ofthe pet themes in those days was thepresentation of the contrast betweenwestern culture which was said to beacquisitive and the materialistic andIndian culture which was regarded asaltruistic and spiritual and the Indianwoman was presented as embodimentof this altruistic culture. Rani Sarandhawas first such story, in which the Ranioffers supreme sacrifice in the causeof freedom. The plot of the story iselaborate and not altogether unified, but

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it is charged with intense feeling andsynchronizes with the emotional temperof the times.

Soon enough, however, Premchandfound his real domain which was to remainfor the rest of his life, the richestinspiration of his work, viz. the life ofthe village. Instead of weaving storiesround imaginary situations, and rovingin the nebulous world of romance,Premchand turned towards the actualitiesof life around him. In the prevailingatmosphere of those days while on theone hand there was glorification of thepast, on the other, the urge for nationalemancipation turned the attention of thewriter towards the degradation in sociallife which must be removed in orderthat India might progress. Social evilslike the caste snobbery, degraded positionof women, the plight of widows, illiteracy,the question of child-brides and dowry,religious fanaticism and narrow-mindedness etc. drew his attentionincreasingly and became an integral partof his national perspective. Here he foundthe operation of a cruel social system,side by side with poverty and hungerbrought about by an unjust, aliengovernment. To castigate these evils ofsociety was a part and parcel of thestruggle for national freedom andemancipation. Here he found a fascinatinggallery of characters from the life ofthe common people and the interplayof diverse personalities—the zamindar,the money-lender, the Brahmin-priest,the peasant, the city-folk, the clerk, the

government officer, the sadhu, thetrickster etc. which were to provideendless variety and colour. And itprovided him with a rich reservoir ofplots for his stories.

There was thus a clear evolutiontowards realism in his writing. A newphase began in his creative work whichcovers, roughly, the decade between1920 and 1930, and which can be calledthe middle period of his writing. Duringthis phase he became very close to thenational struggle led by Gandhiji,Premchand himself has mentioned thaton 8th February 1921, Gandhiji visitedGorakhpur where, at that time,Premchand was working as a schoolmasterin the Gorakhpur Government NormalSchool. So deep was the effect of thisvisit on Premchand that within a week,on 16th February Premchand resignedfrom service in which he had workedfor about twenty years and decided todevote his time to national work. Fora time he set up a shop for the saleof spinning wheels which was an importantpart of the constructive programmeinitiated by Gandhiji.

It was therefore the very nature ofthe cause which Premchand espousedwhich compelled him to go closer tolife and to social reality. Many of hisstories deal with the immediate issuesof the national struggle for freedom.There are stories relating to the picketingof liquor shops (‘Dussahas’) etc. to therehabilitation of Indians who hadremained faithful to the British (‘Lal Fita’,

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‘Vichitra Holi’ etc.) a dozen stories onthe boycott of British cloth, numerousstories relating to the much-needed socialreforms. During this middle period, hewrote about 150 stories, and more thanhalf of them dealt with the problemsof women—tyranny of husbands, child-brides, dowry etc. (‘Uddhar’, Nairashya,Beton wali Vidhawa’, ‘Dhikkar’, etc.). Thereare stories relating to the question ofuntouchability (‘Thakur ka kuan’ etc.)as also those relating to communalharmony—‘Mandir aur Masjid’, ‘GuptaDhan’, ‘Bauran’, ‘Kshama’ etc. The socialreforms were regarded as a part of thestruggle for national independence.

These stories dealing with almostevery aspect of social and national lifeconstitute a social document. In thewords of Robert O’Swan:

Sentence by sentence and story bystory Premchand created a fictionalIndian Nationalist movement socomprehensive that the reader finallyfeels he has seen almost as much happenin almost as many situations to almostas many individuals as happened inall of Uttar Pradesh from 1920 to 1932.

It is said that Premchand waspropagating in fiction what Gandhiji wasdoing in politics. This is true only tothe extent that he was deeply impressedby Gandhiji ’s teachings and hisprogramme of action. At times hedeviated from Gandhiji’s line, as forinstance when, in later years he lostfaith in the efficacy of non-violentsatyagraha and almost advocated direct

confrontation with the BritishGovernment. But still the area ofagreement was large. Deep down howeverit was more a matter of Premchand’sown vision. He had, heart and soul,identified himself with the national causeand regarded his pen as an instrumentin the service of that cause.

I have only one ambition and thatis that my country should become free.‘Before I die, I would like to write somegood books but their aim too shouldbe the Independence of the country.

(Letter to Banarsidas Chaturvedi)

This is the bedrock on which hisentire literary output stands. His concernis social justice and nationalindependence and his works conformto that motive.

Among the social problems, theproblems of communal harmony,untouchability and the position of women,occupied his attention most.

“In the words, again, of Robert O’Swan:Premchand, during this period and tothe end of his life, fought the battleof communal unity with the argumentthat without it there could be no nationalunity, and without national unity therecould be no independence. Through theyears he remained consistent.”

Premchand himself, expressing hisintense indignation at communal hatred,said in an article published in the Zamanaof Kanpur:

...To-day where is the Hindu whois giving his heart and soul for Hindu-

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Muslim unity, who realizes it as the mostvital problem of Hindustan, who knowsthat unity is the fundamental stipulationof Independence.’

(Vividha Prasanga II, p.352)

There had been a wave of communalriots in India during 1922-1927, largelyengineered by the British Government,of which Premchand has left vividdescriptions in many of his stories(‘Mandir aur Masjid’etc.)

Likewise he castigated religiousfanaticism and hypocrisy. While dealingwith hypocrisy and selfishness,Premchand is sharp and ruthless. In Dudhka Dam (Price of Milk) he exposes theheartlessness of a Zamindar in histreatment of his sweepers. Similarly in‘Servant of the People’, an acclaimedleader proclaims equality for all, butwhen his own daughter wants to marrya man of low caste this ‘Servant of thepeople’ looks at her with eyes of doomand turns away’. But when Premchandis dealing with the sufferings of the down-trodden, he has all sympathy andcompassion. His compassion however isnot the pity that a well-placed personbestows on a poor man. Since Premchandhad seen suffering himself, his compassionis full of fellow-feeling, at once sternand wholesome. Not only that, hepresents them as people whom a lifeof suffering, has imparted understandingand wisdom, ‘a wisdom of love andsacrifice, of devotion and service’.

Somewhat similar is his approach in

respect of Indian Women. Their life ofsuffering under the severe restrictionsimposed by society, together with theirselfless service, love and affection haveendowed them with lofty, spiritualqualities, which make them distinctlysuperior to men. In many of his storiesdealing with women, the womencharacters face the difficult situationsin which they have been placed withequanimity in the spirit of self-denialand patient service, and invariablysurmount them. While drawing a contrastbetween those women who copy westernways and those who have imbibed Indiancultural values,—a pet theme withPremchand,—the author invariably showshis preference for the latter and presentthem as gentle, and self-denying.Nevertheless these gentle women are notshown as weak. Premchand’s womencharacters are invariably fearless, witha keen sense of moral values and socialjustice. In stories dealing with the themeof social justice, it is invariably the voiceof the woman which rises in protestagainst tyranny.

Thus in this second phase, ‘the storyteller of the Independence movement’,works on a very large canvas. Thereis hardly a facet of life which does notcome in his purview. It is a big worldof which he writes, teeming withcharacters and all kinds of situationsand incidents, comic, tragic, ironical,grotesque, but rich and varied, authenticand convincing. It seems as thoughnothing escapes his attention, be it a

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tiny little ironical incident or a majorcalamity. His understanding of humanpsychology, particularly of peasantpsychology becomes deeper and surer.His ever present humour, which alwaysenlivens the narrative, plays not onlyon our emotions but also taps at ourminds, our thinking faculties. The sagaof Mote Ram Sastri, for instance, providesfun and social comment together. Storiesare written with candour and sincerity.

He was now drawing entirely fromlife. He saw in the incidents and charactersthe reflection of his cherished beliefs,and he dramatised them. He did notnow have to weave imaginary plots toillustrate his beliefs. This was a big change.The order had reversed. Earlier, for theexpression of his strongly felt emotionsand ideas he had recourse to contrivedplots and concocted situations or tolegend and history. Now life itself wasproviding the necessary situations in richabundance. He would now see the seedof a story in some incident or somepersonal experience and be stipulatedto give it a story’s dramatic rendering.

My stories are often based on someexperience or something that touchesmy fancy. I try to give it a dramaticorientation. But I never write storiesmerely to describe incidents. I wantto reveal, through a story somephilosophical or emotional truth. Aslong as such a base does not exist,I do not pick up my pen.

In another letter, addressed to VinodaShankar Vyas, he wrote: What I want

is that the substance of stories shouldbe taken from life and that they shouldseek to solve life’s problems...

Happily enough, he had taken towriting in a language which was lively,rich with idiom and turn of phrase andclose to the spoken language of the people.In his early years when Premchand hadbeen a voracious reader he had fed himselfon books like Fasana-i-Azad by RatanNath Sarshar, Chandrakanta Santati andso on. Under the influence of this readinghe had adopted a style, which thoughsomewhat close to rhetoric andjournalistic flair, yet was very colourfuland idiomatic, highly suitable for theexpression of deeply felt emotions. Thus,from the very beginning Premchand wasgifted with a vitality of narration, whichcarried the reader along even where theplot and character or even the substanceof the story were not strong enoughto stand on their own. In respect oflanguage, he remarked once that thosewho love the people will also love thelanguage of the people. He believed thatliterature can be helpful in socialtransformation only when it does notsuffer from the problem ofcommunicability, and the writer, throughthe medium of his language can putacross his ideas to the maximum numberof people. In one of his letters writtento Ramachandra Tandon, Premchandwrote:

I believe that literary expressionshould go as close as possible to thespoken language of the people. At least

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drama, short story and novel can bewritten in the ordinary spoken language.We can include with them biographyand travelogue also...

And further quotes a certain scholarGarco da Tassi, who had said, “It isas futile to drag Hindi back to its oldbasis, as it is to force the current ofa river back to its source.”

Premchand continued to draw,therefore, on the inexhaustible fund ofhumble metaphors of spoken speech,which made his writing at oncemeaningful, colourful and also a sourceof intense delight. And with it went hishumour, extremely buoyant and playful,as of one who loves humanity and isboth a spectator and a participant inlife’s drama.

The stories of this period are stilllargely written in narrative style. Thereis plenty of sermonizing and editorialcomment in them, and there is also muchthat can be said to be redundant. Butthis tendency decreases gradually andthe best stories of late twenties andthirties are free from it.

Though Premchand regarded writingas an instrument for the transmissionof ideas, yet he was extremely consciousof the importance of its form. He wasconstantly learning from others. Writingabout Russian writers he once wrote:

“Chekhov is the king of short stories.There is great pathos in Turgenev’swritings. Gorki is the writer of workersand peasants. But Tolstoy is above all,

like an emperor.”

With the passage of time, despite hispreoccupation with social problems thetone and technique of his writingsbecomes simpler, more austere, and whatone critic has called, more ‘Chekhovian’.There is less of comment, less ofmelodrama and moral thesis, and thereader is brought face to face with starkreality. ‘With his maturing as a writer,his narration becomes increasinglydramatic, and objective (at least on thesurface) and the presentation of characterimmeasurably subtler than in the earlyworks.’ In his range too he goes beyondthe village and takes cognizance of theworld at large, with all its flux and change.

The stories of the last phase of hiswriting, are therefore simple and directand reflect the tragi-comedy of lifewithout any rhetorical frills orsermonizing. Although such stories haveappeared now and then in the earlierphases too, but in this last phase theybecome a part of his conscious style.

The reader is struck by another factortoo while reading the stories of this laterperiod. Premchand centres some of hisstories round the barest necessities oflife, a glass of water, in the case ofone, a couple of potatoes in the caseof another. And the poor are deniedeven this. Premchand’s compassion andpain, when confronted with this starkreality, strike a note of deep anguishand tragedy.

In Thakur ka Kuan a man returns

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home thirsty and asks his wife for aglass of water. The water she bringssmells stale; perhaps some animal hadfallen into the well and been drowned.There is only one well in the villageand that belongs to the high-caste Thakur,and the couple belonging to the lowcaste cannot draw water from it. Butthe woman picks up courage and goesto the well under cover of darkness.The well is located opposite the houseof the Thakur. It is when guests havedeparted from the Thakur’s house, andthe doors are shut that the woman slowlycreeps up to the well, and lowers thebucket into it. All goes well till she pullsup the bucket, when suddenly the doorof the Thakur’s house opens and theThakur shouts in the darkness. Terror-stricken, the woman throws the bucketand runs for her life.

Similarly in ‘Kafan’, Ghisu andMadhava, father and son, are sittingoutside their hut, pulling out roastedpotatoes from the little fire, in frontthem. Inside the hut, the son’s wife isin the travails of child-birth. Neitherof them goes in to attend on her. Eachis afraid that the other one would eatup the remaining potatoes. The womandies. There are loud lamentations andbreast-beating on the part of both themen and soon enough, both father andson are on their way to the market tobeg for some money in order that theycan give the woman a burial. They succeedin collecting five rupees. As they arereturning home the temptation to fill

their bellies with food and drinkoverpowers all other considerations andthey enter a drinking-shop from wherethey return home dead drunk, with allthe money spent.

In Pus ki Rat (One Winter Night),it is the biting January wind at night,from which Halku, the chowkidar of afarmer’s crop, does not have anythingto protect himself. He is doing watchman’sduty on the landlord’s field. He doesnot have anything to cover his body.Both he and his dog are shivering. Heclasps the dog in order to get somewarmth from the dog’s body, but it isof no avail. It doesn’t work. At last,thinking a way out, Halku goes into theneighbouring field, gathers a heap ofwithered leaves and grass and lights afire. The fire sends a glow and a warmth,unbelievably comforting. And althoughit does not last long, it warms his bodyand brings on drowsiness. And Halkugoes to sleep. While he is sleeping havocis wrought in his master’s field by theintrusion of stray pigs, and no amountof shouting on the part of his wife canwake up Halku from his blissful slumber.

Hunger and cold, in their elementalferocity, turn upon human beings andseek to destroy whatever humanity isleft in them. The poorest of the poorare shown in the extremity of theircondition, beyond which there are onlyterrors awaiting them. The starksimplicity of these stories presents theircondition in all nakedness. They requireno comment, no sermonizing, no

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rhetorical embellishments. They speakfor themselves. And they are the productsnot so much of the anger and resentmentthat the author feels about the humansituation, but of deep anguish.

Thus Premchand travels a long wayfrom his early stories of romanticevocations and concocted plots to thelittle master-pieces exquisite in theirartistic excellence, shorn of all commentand embellishment and charged with deepemotion and meaning. His ideals andaspirations still remain the same, hisheart still as full of compassion forsuffering humanity and resentful of allkinds of injustice, but his art has gaineda maturity and an excellence unsurpassedby anyone either during his life timeor since his death. His whole careerreflects constant growth anddevelopment, both as an artist and asthinker, and reveals a mind, respectiveto influences, as also full of zest andeager curiousity. There was a time whenhe believed in the ‘change of heart’ ofthe oppressor. Later, he fell under thespell of Gandhian philosophy and stressedthe need for non-violent Satyagraha andsubscribed to Gandhiji’s trusteeshiptheory. It was said that Premchand waspropagating in fiction what Gandhi wasdoing in politics. Still later, sensing thelimitations of this philosophy Premchandvouched for direct confrontation withthe oppressor with the aim of establishinga just society, free from exploitation.He was an admirer of October Revolutionin Russia, about which he had said, ‘The

foundation of a new world is being laidthere, the world of communism, the worldof brotherhood, of comradeship in whichnobody will fatten at the cost of thepoor...the air is resonant with song offreedom! The sun of freedom is shiningwhich gives both light and warmth. Thedays of oppression are over!”; and againin a letter addressed to Daya NarainNigam, “I have almost come to believein socialist principles.” Thus, though hisbasic commitment to the cause ofIndependence remained the same, hewas never rigid in his views as to howbest that objective can be attained.

As in sphere of thought, so also inthe sphere of his style, and in his modeof treatment of his subject matter, hewas always learning, always adopting andexperimenting.

He was a committed writer. He didnot believe in the dictum of ‘art forart’s sake’.

He said in one of his presidentialaddresses:

I would not hesitate to say that Iweigh art also, like other things on thescales of utility. We shall have to changeour criterion of beauty. Art was, andstill is, the name of narrow form-worship.

In another presidential addressdelivered on the occasion of the 1stNational Conference of the ProgressiveWriter’s Association in 1936 elaboratingthis very point further he says:

The literature which does not rouseour good taste, which does not

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provide us spiritual and mentalsatisfaction, does not produce in usactivity and strength, which does notawaken our love of the beautiful,which does not kindle in us the fireof resolution and the determinationto surmount our difficulties—is uselesstoday; it does not deserve to be calledliterature.

And in one of his letters addressedto Vinoda Shankar Vyas, he wrote:

In my view...literature has three aimsviz. catharsis, entertainment andrevelation but entertainment andrevelation also are covered by catharsis.The entertainment provided by the writeris not like the entertainment providedby an acrobat or a mimic. Catharsislies hidden in it. Revelation too takesplace with the aim of catharsis. We donot show the inner mental states, notbecause we have to present aphilosophical treatise but because wewant to show the beautiful as morebeautiful and the ugly as more ugly.

Numerous weaknesses have beenpointed out by some critics inPremchand’s writing, particularly hiswriting of the early and middle periods.The stories, it is said, are more of asocial document—merely realisticdocumentation of events with Gandhianrecommendations for their solution.Further, that the writer does not takeus into the inner world of his characters.

“A good character is not so muchpersonally good as he is socially good.

An evil character is all evil and thereis no indication why. All strong humanurges are sublimated to the presentationof Premchand’s ideals for society. Lovecontains no sex. It is Gandhi’s ‘conquestand sublimation of the sex passion’, andsex is fictionally ignored. In place ofdialogue of real lovers there is anexposition of ideal love...all his charactersseem to exist primarily to show loveof country or communal unity of politicalindependence or a social reform... etc.etc.”


The criticism is only partly andsuperficially true. It is true that a storymust speak for itself that though artalways communicates ideas and adds tothe reader’s awareness, it must not appearto have been written with the aim ofputting across ideas. But when you aredealing with society as an entity andindividuals appear not only in theirindividual roles but also asrepresentatives of social groups, it isprecisely their social role which will havepre-eminence. The aim is not to showindividuals as an independent entity,exclusive of society, but as those whoare an integral part of society, and areaffected by what happens in society.When you are dealing with a commonsocial problem, you cannot but showindividuals in their social role. The dowrysystem affects the Hindu woman in aparticular way. There is lot of scopefor the individualization of character butthe writer has to conform to the broader

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framework of types in society, becausehis social role has greater relevance here.An individual therefore cannot be viewedas a separate, independent entity. Hencea criterion is being applied toPremchand’s stories which is notwarranted by the very nature of hiswriting. Where the actions of an individualonly affect him and his destiny, goingdeep into the inner world of the characteris all-important. But where his destinyis made by the social forces operatingoutside him, and he can be effectiveonly to a limited extent in determininghis destiny, and where again, the writer’saim is to highlight the dominant roleof those social forces, the writer cango into the inner world of characteronly to the extent that is required forhis subject matter.

Be it as it may, what Premchandgave to our literature is something unique.Despite all the blemishes that the criticsmay find in his writing, Premchand isstill the most loved and most widelyread writer in Hindi. He continues tostimulate and inspire a vast body ofreaders, and that in itself is a goodenough testimony for those remarkablefeatures of his writing which far outweighthe blemishes that are pointed out.

Premchand wrote with a heart thatwas full. With his deep love for humanityand faith in life, he imparted a radianceto his writing which is highly satisfying.He always wrote with an intensity offeeling, and whether it expressed itselfthrough angry protest, satire, irony as

in his earlier stories, or through deepanguish and sadness, as in his later stories,the source was always the same, deepcompassion and love for sufferinghumanity and a sense of totalidentification with it. That too gave hima range and a breadth of outlook noteasy to find elsewhere. His stories areliterally teeming with characters fromall walks of life, rich, colourful and varied,atonce authentic and true to life. Withthat perpetual glint of humour andcompassion in his eyes, Premchandsurveyed life’s drama and portrayed allthat he saw, sometimes underlining itwith his comments, at others, leaving itto speak for itself. There is a ring ofsincerity and candour in all that he wrote,which comes of the deep involvementof any author with the life and destinyof his people. His active interest in theday-to-day development of the struggleagainst an alien government, gave tohis writing a contemporariety andtopicality, so that a vivid, graphic andexpansive picture of his times emergesfrom his writings. And we love him forthat all-pervasive human warmth thatemanates from every story that he wrote.

Premchand is all of a piece. The manand the artist are one; the private andthe public are inextricably fused in hispersonality and in his writing.

Perhaps what gave him utmoststrength and released his creativeenergies to the utmost was his intenseinvolvement with questions of socialjustice and morality. As it happened in

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the case of Tolstoy, so it did withPremchand also. His preoccupation withthese questions of social morality,brought him closer and still closer tolife’s reality, imparted all the tensionto his writing, tension and drama andan all-pervading seriousness and dignity.The incidents and characters may beillustrative of the moral values in whichthe author believed, and here and there,they may appear to have been broughtforward to prove a point, nevertheless,they are authentic and true to life. Andas time passed, standing on the bedrockof reality, Premchand was able to shedoff many of his earlier idealistic trappings,and he was able to go deeper into thepsyche of his characters, particularlypeasant characters. The stories of hismaturer years are simple and direct, hisnarration becomes increasingly moredramatic, and the presentation of characterimmeasurably subtler than before.

Another fact which makes his storiesread today with avid interest is theirrelevance to our times. The socialproblems which he highlighted—poverty

and hunger, illiteracy, the low positionof women, the plight of the widows, thecaste snobbery, rural indebtedness,untouchability and communal bigotry,all kinds of social inequalities and soon—continue to bedevil our social andpolitical life even today. Only we donot have the pen that would deal withthem in that forceful and distinguishedmanner in which Premchand did.

Commenting on present day writingsin comparison with Premchand’s work,David Rubin wrote “The present day writingtends more towards a psychologicalliterature, more refined (and alas, morechic) in nuance and language, andconsequently less vigorous... languagecleansed of Premchand’s inexhaustiblefund of humble metaphors and proverbs,similarly the subject matter tends tobe the restricted world of psyche ofthe writer himself, turned inward, awayfrom the epic horizons of Premchand’smultifarious world. Premchand makesmany of the present generation of writerslook very small.”

From The World of Premchand

Bhishma Sahni (1915-2003) was a prominent progressive novelist and

short story writer in Hindi. Some of his famous books are Tamas.

Mayyadas ki madhi, Basanti. His short stories l ike chief ki davat and

Amritsar aa gaya hai are considered his masterpieces. He was professor

of English at Zakir Hussain College, Delhi. He received many literary

honours e.g. Soviet Land Nehru award, Sahitya Akademi Samman.

He lived in Delhi.

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The traumatic social upheavals accompanying the break-up of thepre-industrial society and the emergence of the industrial societystimulated creativity as much in the field of history and socialscience as in the field of literature. The writings, to take onlya few names, of Carlyle, Marx Weber, March Bloc, E.H. Carr orEric Hobsbawnm illuminate the objective side of this Great SocialTransformation with their keen analytical powers. But the subjectiveside of this great Human Drama—the human torments and tragediesarising from the protracted birth pangs of the modern society—are captured with extraordinary sensitiveness and insight in theimmortal European classics of, say, Balzac, Dickens, Tolstoy andMaxim Gorky.

It must be remembered that in Western Europe the transitionto the modern society necessitated as its principal condition theannihilation of the small peasant (Karl Marx), the formidable bulwarkof the traditional society. In Asia this transition to modern societywas thwarted. What was substituted for ‘genuine’ modernization,the principal victim of which was the Indian Peasant. In bothWest Europe and Asia the peasant was turned into a historicalfigure capturing the attention of social and economic thinkers aswell as creative writers. But there existed a qualitative differencein the approach to the peasant in the Asian context as contrastedwith West-European context.

An important distinction between European and Asian social




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thinkers and creative writers on the GreatTransformation lies in their sharplycontrasting approach to the sub-alternto the peasant as representing a historicalform of social existence and a modeof production. While the Europeanthinkers and writers focus on the peasantas representing a historically outmodedform of social existence of production,the Asian thinkers and writers approachthe peasant as representing acivilizational form which has the seedof qualitative transformation into analternative social existence form tocapitalism. The typical representative ofthe European world-view on the peasantis Karl Marx who in his well-knownobservations in the Eighteenth Brumairof Louis Bonaparts treated “the smallholding peasant as a vast mass” andthe French nation composing this massbeing formed by “simple addition ofhomologous magnitudes, such as potatoesin a sack form a sack of potatoes.” Ina similar way in his Articles on IndiaMarx regarded the idyllic peasantcommunities as representing “anundignified, stagnatory and vegetativelife” and from this perspective saw Britishrule “as an unconscious tool of history”in so far it was an instrument of dissolutionof these communities and a promoterof “a fundamental revolution in the socialstate of Asia.”

In this background it is perhaps notwrong to generalize that in the WesternSetting we find literature of the periodof industrialization, with few options,focused more and more on the town

and the city and its conditions andcontradictions than on the countrysideand its bulwark, the small peasant whichwas turning into a historical residue oranachronism.

In sharp contrast, in the disciplinesof history, social science, literature andpolitics in colonial India there was anoutburst of new creativity through “thediscovery of the village and the peasant.”Not as the historical residues of an oldcivilization but, as the embryo of a newcivilisational form having the potentialityof being an alternative to capitalism.If Gandhi was the author of this world-view in politics and if RadhakamalMukherji, as the exponent of AsianCommunalism, (in Commularianism) sawin the peasant and the artisan an agentof a new civilisational regeneration, PremChand’s genius flowered through thediscovery of the peasant as the heroic,though tragic figure, of the new noveldealing with Indian social drama havingepic dimensions. All the three— Gandhi,Mukherji and Prem Chand—were thusthe true forerunners of the modern ideaof the autonomy of sub-altern in politics,social science and novel as a new creativeform.

Prem Chand’s greatness lies in thefact that he transcends the constraintsof vision and conception characterizingBalzac, the author of The Peasants andTolstoy about whom Lenin wrote asfollows:-

“Tolstoy had a surpassing knowledgeof rural Russia, the mode of life of the

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landlords and the peasants. In his artisticproductions he gave descriptions of thislife that are numbered among the bestproductions of world literature…Tolstoybelonged to the highest landed nobilityin Russia but he broke with all thecustomary views of his environment andin his later works attacked with fiercecriticism all the contemporary State,Church, social and religious institutionswhich were based on the enslavementof the masses, on their poverty, on theruin of the peasants, and the pettyproprietors in general, on the coercionand hypocrisy which permeated allcontemporary life from top to bottom.”Tolstoy said nothing new but he expressedwith “a power possessed only by theartistes of genius, the radical changein the views of the broadest masses ofthe people in the Russia of this period,namely rural peasant Russia”. (V.I. Lenin)

In the context of this very perceptiveanalysis by Lenin of Tolstoy as the greatartist depicting rural peasant Russia, onecan understand why Tolstoy and his workhad such profound influence on PremChand, the pioneer novelist of ruralpeasant India.

In this paper we discuss Prem Chandwhose work has the same historicsignificance for India as that of Dickensfor England, Balzac for France and Tolstoyand Maxim Gorky for Russia. But beingthe product of a historical era whichlooked beyond capitalism, Prem Chandsurpasses all of them in his social visionin so far as for him the peasant is not

just the victim of the historical process;he is also beginning to emerge as theagent of reversing history in his favour.The novels of Prem Chand mirror nodoubt the harsh realities of rural peasantIndia under colonial and feudaloppression. But they do much more.They capture realistically whatRadhakamal Mukerjee characterized in1933 as “the faint rumblings of peasantclass consciousness” and in which heidentified the seeds of challenge to thecolonial and feudal regimes.

In one of his most meaningfulgeneralizations on the colonial impacton India, Karl Marx discerned the sourceof India’s tragedy in the fact that “Englandhad broken down the entire frameworkof Indian society without any symptomsof reconstitution yet appearing”. In KarlMarx’s view” this loss of his old world,with no gain of a new, imparts a particularkind of melancholy to the present miseryof the Hindus and separates Hindustan,ruled by British, from all its ancienttraditions, and from the whole of itspast history”. In the works of Prem Chandis to be found the best portrayals of“this particular kind of melancholy”arising from the loss of the old worldwith no gain of a new one” as experiencedby millions of living human beings inflesh and blood at a point of India’shistory. The tragedy of the Indian peasantuprooted from the age-old village systemis captured by Prem Chand withpoignancy, depth and intensity of feelingunequalled by any historical writing. The

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colonial peasant emerges as a dramaticpersonae in Prem Chand’s writings onaccount of his deep historical insightinto the circumstances of colonial Indiaon the one hand and his exceptionalgifts of literary imagination on the other.These two qualities—sense of history andliterary sensibility—combine to createthe immortal but tragic character of Horiin Prem Chand’s Godan as the livingpersonification of the colonial peasant.Here is an unforgettable character whichcombines in his person the Indianpeasant’s tenacious will for survival withhis sense of utter hopelessness withinthe colonial economic order.

In order to comprehend the depthof the misery of the colonial peasantit was necessary for a writer like PremChand to transcend the class outlookand the emotions of semi-feudal landedgentry and the colonial middle class.Thus, in order to view it in all itscomplexity from outside, it was necessaryto outgrow the ideologies which emergedeither in defence of the colonial andthe semi feudal system or in reactionto it. Thus one had to outgrow the outlookof unhistorical Ruralism which idealisedIndia’s old village community. Bycontrasting the Ram Rajya of the pastwith the Satanic rule of British colonialism,this ideology called for a return to RamRajya. One had thus to transcend theoutlook of ‘paternalistic landlordism’which glorified the ‘good old landlord’as an alternative to the rapacious ‘nowlandlord’ growing stronger under the

impetus of the money economy. Onehad also to outgrow the outlook of‘peasantism’ which obscured the fast-growing trend of proletarianisation ofthe peasant and thus provided sustenanceto the myth of the “Renewable PeasantCommunity”. In other words, thecategories of ‘village community”, ‘goodvs. bad landlord’, ‘village vs. the town’and the peasant vs. the worker’ wereformidable mental blocks hampering thefull understanding of the colonial peasantwho was always on the verge of totaldepeasantisation or pauperisationwithout proletarianisation. The colonialpeasant would not, therefore, secure,his emancipation without identifying notthe ‘bad landlord’ but the whole colonialand semi-feudal system as the sourceof his misery; and he could not becomea social force capable of challenging thissystem without outgrowing the mythsof villagism, paternal landlordism, andnarrow peasantism and without mergingwith the forces of anti-colonial and anti-feudal social, economic and politicaltransformation outside the village.

From Prem Chand’s example one cansee why literary representation by themasters of the craft goes beyond meredelineation of social reality; it developsinto a critique of this reality. It is obviousthat without a critical attitude to reality,Prem Chand would have failed to capturethe misery of the colonial peasant whowas exploited not only through economicand political means but also by meansof ‘false consciousness’. It is when Prem

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Chand turns towards a critique of this‘false consciousness’ perpetuated by theupper castes and classes privileged withinthe colonial and semi-feudal social orderthat his writing reaches a high levelof social perception and of critical socialconsciousness as in Godan.

The enduring significance of the short-stories and novels of Prem Chand liesnot just in the fact that they mirrorthe social realities of a colonial and semi-feudal India. It is the revolutionaryquality which Prem Chand’s novelsacquire in his mature phase by impartinga critical-realist edge to literaryrepresentation that gives him the statusof a pioneer of fiction as social critiqueand protest in India. It is Prem Chand’scritique of the colonial and semi-feudalsocial order through the medium of thenovel which makes him an epoch-makingfigure not only in Indian literature butalso in Indian cultural history. No wonderthen that generations of patriotic andrevolutionary fighters against the colonialand semi-feudal regime received theircritical orientation into the Indian socialreality through the novels and short-stories of Munshi Prem Chand. Here isthen the novel developed into an art-form which not only illumines socialreality and awakens human sensibilitybut also arouses the conscious will totransform social reality. Such atransformation of the novel involves acreative tension between the writer’sphilosophical outlook and his literarysensibility.

In the case of Prem Chand we finda fuller release of his powers of socialperception associated with his mentalbreak from the outlook of early Gandhismwhich coloured his insight into socialreality in his earlier writings likeKarmabhoomi and Premashram. Thesenovels typify the compromise effectedby Prem Chand between the demandsof literary sensibility and those of earlyGandhian outlook on the other. Thecentral figure in these novels is not thepeasant but the reformed landlord whopresides over a compassionate societywhere the landlord is the trustee of thepeasant. In Godan, Prem Chand presentsthe fruit of an enriched and uninhabitedsensibility which has been released fromconstrains of the early Gandhian outlook.The hero of Godan is the pauperizedpeasant, Hori whose tragic end shattersall dreams and illusions of reformingthe semi-feudal system. The totalhopelessness of Hori shows the limitsof the system and the futility of all schemesfor relief to the peasant through ‘reform’of the system.

We have so far tried to formulatethe thesis that Prem Chand not onlyreflected the consciousness of his times;he also moved towards an outlook ofremoulding this consciousness and givingit a new direction. The interpretationof Prem Chand’s work as the reflectorof the ethos of his times finds supportin his attempt to express and affirmthrough his writings the anti-colonialconsciousness and aspirations of the

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Gandhi era. Prem Chand, however, goesbeyond the limits of this era insofaras transcends in his writings theconstraints on perception of social realityimposed by the Gandhian socialphilosophy. Having put into the centreof Indian creative writing the theme ofthe Indian village in response to theethos of the Gandhian era, Prem Chanddid not allow himself to become a prisonerof backward-looking idealization of thevillage and the denigration of the town.Nor did Gandhi’s non-class concepts ofvillage community, of ‘change of heart’on the part of propertied classes andof “reformed” and “good landlords” astrustees of the peasants becomepermanent ingredients of Prem Chand’ssocial outlook.

With the robust sense of realitiesderived from his rural background onthe one hand and his penetrating literarysensibility on the other, Prem Chandperceived very soon the vast gulf betweenGandhi’s idealistic and utopianconceptions on the one hand and thebrutal realities of India’s village societyon the other.

Before we explain where Prem Chand’sview of special reality ultimately departedfrom the dominant concepts of the Gandhiera, it is first necessary to recognisethe contradictory and complex characterof Gandhi’s world view. It is also necessaryto recognise the tremendous advancerepresented by the insights of the Gandhiera—insights which were fully imbibedand affirmed by Prem Chand in and

through his writings. It must be notedthat the novels and short stories ofMunshi Prem Chand achieved in thefield of Indian literature the samebreakthrough as Mahatama Gandhiachieved in the realm of Indian politics.If Gandhi played an epoch-making rolein Indian history through his discoveryof the village as an untapped sourceof social energy and political power,Munshi Prem Chand initiated arenaissance in Indian literature throughhis discovery of the village as anuntapped fountainhead of new themes,myths, and character-types.

In this context, the emergence ofMunshi Prem Chand on the Indian scenehas the same significance for the historyof Indian literature as the emergenceof Mahatma Gandhi to the forefront asfor the history processes which favouredthe rise of a Gandhi on the politicalarena also favoured the rise of a PremChand on the literary firmament. Theneed of Indian nationalism to shift itsbase from the town to the village andfrom the town-dwelling upper middleclasses to the village-dwelling peasantryfinds political expression in the rise ofa Gandhi while it found culturalexpression in the rise of a Prem Chand.It is no wonder, therefore, that we findnot only the same questions of the colonialvillage and the colonial peasant occupyingGandhi on the political and Prem Chandon the literary plane. We also discernin this phase that the ideological toneand character of Prem Chand’s

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characterization and portrayal of thevillage is conditioned to a very largeextent by Gandhi’s social philosophy ingeneral and his perspective on the villagein particular. A brief comment on thenature of the ideological impact ofGandhism on Prem Chand is veryappropriate in this background.

It should be noted at the very outsetthat even in the earlier phases whenPrem Chand was most responsive to theGandhian perspective, Prem Chand’sliterary sensibility as reflected in hisperceptions of social reality often risesabove and goes beyond the ideologicallimits of Gandhism. Nevertheless, it isuseful to distinguish between the PremChand of Karambhoomi and Premashramon the one hand and the Prem Chandof Godan on the other. The earlier novelsreflect and typify the compromise effectedby Prem Chand between the demandsof literary sensibility on the one handand the compulsions of adherence toa Gandhian outlook on the other. Inhis last and fully mature novel, Godan,Prem Chand’s heightened literarysensibility is able to shake off theconstraints of the Gandhian social outlookand to capture all the majorcontradictions of the village reality. PremChand’s perception in Godan encompassesnot merely the anti-colonial contradiction(the village vs. the town conflict) butmore fundamentally the anti-feudalcontradiction (the peasant vs. thelandlord-money-lender-trader conflict onthe one hand and the peasant vs. the

priest, the blood-sucking governmentofficials, the exacting Biradari and theoppressive and divisive cast hierarchyconflict on the other. In Godan the focusis simultaneously on the human agentsof colonial and feudal oppression as wellas on their victims in the vast countryside.

Before we elaborate this pointconcerning the shift of focus in PremChand’s novels, it is necessary to makea few observations on the contradictionbetween the upper class limits ofGandhism on the one hand and theoppressed class orientation of Gandhias a mobiliser of the vast masses onthe other. If in the class limits andcharacter of his ideology Gandhi comesclose to Tolstoy, in his role as a radicalmobiliser of the masses for anti-colonialmovements, Gandhi comes closer toLenin. It is significant that the Gandhianperspective at once illuminated andobscured India’s colonial social reality.But the social forces released by Gandhiwere instrumental in taking the peasantfar beyond the limits of Gandhi’s ownideology and social philosophy. In theliterary sphere we find the samecontradiction in Prem Chand who is closerto Tolstoy at one and to Maxim Gorkyat another end.

Let us first indicate how Gandhi’sthought gave an insight into the colonialsociety. It is important to note thatGandhi put into the centre of the stagethe town-village conflict as reflecting thebasic antagonism between the Indian

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national and the British colonial interest,between the town as the base of theparasitic colonial economy and the villageas the base of the productive nationaleconomy. The town-village conflict alsoepitomized for Gandhi the conflictbetween the Industiral and UrbanisedEngland (which had reduced India intothe agricultural hinterland of the Britishempire) and the Ruralised India wherelay the principal victims of the colonialregime and, consequently, the majorsources of anti-colonial resistance.Gandhi saw in the town-villageconfrontation the major expression ofirreconcilable cleavage between Indiannationalism and British colonialism. Hisclassic observations on this cleavagewhich left a sharp impress on allthoughtful Indians of the Gandhi eraincluding Prem Chand are found in Hind-Swaraj (1908). We reproduce the followingpassage written in 1922 which gives aclear formulation of this ingredient ofthe Gandhian perspective.

“Little do town-dwellers know howthe semi-starved masses of Indiaare slowly sinking to life-lessness.Little do they know that theirmiserable comfort represents thebrokerage they get for the workthey do for the foreign exploiter,that the profits and the brokerageare sucked from the masses. Littledo they realize that thegovernment established by lawin British India is carried on forthe exploitation of the masses.

No sophistry, no jugglery infigures can explain away theevidence that the skeletons inmany villages present to the nakedeye. I have no doubt whatsoeverthat both England and the town-dwellers of India will have toanswer if there is a God abovefor this crime against humanitywhich is perhaps unequalled inhistory.”

(N.K. Bose, 1957).

The Gandhian perspective had greatilluminating power in so far as it gavea penetrating insight into the parasiticnature of the colonial regime; it alsoilluminated with the touch of a geniusthe nature of parasitism characteristicof the colonial system as representedby the town-village cleavage. Parasitismof the colonial type as expressed in theone-sided exploitation of the village bythe town thus emerged as the centraltheme not only in the politics of Gandhiera but also in the Creative writing ofthis period. Perhaps all of Prem Chand’soutstanding novels like Rangabhoomi,Karmbhoomi, Premashram and Godanand many of his short stories revolveround the theme of the town-villagecleavage and round the question of theconflict between urban parasites andrural producers which was central tothe colonial system in the British period.In most of his creative writing PremChand is at his best when he sharplyportrays the glaring contrast betweenthe affluence of urban upper classes

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whose wealth and property haveoriginated through various forms ofeconomic parasitism like speculation,trade, usury and absentee landlordism.He also portrays very effectively theparasitism of the “hard-hearted” (a laGandhi) educated classes who as officialsof the government or the Zamindars,as lawyers, doctors, politicians and othertypes of professionals, thrive on theignorance, illiteracy, and socio-culturalbackwardness of the rural masses.

The following passage in Premashrampresents a classical portrayal of thepeasant masses by hordes of urbanexploiters who descend on the villageevery now and then exactly like naturaldisasters and calamities:

“Just as after sunset special typesof living beings which are neither birdsnor animals cover the entire sky.”

With their long rows in search oftheir livelihood, in the same mannerwith the onset of the month of Kartikanother type of creatures descend onthe countryside and with their tentsspreading far and wide stir up the entirerural area. Before the onset of rainsthere is an overgrowth of royal kitesand insects and after the close of rainsthere is the overgrowth of commercialkites and insects, there is a virtualearthquake in the villages and the villagepeople rush hither and thither to savetheir lives.

“Is their any doubt that these toursby the officials of the countryside are

inspired by good wishes and intentions.Their purpose is to ascertain informationon the real condition of the people, totake justice to the very door of thepersons seeking justice, to assess theirneeds and their hardships, and to knowtheir real feelings and thoughts. If thesepurposes were realized, these tours wouldhave been more life giving than the spring,and people would have welcomed themwith Veena and Pakhawaj and with Dholand Majeera. But just as the rays ofthe Sun get refracted and twisted whenthey pass through water, in the samemanner good intentions also turn intoevil when they come into touch withhuman frailties. Truth and justice aretrampled underfoot, Greed andselfishness triumph over kindness andgoodness. The officials and their servantswait for these tours of the village asthe beloved waits for union with thelover. They are ineffective in the townsor are less effective in realising theirselfish aims. In the towns they haveto spend from their own pockets foreverything they want. But in the villagetheir hands are not in their pockets buton their canes with which they terrorisethe village folk and then wring theirnecks. The ghee, milk, vegetables, meatand fish for which they long in vainin the towns, they have these inabundance only for the asking in thevillages. They eat as much as they wantand what they can’t consume is sentfor their families in the towns. Tinsoverflowing with ghee, pitchers

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overflowing with milk, fuel and cowdung,carts overladen with grass and foddercan be seen being shifted from the villageto the towns. The family members ofthese officials are full of joy and thanktheir stars for all these windfalls whichdenote the end of scarcity and the comingof prosperity. For the village greenerycomes after the rains. But for thesefortunate townsmen, greenery comesbefore the rains. For the village folkthese are hard days. They are underconstant anxiety and tension. They are,however, bullied, beaten and bruised.The bullies from the towns not onlytake out the food from their mouthsbut also the last vestige of dignity fromtheir souls through forced labour,bondage and serfdom”. (Premashram, pp.54-55).

This description of the plight of theIndian village under colonial rule echoesthe same sentiments and feelings asdepicted by Gandhi in the passage quotedearlier which has become immortal.

There is thus an unmistakable identityof outlook here between Gandhi’s viewof the parasitic role of the urban classesand Prem Chand’s insight into theirexploitative character. It is alsoimportant to note that in the earliernovels like Premashram, Prem Chandpresents feudal exploitation by the landedclass as an extension of the town-villageconflict insofar as the focus is on semi-feudal, absentee landlordism rather thanon the differentiation between the land-owning and landless peasants themselves.

Moreover, in depicting and evaluatingthe role of the landed gentry Prem Chandlike Gandhi is inclined to treat themas victims of colonialism themselves thanas exclusive lords of the countrysideand principal agents of exploitation. BothGandhi and Prem Chand focus attentionon the colonial rulers who have corruptedthe native aristorcracy, who have reducedthe native ruling class to a position ofimpotence and created vast hiatus andtension between the landed elite andthe peasant masses. This interpretationderives support from the self-indictmentof the landed class as articulated byGyanshankar’s father-in-law, Rai SahebKamlanand in Premashram. In Rai Sahab’swords Zamindari is “neither propertynor an estate in the strict sense of theterm. It is mere brokerage… TheZamindars have been created by theBritish merely to act as agents of revenuecollection or as Karindas of the BritishEmpire. To call us the masters of landis a travesty of facts. If it is all a fraud,then why don’t we renounce it? Thisis a legitimate question. But the Zamindarihas condemned us to indolence, self-indulgence and social impotence. We havebeen crippled for ever by a parasiticexistence.”

The same type of self-indictment isarticulated by Rai Saheb Amar Pal Singhin Godan. He remarks: “People imaginethat we (Zamindars) are in great comfort.But he who has neither pride nor respectis doomed…He who licks the boots ofmasters above him and oppresses the

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masses below him has lost allmanhood…Parasitism has crippled us.We are only adept in the art of flatteringour British masters and terrorizing oursubjects…This Zamindari has become anoose round our neck, (Godan, 15).

It is clear that in his works likePremashram and Rangbhoomi, PremChand perceives the dominant featureof the social reality in terms of thecleavage between the parasitic andaggressive town-dwellers on the one handand the passive and toiling rural masseson the other. We give below a few moreillustrations from Prem Chand’s earliernovels to confirm this generalisation:

In the novel, Rangabhoomi, we areintroduced at the very beginning to thetown-village cleavage in the followingwords:

“The town is the abode of therich and the centre of buyingand selling. The outlying area ofthe town is the place for theirrecreation and relaxation. In itscentral part are located theinstitutions for the education oftheir children and the seats oflitigation where in the name ofjustice the poor are continuallyharassed and persecuted. Onremote outskirts of the towns arethe dwelling places of the poverty-stricken masses. Here we haveneither the light of the urbanlamps nor the urban sanitationnor the rush of urban crowds.”


Sharp contrast to this picture of thetown to which gravitate the affluent upperand middle classes is provided by thepicture of the village where live mostlythe impoverished masses. The followingdescriptions of the village by Prem Chandin one of his early writings called JalwayeIssar (1912) reminds one of the classicaldescription of the ruined colonial villageby Mahatma Gandhi. The heroine of thestory conveys here feelings about theconditions of the village in words asfollows:

“Oh God! What I had been toldabout the village and what I seewith my own eyes! Thatched huts,mud walls, and mountains ofgarbage lying uncovered beforethe huts, buffaloes sunk deep inmud and filth and emaciatedcows— I feel like running awayfrom here. Look at the pitiablecondition of men and women whohave been reduced to mereskeletons. These are theembodiments of misfortune andpauperisatioin. Not one hasgarments which are not torn:

Not one of the unfortunate beingsgets a full meal after sweating for dayand night…Here we have in plenty neithergods nor goddesses but only ghosts”’(Amritrai 1976: 113-114).

In the following moving words ofKadir, a typical working peasant, we havean articulation of what the peasants thinkof their own pitiable condition:

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“Oh, if the Almighty wishes to makeus respectable, why should he have madeus Kashtkars? Would not he have madeus a Zamindar or a peon or a constablein the police station issuing orders forothers to carry out, while comfortablyreclining on his chair? Consider ourplight. We eat what we have earned withour own labour. Why should then webe harassed by whosoever passes ourway. We have to slave for everyone:The zamindar, the government and itsofficials—all frown on us and even Godabove is not sympathetic to us. Otherwiseare not we human beings or is everyonesuperior to us in intelligence? But whatis the use of crying? Who listens to us?

(Premashram: 187)

This acute self-pity of the colonialpeasant is presented in much bolderstrokes in Prem Chand’s Godan. Itsimmortal character Hori, personifyingthe hopelessness of the colonial peasant,expresses this sentiment of self-pity inringing words as follows:

“Who says you and I both are alsohumans. Where is our humanness? Healone is human who has wealth, powerand skills. We are like bullocks who havebeen born only to be yoked to the ploughand to slave for others”, (p.22).

Prem Chand depicts very poignantlyhow the Kisan whose tiny holding keepshim perennially starving is close to theill-paid majoor constituting the toilingmasses. He is kept in poverty and bondageby a minority of exploiters living onthe fruits of labour of this voiceless mass.

The unenviable conditions of both thekisan and the majoor are captured byPrem Chand in the following dialoguebetween them in Karmabhoomi.

Payag who is a poor peasant tellsKashi who is a poor majoor:

“O brother, never take up cultivationwhich is nothing but a great botheration.Whether your fields yield anything ornot, you must meet the rental demandof the landlod. It is flood now and droughtlater. One misfortune or the other isalways on your head. On top of it ifyour bullock dies, or your harvest catchesfire, then everything is lost. Majoori isthe best. Take your khurpi in the morningfor cutting the grass and return by theafternoon”, (p.153)

In reply to this Kashi tells hisown tale:“How can Kisani be compared tomajoori. Majoori may earn morebut he will be called majoor. Hecarries loads of grass bundles onhis head. Someone shouts fromthis side and someone from thatside: O grass seller! If you happento cut grass from the boundaryof someone, he will offer nothingbut abuses to you. Kisani afterall is a respectable occupation,not like Majoori!” (p. 153).

It is clear from the bunch ofquotations that in Prem Chand’s novelswe find an intensely humanised portrayalof some of the basic insights of Gandhiinto the colonial village. As an illustrationof this convergence of Gandhi’s intuitive

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insight with Prem Chand’s artisticperception of the basic conflicts of thecolonial situation, we reproduce belowanother key passage from Gandhi. Itconfirms Gandhi’s view on the oppressiveurban stranglehold over rural life:

“We may not be deceived by thewealth to be seen in the citiesof India. It does not come fromEngland or America. It comesfrom the blood of the poorest.There are said to be seven lakhsof village in India. No one hasany record of these thousandswho have died of starvation anddisease in Bengal, Karnataka andelsewhere. The governmentregisters can give no idea of whatthe village folk are going through.But being a villager myself, I knowthe condition in the villages. Iknow village economics. I tell youthat the pressure from the topcrushes those at the bottom. Allthat is necessary is to get offtheir backs”, (N.K. Bose 1957:48).

In Karmabhoomi and PremashramPrem Chand as a true disciple of Gandhicontrasts the benevolent landlords ofthe old type like Prabhashankar withthe greedy and rapacious landlords ofthe new type like Gyanshankar. Whilethe former respect the demands of customand Maryada (aristocrate tradition), thelatter regard custom as a departure fromeconomic rationality and assert thelegitimacy of the pursuit of naked self-interest. Both in Rangbhoomi and

Premashram Prem Chand depicts howthe commercial motivation of the newclass created by Pax Britanica comesinto sharp conflict with community rightsof the masses. In Rangbhoomi the conflicterupts over Soordas’s land used forgrazing cattle by the people and beingacquired by John Sevak, a Christianbusinessman, for setting up a cigarettefactory. In Premashram also violentconflict erupts and leads to the murderof the village officials by one of thepeasants as a sequel to the ban on theuse of the community grazing groundfor grazing cattle by the peasants. Inthese novels, however, Prem Chand doesnot treat these conflicts as irreconcilablewithin the given system. He shows away out by throwing up, as an enlightenedlandlord of the new type who lives inpeace and harmony with his tanants.Moreover, Prem Chand also highlightsthe futility of peasant resistanceespecially in the form of individualterrorism by depicting the suicide ofManohar, the assassin of Gaus Khan, whopersonifies the oppressive Karinda ofthe new type of landlord. This path ofreform rather than of resistance presentedapprovingly by Prem Chand as the wayout has much in common with Gandhi’ssocial outlook.

This bring us finally to Prem Chand’sclassic, Godan, in which Prem Chandmakes no ideological compromise inportrayal of realities; he gives up theattempt to provide a way out of thepeasant problem within the given system

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through change of heart of the propertiedand power-wielding classes. The focusshifts here from the enlightened landlordto the peasant awakening to a higherlevel of consciousness. It may beremembered that during his last daysGandhi himself was trying to move beyondthe constraints of early Gandhism andplacing more emphasis on building thetoilers’ will for resistance than on the“change of heart” of the propertied classes.He even envisaged “seizure of land” bythe peasants after freedom was won asrevealed by his famous interview withLouis Fisher.

Coming back to Prem Chand, Godanis the story of Hori, a peasant cultivatingfive bighas of land and perenniallyoscillating between kisan and majoorstatus on account of unbearable burdensof rent, interest, taxes and Begar. Hori’sonly ambition is to possess a small plotof land and a cow and he makes allthe compromises necessary to realizehis ‘Small Peasant Utopia’. But his Utopiaremains unrealized; nay it is shatteredby the brute forces of a colonial systemand a class society:

Prem Chand is no longer satisfiedwith the focus on the ‘enemy outside’the village—the absentee landlord, thetrader, the lawyer and the governmentofficial invading the village like locustsfrom time to time. In Godan Prem Chandputs in the centre of the picture the‘enemy inside—the Gram Panchayat, theBiradari and the priests operating onbehalf of the rich peasants, the village

moneylender and the village-basedKarindas of the landlord and theKarmacharis of the government. PremChand also puts in the centre of thestage the peasant’s own fatalism, hissubmissiveness and his proneness tocompromise and to make peace withhis oppressors. Godan epitomizes thetragic finale of the path of compromiseand submission as depicted in the lastoutburst of Hori, the hero of Godan,in the following words:

“Hori could not utter even a singleword. He felt as if he was sinkingdeep in the bottom-less pit ofunbearable humiliation. Todayafter fighting tenaciously for thirtyyears for life, he felt totallydefeated and crushed. He felt hehad been made to stand on thegate of the town and whoeverpassed that way spat on his face.He felt as if he was screamingaloud saying: “Brothers! Have pityon me. I did not care for thescorching sun of Jeth nor forthe heavy showers of Magh. Ifyou pierce this body—you willfind it injured beyond repair andcrushed and debilitated. Ask itwhether it has a moment’s rest.’On top of it then this humiliation.Oh you are still alive, O coward,O wretched being”!

Hori’s faith which having becomedeep had rendered him blind andblunted his sensibilities for allthese years, had been shattered

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today and destroyed for ever”.(Godan: 295).

The death of Hori symbolises thetotal collapse of the Peasant Utopia andof the path of submissiveness andcompromise. The ousting of Hori’s familyfrom the peasant way of life and theexit of his son Gobar to the town forlivelihood are also symbolic of theinherent vulnerability of the smallproducers, of the ultimate fate of villagismand peasantism and of the ultimatetriumph of the cash nexus over the oldsociety. The death of the peasant of theold type is, in other words, symbolicof the death of the old society whichcould not be reformed from within.

The penetrating and moving insightinto the deep and insoluble crisis ofthe small peasant producer within thecolonial framework which Prem Chandoffers in Godan written in 1935-36 broadlycorresponds with the diagnosis whichRadhakamal Mukerjee presented in hismonumental work, Land Problems inIndia, in 1933. What the writer capturesthrough his intuition and imagination,in fact, far excels in intensity and depthof perception what the social scientistis able to grasp through painstakinginvestigation and analysis. Summing upthe crisis of the small peasant in earlythirties Radhakamal Mukerjee wrote asfollows:

“The economic position of thesmall holder has deteriorated,while the contrast between theincreasing class of rent-receivers

and the toiling agricultural serfs,betokens a critical stage in ouragricultural history” (p.4).

Mukerjee also discerned “the faintrumblings of class consciousness” amongpeasants condemned so far to a life of“one single meal, thin gruel and a loincloth”. The implications of this grimeconomic situation of the peasant interms of human tragedy of vastproportions are to be found not in theelegant treatises of the economists butin the novels of writers of the statureof Prem Chand.

Commenting on the fate of the poorpeasant in England under the impactof the Industrial Revolution, EricHobsbawm in his The Age of Revolution(1973) writes as follows:

“Three possibilities were thereforeopen to such of the poor as foundthemselves in the path ofbourgeois society, and no longereffectively sheltered ininaccessible regions of traditionalsociety. They could strive tobecome bourgeois; they couldallow themselves to be grounddown or they could rebel”, (p.245)

Within the colonial framework thefirst possibility of upward mobility wasopen to only a small and thin stratumof the peasantry. The small peasantproducer, the dominant force of thecolonial agrarian structure, had only thelatter two possibilities open and not thefirst; he could either allow himself tobe ground down or he could rebel. The

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Hori of Godan epitomizes the great tragedyinherent in the second possibility ofannihilation as a peasant producer andof total alienation from land. Being arealist, however, Prem Chand does notmiss the “faint rumblings of classconsciousness” among colonial peasants,though this consciousness does not yethold promise of fructifying into a full-blown peasant revolution. The demandof literary realism itself, therefore,compels Prem Chand to conclude Godanon a note of despair and defeat andnot of Hope and Triumph.

In Godan Prem Chand rises to heightsof creative achievement from the pointof view of critical realism. He emergesas a great writer of the stature of Balzacand Tolstoy. Godan in this respect iscomparable to Balzac’s classic, ThePeasants (1844). Commenting on thisnovel which reveals the sources ofBalzac’s greatness as a writer, GeorgeLukacs aptly observes:

“In this novel, the most importantof his maturity, Balzac wantedto write the tragedy of the landedaristocracy of France. It wasintended to be the keystone ofthe series in which Balzacdescribed the destruction ofFrench aristocratic culture by thegrowth of capitalism…Yet for allhis painstaking preparation andcareful planning, what Balzacreally did in his novel was theexact opposite of what he hadset out to : What he depicted

was not the tragedy of thearistocratic estate but of peasantsmall landholding. It is preciselythis discrepancy betweenintention and performance,between Balzac the politicalthinker and Balzac the author ofLa Comedie Humaine thatconstitutes Balzac’s historicalgreatness… What makes Balzac agreat man is the inexorableveracity with which he depictedreality even if that reality rancounter to his own personalopinions, hopes and wishes”.

The greatness of Tolstoy as a writerof world stature is derived from thesame source—the ruthless objectivity,the deep insight and intensity of feelingwith which Tolstoy captures the socialcontradictions and realities of “ruralpeasant Russia”, and the mercilessmanner in which, while depicting socialrealities relating to the landlord and theMujhik. Tolstoy was able to transcendhis own aristocratic social background,and his philosophical beliefs. Histrenchant social critique of patriarchalRussia caught in the throes of transitionto capitalism became a valuable legacyfor later revolutionaries as well aswriters working for Russia’s socialistfuture.

Prem Chand’s works immortalize theagonies and torments of the Indianpeasant, who is crushed by the colonialsystem and the human agents of colonialexploitation and oppression. They

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represent a most precious heritage andan unfailing source of insight andinspiration for writers and socio-politicalworkers of post-independence India whoare looking for a new future for the

Indian peasant. Today’s awakenedpeasant can himself turn to Prem Chandfor deeper insights into the historicaland structural roots of his exploitationand oppression.


0 1 . Amritarai, Kalam Ka Sipahi, Hans Prakashan, Allahabad, 1976.

02. Honore De Balzac, The Peasant, The Caxton Publishing Company Ltd., London,

1 8 9 9 .

03. N.K. Bose, Selections from Gandhi, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad,

1 9 5 7 .

04. Prem Chand, Sahitya Ka Uddeshya, Hans Prakashan, Allahabad, 1967.

05. Prem Chand, Premashram, Hans Prakashan, Allahabd, 1979.

06. Prem Chand, Karamabhoomi, Hans Prakashn, Allahabad, 1973.

0 7 . Prem Chand, Rangabhoomi, Saraswati Press, Allahabad, 1974.

08. Prem Chand, Godan, Saraswati Press, Allahabad, 1979.

09. Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, Europe, 1789-1848, Cardinal, 1973.

1 0 . ___________, Primitive Rebels, Manchestor University Press, 1959.

1 1 . V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 16, Foreign Languages Publishing House,

1 9 6 3 .

1 2 . George Lukacs, Studies in European Realism, The Merlin Press, London, 1950.

P.C. Joshi, an eminent scholar and intellectual of twentieth century

who is stil l contributing to the cause of art, culture, l iterature and

political idelogy, has translated Gandhiji’s works into English. His memoirs

in ‘Tadbhav’ have been widely read and appreciated.

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GODAN: THE BACK STORYKamal Kishore Goyanka

Translated by

Dhiraj Singh

Even though Godan is counted among the classics ever to bewritten in any language anywhere in the world, its ‘story of creation’has yet to evoke interest among literary critics in India. Thoseamong Premchand’s fans, especially those eager to claim him asa leftist thinker have given little thought to the processes thatmade the man and his work. Perhaps it stems from a certainarrogance of having understood him completely. But there areseveral things still unknown about the process of Premchand’screativity. Such is the import of these unknown facts that theycould immensely benefit our understanding of the writer to agreat extent. One such fact is that before getting down to writinga novel or a short story or even an essay Premchand wouldwrite its brief outline in English. After the outline he would getdown to writing the piece in either Hindi or Urdu. The final workhe would then translate into Hindi or Urdu depending on thelanguage of the original. Such an example of a writer’s ease withthree different languages is indeed rare among writers of Hindiliterature. In the light of this fact it is rather unfortunate thatPremchand’s creativity has not been adequately admired or evenassessed in the years gone by.

Godan, like his other works, was also first outlined in English.But only the last two pages of this three-page document survivetoday. These two pages contain the outlines of chapters beginningfrom 3 through to 12. The first two chapters are now lost tous with the missing first page. The highlights of the remaining




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eight chapters: the characterisation anda summary of the plot is found in thetwo surviving pages. The following iswhat has survived as the outline ofchapters 3 to 12 of the famous novel:

Chapter 3

Hori buys a cow. The whole village turnsup to see it. Soma is sad but Hira ismad with jealousy. He tries to poisonthe cow. Hori sees him doing that butdoes not report the matter to the police.

Chapter 4

The whole village comes to the Zamindar’splace to celebrate Dussehra. Hori sellsoff his barley crop to make hiscontribution (shagun). He can barelyface other people (especially theZamindar—Goyanka) and there arerumours (started by the Zamindar—Goyanka) to increase land taxes. Hence,it is important that the Zamindar isimpressed enough to change his mind.The party at the Zamindar’s include aplay, a demonstration (?) and a fireoffering (dharti yajna). The Zamindaris a kind and generous man. He tellshis story. He is also a member of theDistrict Board. (He is also a candidatefor the Chairman’s post, this part ismissing—Goyanka). He is known to throwparties and do a lot of charity to impressthe District Board officials. The villagersreturn home satisfied. Jhunia also goesto the demonstration. Gobar proposesto her. He is not married. He needsmoney to get married. Jhunia is disarmedby his frankness and agrees to marryhim.

Chapter 5

Jhunia gives birth to a daughter (son).Gobar runs away to Calcutta. The villagepanchayat imposes a heavy penalty onhim. Hori is ordered to go away ona pilgrimage. His ancestral land ismortgaged. He is unable to pay theinterest. Gobar does not return. Sonais to get married but he has no land.He is a daily wage labourer where womenwork shoulder to shoulder with him.This has a big impact on his way of thinking.

Chapter 6

The property has to be recovered fromthe mortgage. The daughter (is sold off,this part is missing—Goyanka) is marriedoff. The property is recovered. Things(income from land especially) improve.Hori fights with his brothers becauseof Mahua. Hori is beaten up. He filesa case against his brothers in court.Hori wins and the brothers facepunishment. Hori (has to get it back,this part is missing—Goyanka) findshappiness but in the end takes on theresponsibilities of his family.

Chapter 7

Bhola’s sons go their separate ways. Jhuniadies. She is survived by her daughter.Bhola begins to take care of Jhunia’sdaughter. He gives his share to his sons(and becomes a sannyasi, this part ismissing—Goyanka). Jhunia’s daughter isnow under the care of the Zamindar.

Chapter 8

The Zamindar’s elder son is a lawyer,a member of the Council. He has been

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excommunicated from the caste by hisfamily. He is a social worker whom thefarmers greatly respect.

Chapter 9

Hori’s youngest daughter is sold off. Theharvest is only enough to pay the taxes.Whatever’s left goes to feed the livestock,the family and himself. What is he todo? He is also physically weak. Jhinkialso works hard to earn a living. SoHori decides to sell off his daughterwithout telling his wife. He makes upa story to cover his shame.

Chapter 10

Gobar returns a changed man. He shareshis experiences of city life with everyone.He has forgotten Jhunia. He has earneda lot of money through questionablemeans and has suddenly developed aninterest in spiritual matters. His fatheris on his death bed but he doesn’t allowGobar to come back home. Gobar startsliving with Jhunia again.

Chapter 11

Bhola returns with a very young bridewho’s already been a widow. He wantsto live with Hori. A separate hut is erectedfor him. He starts to indulge in pettystealing because he is unable to get ajob. Jungi is attracted to his wife andthey start meeting on the sly. Finallyone day Bhola’s wife leaves him andruns away with Jungi. (Bhola is filledwith sadness, this part is missing—Goyanka) but his wife is shameless andcontinues to live with Jungi. One dayhis wife (not clear which one—Goyanka)

has an argument with him and beatshim up with a broomstick. Bhola dies.

Chapter 12

A tired and defeated Hori continues tofight for survival. Gobar tries to helphim through his mother, who remainsa devoted wife to Hori. But in the endHori dies. Gobar does the godan (cowdonation) on his behalf. *** Also to beincluded: agricultural fairs, development,literary movements, sugar mills,cooperative movements.

This outline of Godan brings to lightmany aspects of the creative processof the writer. It also provides a glimpseof the plot of the novel that was takingshape in Premchand’s mind. What’s more,it tells of the strands within the storythat the author decides to build uponas well as those that he decides to discardduring the writing of the actual novel.This is a significant revelation becausethere is a near consensus among scholarsthat Premchand was a stickler for hisoutlines and that he made them afoundation for the standing structureof his works. But Godan’s outline notonly rubbishes this theory it also portraysa truer picture of Premchand’s creativity:that he was no slave to the outline butgave enough leeway to the story to haveits own natural progression. It is indeedrare for a literary work to assume themantle of greatness following a setformulaic recipe. A comparative studyof this outline and the final work thatit was to become later proves this pointwithout a doubt. However to further

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elucidate this claim it is important tosee how much of the outline plot andcharacterisation was retained by theauthor and how much of it was givena new twist in the final work.

3. Chapter 3 in the outline closelyresembles the final chapter 3 of the novel.Hori buys a cow and the whole villageturns up to see it. However his twobrothers—Soma and Hira—have differentreactions. They don’t come to see thecow. In Godan, the novel, Premchandreports this tension thus: “The wholevillage came to see the cow. The onlyones who don’t are Soma and Hira, hisbrothers...” Hira who is filled with jealousyfinally poisons the cow. In both theoutline and the novel Hori sees Hiragive poison to his cow but does notreport the matter to the police. Thisis an example of where the author makesno changes in the outlined plot andcharacterisation and the final chapter.

4. In chapter 4 Premchand usescertain plot strands while leaving outsome others from the final chapter inthe novel. According to the outline thechapter has a Dussehra celebration atthe Zamindar’s place where Hori comeswith his contribution (shagun) for a fire-sacrifice (dharti-yajna). Where in theoutline Hori gets this money from sellinghis barley crop in the novel he getsit by selling his bamboo stock. Again,where in the outline the Zamindaraddresses the whole village collected athis place, in the novel he confides inHori alone, telling him about his financial

difficulties. Secondly, what’s also missingin the novel is the issue of increasedtaxes and Hori’s shamefacedness overit. Besides this Jhunia and Gobar’smeeting is also missing from the novel.In fact Jhunia and Gobar are not evenpresent at the Zamindar’s celebrations.This part of the chapter is totally changedin the novel. Gobar and Jhunia meetfor the first time while getting the cow.This is where he proposes to her andshe agrees.

5. In chapter 5 most of the plotoutlines have been left out. Neither doesJhunia have a daughter (she has a sonwho is named Mangal—Goyanka) nor doesGobar leave for Calcutta after thepanchayat verdict. Instead, Hori is facedwith excommunication from his castefor keeping Jhunia at his place. Unlikethe outline, Hori neither goes away ona pilgrimage nor mortgages his ancestralland. However, he does become a daily-wage labourer though not at the timehe does in the outline but towards theend of the novel. In the novel Gobarflees to Lucknow instead of Calcutta.Sona’s marriage finds mention in boththe outline and the novel.

6. The story of chapter 6 is alsomissing from the final chapter 6 of thenovel. In fact it seems the entire chapteroutline is stillborn, hence missing fromthe chapter as it finally appears. In thenovel Hori doesn’t make enough moneyto get his land out of mortgage. He alsodoesn’t fight with his brothers becauseof Mahua. It seems the author thought

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otherwise than to include in the novelparts where Hori gets beaten up, fightshis brothers in court, sees them losethe case and then experiences anuncharacteristic triumph at his victory.Perhaps Premchand thought the eventstoo ‘out of character’ for the kind ofman he wanted to portray. Or maybehe didn’t want to show Hori in sucha realist (yatharthvadi) light.

7. The story of Jhunia’s death andthe subsequent adoption of her daughterby the Zamindar are also missing fromthe final chapter 7 of the novel. In Godan,the novel, Jhunia neither dies nor isher daughter (son) taken up by theZaminder. In the novel Jhunia is alivetill the end and her son, Mangal, is broughtup by both his father and his grandfather.These changes are in no way cosmeticshifts but go on to affect the entirecharacter of the novel.

8. Chapter 8 of the outline also comesout rather different in the final form.In the novel the Zamindar does not havetwo sons and neither does his son marryJhunia’s daughter. Instead his only sonRudrapal marries Malti’s younger sister,Saroj, and goes to England. This is whereRudrapal’s character like in the outlineis excluded from further development.He is neither a municipal employee, nora nationalist leader nor a social workeradmired by the farmers. Instead he slapsa case of Rs 10 lakh against his father.This is actually a total departure fromthe outlined character of the Zamindar’sson.

9. Where in chapter 9 Hori decidesto sell off his youngest daughter withoutthe consent or knowledge of his wifehe doesn’t do so in the novel. Both Horiand his wife, Dhania, agree to sell theirdaughter, Rupa, for Rs 200 in the novel.The final chapter 9 also revealsPremchand’s change of heart about Hori’swife’s name. In the outline she’s calledJhinki but in the novel Jhinki becomesDhania.

10. Chapter 10 actually includes alot from the author’s original outline.Like the return of Gobar, who comesback a changed man! Though unlike theoutline he doesn’t come back spiritually-inclined but as a cunning man abouttown. The novel doesn’t even mentionhis spiritual side and curiously enoughneither does it mention his questionableaccumulation of wealth. Hori, too is notshown as a man on his deathbed.

11. Chapter 11 does in fact tell Bhola’sstory but not in the way it’s been outlined.Like in the outline, Bhola does get marrieda second time and faces the consequencesof the marriage. But he does not livewith Hori and does not resort to stealingin the absence of a job. The scandalousrelationship between Bhola’s young wife,Nohri, and his son, Jungi, is also missingfrom the novel. This change is attributedto the illicit relationship that in the noveldevelops between Nokheram and Nohri.This interesting shift from a scandalousstep-mother-son relationship to an out-of-the-family extra-marital affair couldbe because of Premchand’s natural

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resistance to portraying base realism(yatharthvad). In both the outline andthe novel Bhola is beaten up by hiswife but his final end is missing fromthe novel.

12. Chapter 12 witnesses the deathof Hori. In the outline Hori is a tiredand defeated old man waiting for theend of his sad life. But what the outlinedoes not mention is Hori becoming adaily wage labourer and finally dyingof a heat-stroke. The novel on the otherhand doesn’t mention Gobar trying tohelp his father through his mother. Inthe outline at the death of his fatherGobar carries out the godan but in thenovel it is his mother, Dhania, who doesit for her husband with a mere 20 annas.And it is with this act, which is bothrevolutionary and sacreligious, that theauthor creates a powerful sense of tragedyand irony in the novel. If on the otherhand had the godan been carried outby Gobar the novel would have lacked

its revolutionary appeal and the toweringposition it now occupies in worldliterature.

Ideas such as agricultural fairs,development, literary movements, sugarmills and cooperative movements thatPremchand mentions in the outline arealso missing from the final novel. Perhapswith the not-so-notable exception ofsugar mills which are mentioned in passingin the novel.

Conclusion: The original outline ofGodan, the novel, opens up an awesomewindow to the hitherto unknown creativeprocesses of Premchand, the writer. Itnot only has an historical significanceas a documentary proof of the writer’sfacility with languages it also opens upaspects of the Hindi novel-in-progressthat would be of immense interest toresearchers and scholars. From this pointof view the English outline of the Hindinovel, Godan, is an important andinvaluable document in time.

Kamal Kishore Goyanka, a scholar and academician who has done extensive

research on Prem Chand. He has documented some findings that were

hitherto unknown to readers of Prem Chand. He lives in Delhi.

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Note: Premchand’s notes on Godan –Courtesy K.K.G.

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Translated by

The Author

Any literary piece is to be seen in terms of both text and contextas it is set in a specific time, place and social background andhas a purpose. Unlike the post-modernists who propound thatthere is no universal truth, no grand narrative, no one meaningand, therefore, they ‘deconstruct’ the text, it is imperative to relatethe text in a specific context and to ‘reconstruct’ it in orderto grasp the real meaning. Hence, for a social-cultural understandingof a literature one is required to sociologically analyse a literarypiece. Here we select four Hindi novels – first two written inpre-independence period and the latter two written in post-independence period, viz., Rangbhumi by Premchand, Budhua KiBeti by Pandeya Bechan Sharma ‘Ugra’, Parishishta by GirirajKishor, and Dharati Dhan Na Apna by Jagdish Chandra.

This sociological analysis of characterization of ‘dalits’ in Hindinovels is carried out in terms of following parameters:

a) Socio-cultural base of Dalit characters.b) Dalit and non-Dalit interaction.c) Do Dalits protest or not?d) Novelist’s background and vision.e) Which sort of realism works in the mind of the author?

The message conveyed by each novel.




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[I] Rangbhumi (Premchand)

A. Socio-cultural Base: The socio-cultural base of the novel ‘Rangbhumi’is rural. Its theme is the beginning ofthe process of industrialization duringBritish period-establishment of a factoryin a village Pandepur (near Benaras,eastern U.P.) by acquiring the housesites as well as the entire land of thevillage. Different castes such as Brahman(Naik Ram Panda) and Rajput (K. BharatSingh, Mahendra Kumar, etc.) as UpperCastes, Ahir (Bajrangi), Bania (Jagdhar)and Tamoli (Thakurdin) as backwardcastes, Chamar (Surdas, Mithua) and Pasi(Bhairo, Subhagi) as lower castes (dalits)are depicted in this novel. In terms ofreligion, three major religions of India:Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are wellrepresented here. In terms of racialbackground, English officials (Mr. Clark)and Indians are depicted in this novel.As far as gender is concerned, both maleand female characters are portrayed. Therange of the novel expands from a village,namely Pandepur, to the city of Benarasand then to Rajputana (Rajasthan),Punjab, Garhwal and Poona.

B. Interaction: There are both intra-dalit and dalit-non-dalit interactions inthis novel. On the one hand, within theDalit community there is both co-operation and conflict. For example,Surdas (belonging to a Chamar-dalit-Caste) is harassed by another dalit,Bhairo, belonging to Pasi caste, bycommitting theft in the hut of the formerand, by accusing him of having illicit

relationship with his (latter’s) wife,Subhagi and eventually getting himpunished by the Honorary Magistrate.On the contrary, despite such attemptsfor his character assassination, Surdasgives shelter to the ousted Subhagi ashis sister. There is an inter-caste conflictin terms of attempting to outrage themodesty of Subhagi by two youthsbelonging to backward community(Vidyadhar and Ghisu). On this issue,Surdas does not compromise despite thepressure from the society. He gets thempunished, so that nobody would dareto outrage the modesty of women.Further, unlike the traditional rural socialstructure in India, in Pandepur thereare no separate settlements for differentcastes, especially for dalits. Moreover,all the villagers of different castes takepart in social and religious functionslike singing of devotional songs (bhajans)wherein the role of blind Surdas is verysignificant. Another dalit Bhairo alsoparticipates in such functions. Surdasis appreciated by all the village personsincluding Naik Ram Panda, belonging tothe highest Brahmin caste. Surdas alsotakes milk, etc. from different villagers(especially from Bajrangi) free of costfor his nephew, Mithua. Here castedivisions exist but without conflict. Thus,Surdas even though he belongs to dalitcommunity, does not face casteprejudices. Therefore, socially he is inthe core group of the society, not onthe margin. In reality, on the basis of‘achievement’ of qualities like sacrifice,truthfulness, helpfulness, etc. (instead

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of ascription), Surdas gets more respectfrom one and all. Even John Sewak,capitalist-industrialist, against whomSurdas had fought a long-drawn struggledue to the acquisition of his land byhim by force, goes to the hospital (whereSurdas is admitted) and begs pardonfor his inhuman conduct. Not only this,Sophia, daughter of John Sewak,appreciated Surdas from the verybeginning because of his many moralqualities. Even the tough and dictator-like district Collector, Mr. Clark, is alsoafraid of good persons like Surdas andrepents that he had taken coercive actionagainst such persons whose Europeancounterparts commanded his respect. Atthe death of Surdas, Mr Clark says toMahendra Kumar: “I fear not personslike you, but such persons (as Surdas)who rule people’s hearts. It is a repentanceof ruling here that in this country (India)we kill those persons whom we wouldhave thought as god-like” (P.523). Thus,non-dalits respect him more than evendalits do.

C. Protest: Dalits have protested in thisnovel against their exploitation. Thecentral dalit character, Surdas, hasprotested time and again when his landas well as house site were acquired bya capitalist, namely, John Sevak, throughthe district administration. There in theprotest itself, he is killed by the bulletof the Collector. Surdas protested theland acquisition by force and withoutdue payment on following grounds:

a) It is his ancestral property to

be preserved, not to be disposed off;

b) It is an open land used as pasturefor the village animals;

c) It cannot be disposed off withoutthe consent of the villagers;

d) He also wanted to construct adrinking well there for the use of passers-by and villagers.

Secondly, Subhagi, another dalitcharacter, and Surdas caught hold oftwo village youths (Vidyadhar and Ghisu)when the latter tried to outrage hermodesty at night in the house of Surdas,where she had taken shelter. Furtherdespite request by the villagers to excusethe two accused boys, Surdas refusedoutright and got them punished underthe rule of law. Thirdly, Bhairo accusesSurdas of having illicit relationship withhis wife Subhagi and complains to theHonorary Magistrate, Raja MahendraKumar, who without making an impartialinquiry punishes both Surdas and Subhagiby fining them. But Surdas protest againstthis injustice before the court itself. Thena large number of people gather overthere and they support Surdaseconomically and morally. They collectsubscription voluntarily and makepayment of the fine imposed.

However, in these three events thoughthe victims are from the dalit community,the fact remains that they are victimizednot simply because they are dalits. Inthe first event, Surdas’s land is forciblyacquired along with other villagers’ landsfor industrialization—especially for

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construction of a cigarette factory.Second event takes place when the twoyouths, from backward community, findit easy to exploit Subhagi when she wasalone because Surdas, being a blind man,was not perceived to be a realobstruction. In the third event, Bhairohimself is a dalit and accuses anotherdalit for allegedly exploiting his wife.Further it is notable that Surdas is himselfa leader, not a follower. He is capableof organizing a strong movement againstthe land acquisition and also againstthe partial judgement of the honorarymagistrate, due to his strong will power.This firm determination is seen whenhis hut is burnt by some anti-socialelements and his nephew Mithua asksrepeatedly as to what will happen if suchelements burnt his hut one lakh times,Surdas coolly replies that he wouldrebuild the hut one lakh times. Thus,his protest is organized, articulate andfirmly determined due to his strong desireto protest against the injustice in aconstructive Gandhian way of non-violence.

D. Novelist’s Background andVision: Premchand was born in a

lower-middle class family of Kayasthacaste (an upper caste in Hindu castesystem) in a village called Lamahi inBenaras in 1880. He was educated uptograduate level (B.A.) and was workingas a teacher and Deputy Inspector ofSchools under the British Government.This novel was written by him during1922-1924. This was the period when

Indian National Congress had theleadership of Mahatma Gandhi, whoturned the one-dimensional movement,limited to urban areas and the educatedclass only, to the masses in the vastrural areas. He also introduced newtechniques of protest —non-violence, civildisobedience, demonstration, boycott offoreign goods, government jobs andgovernment organizations like schools.He visited different parts of the countryfor actively involving the people at large.One such visit was to Gorakhpur (U.P.)on the 8th of February, 1921, whereGandhiji delivered a passionate patrioticspeech which impressed the writer PremChand very much. Therefore, on the 15th

of February, 1921, he resigned from thegovernment job after serving for about21 years under the British rule. Beforethis, his one collection of stories namely“Soz-e-watan”, published in Urdu, wasseized by the British Collector allegingit to be anti-government in spirit. Sincethen Prem Chand started writing in Hindiand changed his name from Nawab Raito Prem Chand to avoid government’swrath. To him, literature always had apurpose (social, economic, cultural,political).

As far as his vision is concerned,he had a clear vision about the liberationof India from the British rule in generaland that of masses from Zamindars andcapitalists in particular. In this novel‘Rangbhumi’ the central character,Surdas, seems to be inspired andinfluenced by Mahatma Gandhi who stood

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for the common people of the villagesand was against the British Government.Surdas is one of the most commoncharacters who is economically poor,a peasant by occupation, belonging tothe lower caste of chamar (dalit),physically handicapped (blind), illiterateand a beggar. However, despite beingweak he has extra-ordinary qualities suchas having consideration for others, strongwillpower, moral values, etc. He appliesnon-violence as a legitimate means forlegitimate ends, does not tell a lie, andhas a lot of slef-confidence and courage.

On analysis of the novel, followingpoints regarding his vision emerge:

a) Prem Chand is not bound by themiddle class syndrome. Therefore, hetranscends his social, cultural andeconomic background and makes a manfrom lower caste and class as the centralcharacter of then novel.

b) His vision goes beyond the limitedarea of town to the vast areas of villages.

c) He takes the side of women likeSubhagi who are exploited by theirhusband under partriarchy. Thus, hestands for women’s rights.

d) Through Surdas, Prem Chand hasdepicted the then national freedomstruggle against the British rule. Likein Indian National Congress there areboth liberals and radicals in this novelwho oppose the British policy ofIndustrialisation at the cost ofdisplacement and eviction of thevillagers.

e) Prem Chand has shown the nexusbetween the capitalist class (John Sevak),Zamindar class (Kunwar Bharat Singh,Mahendra Kumar) and the colonial power(Mr. Clark). Prem Chand has also beensuccessful in presenting instances oftranscendence of class; for example,Sophia moves herself from the capitalistclass and Vinay from the zamindar class.Thus, they ‘declass’ themselves. Further,Sophia, A Christian, shows her likingfor freedom to choose one of many godsin Hinduism.

E. Type of Realism and Message:Here the realism depicted by Prem Chandis neither ‘socialist realism’ nor a pure‘critical realism’. He was impressed byGandhiji and Arya Samaj in his real lifeand in this novel Prem Chand appearswith his voice of a true nationalistand a true writer of India’s nationalfreedom struggle. He has not depictedrealism in status quo and naked form,i.e., naturalism because he found differentshades of reality existing side by sideas well as the potentialities of change.He brought authenticity by depictingdifferent dimensions of differentcharacters in ‘Rangbhumi’. He has notmade Surdas an absolute herodeliberately by showing some of hisweaknesses also though his strength ismore highlighted than his weaknesses.For instance, Surdas owns 10 bighas ofland and can get sufficient food for hisliving by giving this land on adhiya tosomeone in the village but he is notshown to do so, rather he earns his

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living by begging. Secondly, though hisnephew Mithua is in bad company, hehas burnt Bhairo’s shop and also doesnot care for Surdas, yet while admittedin the hospital and lying on his deathbed, he asked Mithua whether he wouldperform all the rituals for him or notbecause he was the only heir from hisfamily and caste. Thus, he is till consciousof his family and caste ties. Thirdly,Surdas is very much anxious to go toGaya for “tarpan” (salvation) of hisancestors. This concern for the dead,the past, that is , history, of an elementof Indian tradition which has been quiterealistically presented by Prem Chand.

Prem Chand’s realism seems to beclose to critical realism. Prem Chand’s‘Rangbhumi’ has peasants, untouchablesand women as groups. Therefore, groupcharacter is significant but at the sametime the charactar of Surdas isprominently depicted with variouspositive qualities of a hero (though hemay not be called a hero, he is certainlya central character). Surdas rallies groupsand individuals against the colonialdesign. Therefore, Prem Chand’s realismmay be called ‘humanistic criticalrealism’.

One finds following messages from‘Rangbhumi’:

a) Industrialisation is not the panaceafor all problems like poverty,unemployment, etc. because thepromoters of industrialization intend toopen only those factories (like a cigarettefactory here) which are more and more

profit-oriented irrespective of the factwhether they generate enoughemployment or not.

b) One finds a struggle for protectingwomen’s dignity from the clutches ofwicked persons. It is not women’sliberation of western type where womenare in total opposition to the males.Rather here Prem Chand depicts women’semancipation through male (Surdas)-female (Subhagi) partnership. Thisincisive insight is very appreciable,especially during the first quarter of 20th


c) National freedom struggle (depictedin the activities of Seva Samiti) is themost important for all the castes andcommunities and though the novel’s mainfocus is centered in Benaras, the struggleextends to Rajputana, Punjab, Garhwaland Poona.

d) One finds a broad representationof Indian social reality in this novelin terms of a large number of charactersfrom different backgrounds—social,economic, educational, political,religious, etc.

e) Though hero is not very essentialin a novel, yet the central charactermatters in terms of his or her qualitiesof achievement and especially his orher vision of the society.

f) The novel depicts social life ina complicated and complex way, therefore, realism of this novel is alsocomplicated, complex and multi-dimensional. In short, a novel cannot

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be a short-cut genre of realism as humanlife is never short-cut. In terms of bothrange and depth, therefore, ‘Rangbhumi’is a major novel. However, to be morespecific, its range also covers someinsignificant events such as Tahir Ali’sfamily affairs, closeness of Sophia andClark leading to their visit to Udaipurwithout being married. Similarly, in orderto show his patriotism, events such assuicide by Vinay Singh, coincidence ofthe meeting of Vinay and Sophia in therailway compartment while returningfrom Udaipur, Vinay and Sophia stayingin a tribal village in Rajputana maintainingchastity despite the use of someindigenous medicines for hypnotizingSophia by Vinay seem to be unrealistic.

g) Prem Chand seems to stand forthe liberation of all deprived sectionslike peasants, women, untouchables(dalits), and illiterates in their fightagainst the nexus of the capitalists,zamindars and imperialists.

h) Finally, Prem Chand stands fora progressive and scientific vision byopposing supersititions, communalprejudices, caste biases and otherparochial and primordial ties.


A. Socio-cultural Base: The novel‘Budhua Ki beti’ is based on the urbansociety of Benaras in U.P. Different casteslike Brahman (Aghori), Rajput(Ghanshyam), Kayastha as well as dalits(Bhangis like Budhua) figure in this novel.As far as religions are concerned, three

major religions of India—Hinduism, Islamand Christianity — are very well depictedthere. Even in terms of race, Englishofficials like Mr. Young (District Judge)and his wife, Mrs. Young, as well asother European characters are depicted.Similarly, both male and femalecharacters, literate and illiterate, youngand old ones are depicted. Though thenovel begins and centres around Benarascity, it ends with the departure of onemain female character, Radha, to Europealong with Mr. Young as his heiress.

B. Interaction: There are both intra-dalit and dalit-non-dalit interactions inthe novel. Radha, being a dalit girl, issexually exploited by an upper casteman, Ghanshyam (Rajput) while AghoriManushyanand, belonging to anotherhigher caste (Brahman), is whole-heartedly helping the untouchables’liberation as a catalyst agent. He openlydefies old traditional customs andsanctions against the untouchables. Themessiah of the dalits, B.R. Ambedkar,became active on the national scene forlaunching a movement of dalits’ templeentry in 1930 for the first time in Indianhistory. But, before that in 1928 itselfnovelist ‘Ugra’ allowed dalits’ entry toVishwanath temple in Benaras in his novel‘Budhua Ki beti’ under the inspirationof a central character AghoriManushyanand. That shows that as anauthor, ‘Ugra’ was much ahead of histimes. Further, about fifty volunteersinspired by Aghori Baba worked tirelesslyfor the emancipation of dalits though

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they hailed from upper caste and middleclass background. Furthermore, there isclose interaction between Hindus andChristians as shown in the characterssuch as Aghori Baba and the priest ofthe Church, Father Johnson, Aghori Babaand Mr. Young (District Judge). Further,Liakat Hussain and Rahman from Muslimcommunity have negative interaction andthey sexually exploit Budhua’s wife, Sukli,on the pretext of blessing her with ason through the angels. But interestingly,Budhua’s daughter helps and cares whenLiakat Hussain suffers from illness andstarvation later in advanced age. Sheand Aghori Baba give him shelter inAshram. Further within dalits themselves,there are different opinions—oldgeneration of dalits, more often, wanta peaceful compromise while the younggeneration is in a mood to revolt againstthe system itself. While the old generationof non-dalits is more status quoits, theyoung generation of their volunteers isready to give a better space for dalitsin the prevailing relationship.

C. Protest: In this novel, sweepers wereorganized by the inspiration of AghoriBaba and under the leadership of Budhuafrom amongst themselves to fight againstthe social, economic and culturaloppression by the upper castes. Firstthey make symbolic protest and laterthey go on strike and do not cleanindividual and public latrines, drains,roads, etc. The administration—both civiland police—fails in negotiation with them.They later return to work only when

their demands of building new houses,enhancement of wages, construction ofa new temple, opening of a new school,and imparting new technical skills totheir youth are accepted with dignity.Thus, their demands are multi-dimensional; social, economic andcultural. But, it is interesting to notethat in the beginning when a Vaidyaand allopathic doctors refused to treatBudhua’s first wife on the ground ofuntouchability (social cause)and alsobecause of his poverty (economic cause),Budhua decided to make individualprotest by declaring not to clean thelatrines of any Vaidya or doctor evenif he has to clean the excreta of dogs.This individual protest later gets moreorganized and collective mobilizationtakes the form of social protest thatis inspired and organized by Aghori Bababut led by Budhua himself. The dalitmasses join in it. The success of theircollective strike, a direct conflict, clearlyshows the way for future action.

D. Novelist’s Background andVision: Ugra was born on the 29th

of December, 1900, in Mirzapur (U.P.)and died in 1967. He was born in aBrahman family with lower middle classback ground in a rural area. Whilestudying he had composed a poem onMahatma Gandhi. Further, he wrote astory ‘Gandhi Ashram’. That shows theinfluence of Gandhism on him. He alsojoined national freedom struggle and wentto jail. However, later he becamedisillusioned with Gandhian liberalism

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in 1923-1924 and talked of even violentmeans for nation’s liberation. His stories‘Swadesh Ke Liye’ (1923), ‘Woh Din’ and‘Sundari Hinsa’ (1924) were in this spirit,and these were a critique of Gandhianphilosophy of non-violence. He used towrite revolutionary stories as he wasvery much impressed by the SovietRevolution of 1917. However, he didnot join any socialist politicalorganization. He joined ‘Matwala’ groupof non-conformist writers in Kolkata. Hisfirst anthology of revolutionary stories,namely ‘Chingariyan’, was published in1926. Out of twelve stories of thiscollection, six were concerned with thebackground of Soviet Revolution whilethe remaining six were based on Indianfreedom struggle. But because of itsrevolutionary appeal, it was seized bythe British Government on 26 May, 19281.Ugra remained unmarried and, therefore,believed in unrestricted sexulity, evento the extent of prostitution. In childhood,he used to take part in Ramlila bothas Lakshman and Sita.

Ugra was moderately educated andhe gave due space to poverty, sexualexploitation and untouchability in hiswritings. When he edited ‘Vijaya’ issueof ‘Swadesh’ in October, 1924, it wasseized and a case was instituted againsthim and others for waging a war againstthe State and then he was punished with9 months’ imprisonment2. Ugra had joinedactive journalism and his ideal was V.V.Paradkar, the editor of Aaj. He did notbelieve in the theory of ‘art for art sake’

rather his literature had a revolutionaryethos against British rulers, exploitersof women and the caste system. Hismulti-dimensional vision is reflected in‘Budhua Ki Beti’ which is a creative workof both dalits’ discouse and women’sdiscourse. Though Premchand had written‘Rangbhumi’ earlier in 1925 depictinga dalit blind man, namely Surdas, ascentral character, yet dalits’ discourseper se was not the theme of that novel.On the other hand, ‘Budhua Ki Beti’ ispurely a dalit discourse, by a non-dalitwriter who, despite having no self-experience, has been successful indepicting dalits’ and women’s exploitationsimultaneously by having ‘empathy’, inword and deed. One of his main characters,Aghori Baba transcends his middle classand upper caste (Brahman) backgroundwhile inspiring the exploited dalit massesas a catalyst. Ugra sincerely realizedthat caste system was very complex,therefore, to break it he created thecharacter of Aghori Baba who, beingAghori, did not believe in untouchability.Thus, Ugra through Aghori Baba, hasbeen successful in his novel to liberatethe lowest sweeper caste in thehierarchised Hindu social order.

E. Type of Realism and Message:Ugra has been accused of naturalismand naked depiction by many criticsin Hindi literature like BanarsidasChaturvedi3, Nalin V. Sharma4 and others.However, it is not true at least in thenovel of ‘Budhua Ki Beti’ because hehas just not photographed the social

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reality as it exists in naked form ratherhe also shows the potentialities andpossibilities of the down-troddenuntouchables and women. In fact, hewas an activist writer who participatedin the movement of freedom struggleas well as literary movement for socialchange. His novel is explosive and aheadof his time and, therefore, many of hiscolleagues and contemporary criticscould not digest his rebel writings like‘Budhua Ki Beti’. During 1920’s, nationalmovement of freedom struggle had twostreams of action-liberal and radical. Ugrahighlighted the radical side of socialreality in order to bring structural socialchanges in the system. He had creativeenergy to diagnose the existing socialproblems vividly and minutely.Therefore, he has gone into the depthof social situation of untouchability. Hisnovel’s range is not very large, but itsdepth is certainly considerable.Therefore, his novel ‘Budhua Ki Beti’,and other writings had a large numberof readers and his writing had manyeditions. He transcended his high castebackground and captured the delicateand minute shades of reality byempathizing with the untouchables andwomen. Though he had no direct self-experience, he had a forward-lookingvision. The type of realism depicted thereis ‘subaltern realism’. The messages ofthe novel are as following:

(a) The upper castes have to givedue space to the down-trodden dalitsin a dignified way.

(b) Dalits’ liberation demands a multi-dimensional strategy (social, economic,political and cultural) simultaneously sothat the exploiters may not take undueadvantage of their subordinate positionin a society in one way or other.

(c) Women are as much down-troddenas untouchables; therefore, they deservea similar kind of liberation. Further,dalit women suffer from social, economicand gender discrimination– thus a triplecurse becomes the destiny of dalit women.

(d) Christianity does not believe inuntouchability as Hinduism and Islamdo in practice in India. Though, accordingto the novelist, Christian Missionariesmay be appreciated for having a positiveview towards untouchables as far asappropriate interaction is concerned, yetthey have also a narrow motive ofconversion of the down-troddenuntouchables. Therefore, in the ultimateanalysis, they are also not true andgenuine friends of dalits.

(e) Dalits are so much oppressed thatthe leadership for social change doesnot automatically emerge on its ownrather it requires a catalyst agent fromoutside in order to inspire and mobilizethem in such a way that after sometimewhen the movement gets momentuma genuine leadership may emerge fromamongst themselves.

[III] Parishishta

A. Socio-cultural Base: The novel‘Parishishta’ was published in 1984. Itis based in a village in western U.P.

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but extends to an urban area in westernU.P. where Bawan Ram is working ina factory. Later, it extends to Delhi wherethere is an I.I.T. wherein centralcharacter, Anukul Ram, takes hisadmission to Engineering course of study.In this novel there are several dalits-Anukul Ram, his father Bawan Ram,Parvati (mother of Anukul), Ram Ujagir,his father Suvaran Choudhary andBaburam and upper castes like RajendraSingh (M.P.), Khanna, Nilamma, Prof.Malkani as well as backwards like Mr.Chaudhary (Member of Parliament).Bawan Ram is educated only upto eigthstandard but Parvati is illiterate.

B. Interaction: The novelist hasdepicted intra-dalit and dalit-non-dalitinteraction very vividly. Dalit characterssuch as Ram Ujagir and Anukul fightfor the cause of dalit whole-heartedlybut another dalit, a Balmiki boy,(Baburam) is unable to fight theexploitation and ultimately escapes.Though Nilamma and Prof. Malkani belongto upper castes, they have true empathyfor dalits. However, Bawan Ram, becauseof less education and rural socialization,suspects Nilamma of influencing his sonAnukul for making love. Similarly, RamUjagir’s mother, sister-in-law and otherfamily members as well as villagers alsosuspect her of influencing him for makinglove. But the truth is otherwise. Therefore,Nilamma clarifies her position stronglyat both places. She represents women’scategory as far as exploitation underpatriarchy (where a dalit male thinks

himself superior to an upper caste female)is concerned but at the same time shetranscends her caste background(Brahmin) and takes the side of dalitsRam Ujagir and Anukul. She fights forthe accommodation for Anukul’s fatherwith the establishment. Thus she identifiesher cause of women with that of dalitsfor a united struggle against theexploitation of caste and partriarchy.Similarly, Prof. Malkani, a non-dalit,supports Ram Ujagir. On the other hand,upper caste students like Khanna andauthorities discriminate against dalits.

C. Protest: In this novel dalit studentsprotest when they are taunted— in thehostel and campus— by the upper castestudents who remind them of theirforefathers’ traditional dirty occupationsof leather works, etc. Further, they alsoprotest when they are abused andassaulted by Khanna and his team. Whenthe administration of the Institute triesto ignore the death of Ram Ujagir, adalit student, the dalit students and theirparents, with the support of some non-dalit students like Nilamma and non-dalit teachers like Prof. Malkani, protestagainst them and declare it as a deathforced by society against its system.Ram Ujagir protests with a zeal againstthe exploitative system in his daily lifebut ultimately he surrenders due to thepressure of adverse circumstancesimposed by the Institute in terms ofnot allowing his readmission. Differencebetween the protest by Anukul and RamUjagir is expressed in the letter that

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Ram Ujagir wrote before his death; “Iwas struggling with enthusiasm while youare struggling with an understanding…You have restlessness to change, nothatred against your circumstances. Youhave within yourself a longdrawn struggle,not a revolt of a spark. By changeyou mean to change from within whileI thought only the outer change ischange5”. Thus it is clear that Ram Ujagirwas the first dalit to sacrifice for thecause of the entire community and thatcause is still pursued by Anukul in amore sustained struggle.

D. Novelist’s Background andVision: The novelist Giriraj Kishor

was born in an Agrawal (trader) familyin Muzaffarnagar (U.P.). He took highereducation and got a job at I.I.T. Kanpur(as Director, Creative Writing andPublication Centre). He hailed from amiddle caste and class. He believes:“There is nothing like Scheduled Caste,rather there is a scheduled mentailty,whosoever is pushed aside by the eliteclass which has hegemony, becomes thescheduled one6. He transcends his middlecaste and class background andempathises with the dalits. Accordingto him, it is not necessary that for writingon dalits’ consciousness, one hasnecessarily to be a dalit by birth, ratherit is enough if one puts oneself in thatsituation and realises the pangs of thesystem minutely. The novelist has afuturistic vision to highlight theexploitation of the students from thedown-trodden class, especially from rural

areas. They have not only monetaryproblems in purchasing costly books andinstruments but also social problems ofinteraction with higher caste and classstudents. They cannot speak alienlanguage, namely English, which is themedium of instruction in the technicalinstitutions in India. Thus the novelistdoes not merely depict the social realityfrom caste angle but also from classand cultural angles. Further, the authorhas been a keen observer while depictingthe subordinate status of women insociety in general and educationalinstitutions in particular. Actually,women face similar kinds of obstaclesas dalits do because both issues (casteand gender) are decided by the localsociety— upper caste hegemony andpatriarchy respectively.

E. Type of Realism and Message:The novelist has succeeded inrealistically depicting various shades ofrealism at individual, group and societylevels. For instance, Bawan Ram andhis Chamar community has faceddiscrimination from non-dalits whoconsidered them low. However, dalitsalso have intra-dalit hierarchy ofdiscrimination and the Chamarcommunity looks down Balmiki (Sweeper)community. After taking admission inthe I.I.T., Anukul finds there on Balmikistudent (Baburam) with whom nobodyis ready to share a room in the hostel,therefore Anukul decides to share theroom with him. But when he disclosesall these fact to his parents in a letter,

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his mother reacts strongly because, inher view, her caste is higher in the castehierarchy and her family will be outcastby the entire Chamar community and,therefore, she requests her husband towrite to Anukul to change the roomsomehow. Secondly, when Bawan Ramgoes to Delhi for taking admission ofhis son through the help of the localMember of Parliament. Mr. Chaudhary,both father and son face disrespect fromthe upper caste visitors there on theone hand and M.P.’s wife on the other.While M.P.’s wife tries to keep a distancefrom Bawan Ram and Anukul on thebasis of caste, the M.P., Mr. Chaudhary,does not maintain that distance, ratherhe openly admits that he won the previouselection with the help of Bawan Ramand his community’s votes. Moreover,the M.P. stands for the unity of backwardsand dalits as, in his view, in theexploitation of dalits and backwards,there is a difference only of degree. Whilebackwards are given food in differentutensils of upper caste, dalits are notgiven utensils. But both realise the pangsof wounds, though the wound of dalitsis deeper than that of the backwards.Thus in this novel, the class, caste andcultural (language) exploitation go handin hand. Therefore, realism depicted hereis close to Marxist realism, but it isan Indianised Marxist realism whereincaste exploitation exists in addition toclass exploitation. We get followingmessages from this novel:

(a) As existing in the society neither

all upper castes are bad nor are all dalitsgood, hence a broader viewpoint needsto be taken.

(b) Dalits and backwards should uniteto overthrow the feudal power of theupper castes.

(c) The hegemony of English languageshould be broken and Hindi should begiven due place and recognition in allthe streams of life including the highereducational institutes.

(d) Class differentiation/division ismore important than castedifferentiation/division.

(e) Despite the provision ofreservation for the Scheduled Castes ineducational institutions, the upper castes’mentality of looking down upon themstill exists in society at large thoughupper castes do not mind any kind ofreservation for foreign students whospeak English.

(f) The Bureaucratisation of highereducational institutions has badlydamaged the budding talents in differentways but unfortunately the power-that-be of such institutions does not makeany kind of introspection about itsmalfunctioning, rather it more oftenblames the students and their parentswho are the victims of the system, fornot coping with the requirements of theeducational system.

(IV) Dharti Dhan Na Apna

A. Socio-cultural Base: The socio-cultural base of this novel is a villageof Punjab. This village is divided into

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several settlements, especially those ofthe upper castes/middle castes, on theone hand and the harijans, on the other.The settlement of Harijans is known as“Chamadari”. This reflects socio-culturalbackground of the village. However, thecentral character of the novel, Kali, hadworked in Kanpur town and returnedto his village after working there forsix years. When he was away in thecity, he had nostalgia for his villagelife but when he reached there, he wasdisillusioned with the hard reality ofcasteism and various types ofexploitations in village life. There areupper castes, middle castes like Jats,Bania and Kumbhkar and lower casteslike Chamar. There are Hindu charactersin majority and Christian and Sikhcharactrs in minority.

B. Interaction: There are both intra-dalit and dalit-non-dalit interactions, thelatter leading to conflicts. Significantconflict is between Jats and Chamarswherein Chhajju Shah takes the side ofjats and does not provide money andmaterial to Chamars who are strugglingagainst the Jats in terms of boycottingtheir work due to non-payment of duewages. However, there are also intra-dalit conflicts. Two Chamar families ofMangu, who is the semi-bonded labourof Choudhary Harnam Singh, and of Nikkuand Prito are on one side, supportingthe landowners (because they are alsobenefited from Choudhary harnam Singh’sfamily through Mangu) and Kali and otherChamars are on the other side. Further,

there is an interaction of the villageChamars under the leadership of Kaliwith communist leaders of the region(Dr. Bishan Das and Tahal Singh) andalso with priests of the local Churchand temple. While the Hindu priest doesnot allow Chamars to take water fromhis drinking well at the time of crisis(when the drinking wells of Chamardariare sunk due to floods), the Church priestallows them to use his hand pump inthe beginning but due to filth, the Churchpriest’s wife refuses them to use thatlater. The communist leaders do not helpthem in crisis despite their preachingsbecause in their view class antagonismis not ripe and small help will laceratethe rebellion spirit. Similarly, Churchpriest does not solemnise the marriageof Kali and Gyano when she is pregnantand there is a fear of ex-communicationby the community. This shows that thoughhe preaches for conversion of dalits innormal time, he does not help themin a crisis. In this novel, there is nomajor conflict between upper caste andlower caste; rather one between middlecaste of Jats and lower caste of Chamarsat both social and economic levels.

C. Protest: In this novel, there are twotypes of protest:

(i) Social protest because ofdisrespect shown by Jats to Chamars;and

(ii) Economic protest because of non-payment of due wages to dalit labourersfor their work.

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However, it is a fact that economicprotest is more prominent because itis directly concerned with the questionof survival of the chamars and if theydo not get wages due to them, theywould starve. On the other hand,Choudhary Harnam Singh (landlord)starts beating Santu and Jitu (dalits)simply on the basis of his suspicion thatthe latter had damaged his maize crops.He abuses chamars on several occasions,hence Kali protests.

D. Novelist’s Background andVision: The novelist was born in

a middle class and caste family in avillage in Punjab and got higher education.He spent most of his adolescent daysin Ralhan, a village of his maternal uncle,in Punjab. There he found a Harijansettlement ‘Chamadari’ on the outskirtof the village. The upper/middle casteshad to obey certain social sanctions andtraditions while going to Harijans’settlement. But the author broke thosesanctions by eating with a Chamar family.He was a student of Economics, thereforehe used to see economic causes behindthose social sanctions. Chamars did nothave any right over the land theycultivated, and not even on the house-sites they lived on. He admits that hedid not experience himself the cruelrealities of a Harijan’s life, yet he wassuccessful in seeing them closely. Hehas empathised with the relevantreferences of the Harijans’ life objectivelyand has not imposed his opinion orideology on the story, as he admits so

in the Introduction of the novel. Hisvision is very deep indeed as he wasthe first Hindi novelist to depict Harijans’life so vividly in multi-dimensional ways.He has not been a slave of any ideology,political party or caste lobby. However,it may be said that the author’s visionis limited to protest only, not to a full-fledged movement.

E. Type of Realism and Message:The author has depicted various shadesof social reality and the realism depictedhere is close to the dialectics of Marxistrealism wherein social, political andeconomic forces complement each otherin a dialectical way. Here classexploitation is supplemented by casteexploitation, hence it is an IndianisedMarxist realism. But his realism is notof an orthodox marxist nature becausehe has not praised uncritically thecommunist leaders like Tahal Singh andDr. Bishan Das, who do not help Kaliand his fellows who are struggling againstthe feudal landlords socially andeconomically. While most of the Chamarfamilies are on the verge of starvation,Comrade Bishan Das does not give themfood grains or cash. Similarly on thereligious front, the Church priest alsodoes not help them by giving somethingin cash or kind because he is moreinterested in their conversion fromHinduism to Christianity. However, theChamar community did not agree to thesuggestion for conversion. Finally, oninter-personal front, a gentleman ofunderstanding like Lallu Pahalwan also

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does not help Kali because his castemen (Jats) would get annoyed with him.Further, it is true that in the villagelife there is also village kinship underwhich girls and boys of even the samecaste in the village cannot marry eachother since they are treated like brothersand sisters. This social fact prevailingin North India restricts Kali and Gyanoto marry. Then Kali goes to Church priestand wants to adopt Christianity in casehis marriage is allowed but the priestrefuses to solmenise their marriagebecause the girl is simply a minor. Nextalternative before Kali and Gyano wasto leave the village. But Kali is mentallynot prepared to do so, hence when Gyanobecomes pregnant, her mother andbrother give her poison in order to avoidinsult to the community. This depictionof the fear of the sanctions fromcommunity and society in rural Indiancontext is very realistic.

The message of the novel is that villagecustoms and traditions are deep-rootedand it is very difficult to challenge themand live in the village at the same time.On the other hand, the poverty ofchamars, due to not holding any pieceof land as well as having no alternativeoccupation, makes them subordinate tothe land-holding Jats of the village inmore than one respect. Therefore, anurgent need, to solve the problem, island reforms and it is seriously conveyedthrough this novel from beginning tothe end.

Conclusion: From the above

sociological analysis of text and contextof four Hindi novels, especially theircharacterisation of dalits (the oppressed)we come to following points of conclusion:

First, all four novels are socialdocumentary novels wherein variousaspects of the life, as it is lived, arerealistically depicted.

Second, dalit characters, more oftenthan not, belong to a peripheral groupin society.

Third, dalits face both inter-groupand intra-group conflicts in their dailylife.

Fourth, dalits protest generally ontheir own (Rangbhumi, Parishishta, DhartiDhan Na Apna) and also when guidedby some catalyst agent (Budhua Ki Beti).In all these novels, dalits react to andchallenge the existing social, politicaland economic structures in varyingdegrees.

Fifth, to realistically depict dalitcharacters in a novel, it does not seemto be necessary for the writer to bea born dalit. Rather his world-visionand the capacity to empathise with dalitsby transcending his social (caste) andeconomic (class) background can proveto be helpful for enabling him in carryingout his mission. The creative writershave to both ‘declass’ and ‘decaste’themeselves. That is, they should moveforward from mere ‘sympathy’ to‘empathy’, then the non-dalits’ writingwould be relevant and successful despitetheir lack of ‘self-experience’ (which only

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a born dalit has). But this empathy alsorequires a high level of creativeimaginativeness, artistry, intellectualvigour and minute observation ofcontemporary social reality. These fournovelists have succeeded in this regard.

Sixth, every novel has a messageof some kind-social, economic, politicalor cultural-connected with a particulartime and place.

Seventh the relationship betweenliterature and society is indirect,associational, multi-dimensional andcomplex; i.e., there are severalmediations between the two.

Eighth, political, social and economiclevels of reality are competing with oneanother in India, therefore it is oftendifficult for any novelist to decide asto which level is dominant.


1 . V. Shukla, “Ugra Ka Sahityik Sangharsh”, Vartaman Sahitya, Issue No. 12,December, 2001, P.8

2. B. Pandey, “P.B.S. Ugra Evam Nirala”, Vartaman Sahitya, Issue No.12, December,2001, P.18

3. Cited in Bharat Bhushan Agrawal (1971), “Hindi Upanyas Par Pashchatya Prabhav”,R.C. Jain Evam Santati, Delhi, Page 95

4. Nalin V. Sharma (1968), “Hindi Upanyas: Visheshtah Premchand”, Gyanpeeth,Patna, P. 110

5. Giriraj Kishor “Parishishta”, (1984) Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, P. 26

6. Ibid, Blurb.

Note: The word ‘chamar’ occurs, as used by the authors– editor.

Subhash Sharma, born 1959, educated in J.N.U., author of ten books

including books in English ‘why people protest, dialectics of agrarian

development. ’ His main interest includes culture, environment, education

and development. He works in Ministry of Defence and lives in New

D e l h i .

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eTHE TRUTH ABOUT 1857Ramnika Gupta

Translated by

Promila Garg, revised by Laura Brueck


Was the revolt of 1857 the first war of independence a spontaneousrevolt of soldiers or a religious war? Or was it a war betweentwo civilizations – Christianity and Islam – as it is understoodin India today? If it was the first war of independence, whatwould we call earlier, similar rebellions led by tribals that eruptedagainst the British empire? Why have these rebellions been ignoredwhile the soldiers’ revolt of 1857 has been called the first warof Independence? These are a few questions to consider aboutthe 1857 revolt.

It’s true, today there is a lot of debate about 1857 but therewas no doubt there was a rebellion against British rule. In spiteof all this debate, we have to accept that this rebellion, howeverinspired by various vested interests, created an atmosphere ofhatred against the British.

After a few years, if not immediately, this atmosphere of hatreddeveloped into the specific goal of freedom for India. Immediatelyafter the end of this war in 1858 a fearful silence descendedthat was not broken either by the intellectuals, literary figures,warriors, rajas, or nawabs. Rather, it was the tribal warriorswho broke this silence and continued armed attacks on the Britisharmy up to the beginning of the next century. The center ofthe controversy is on the very intention of this so-called freedomstruggle. Hence the following questions:

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1. If 1857 was the first war ofindependence then why were the earlierrebellions not called wars ofindependence? Is there some conspiracyor ill intention behind this?

2. The second debate concernswhether it was really a freedom strugglefought against the British empire. Wasit merely a soldiers’ revolt promptedby injured religious sentiments? Wasit a clash of two cultures? Or ratherwas it triggered by the clashes of personalor political interests of the rajas ornawabs?

Thus the debate is around two majorissues: first, why does history ignorethe long history of rebellions before 1857to declare this soldiers’ revolt the firstwar of independence? Second, thedefinition of it as a war of independenceis itself questionable. In what follows,I will analyze these points.

While there is no doubt that theserebellions were fought against the Britishrulers before 1857, they were wagednot by the rajas and maharajas, butrather by the tribals. These rebellionswere not organized to gain any poweror territory. They were against theEnglish, who had imposed a new,exploitatative social system on tribalcommunities. The tribals fought againstthe British army with confidence, relyingcompletely upon their own strength andindigenous weapons. In fact, the tribalshad their own collective community lifeand political system based on equality,freedom, and brotherhood. They also

had their own elected administrativesystem at both the village and statelevels. They wanted to retain their ownsystems.

It is an unquestionable fact that before1857 tribal communities of bothJharkhand and Khandesh (Maharashtra)had offered a clarion call of revolt. Beforethe so-called first war of independencevarious tribal communities were fightingvery bravely against the British in manydistant reaches of India. They did notallow the British to grow their rootsin those areas.

Ninety years before 1857, in 1766,the Pahadias of Jharkhand took up armsagainst the British. The war continueduntil 1778. After that a chain of revoltstook place in Jharkhand.

At that time in these tribal areasthe forest and village lands belongedto the people and not the nawabs, rajas,or the British. Though it is true thatthese rajas and nawabs were plunderingthe people, it is also a fact that theynever disturbed or interfered in theircultural life and administrative systems.Initially, even the British could not reachthese far-flung areas inhabited by thetribals.

The trouble started when the Britishstarted cutting the old forests ofManbhum and Damini-e-koh (the presentSantal Pargana) for the extension of therailways. This dislocated the tribals ona large scale.

At the same time the British

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introduced the zamindari system, a newsystem of collecting revenue. Underthis system village lands where tribalshad previously been doing collectivefarming were distributed amongzamindars and brokers. As a result,people revolted on a large scale againstthis revenue system. The tribalsconsidered both the British and thezamindars, as well as their brokers, theirenemies because they were forcing thissystem upon them. Their struggle wasthus against all those who were agentsof British rule, both English and Indian:police, commissioners, darogas, officials,bailiffs, zamindars, or moneylenders.This was the real people’s war. It wasneither for religion nor greed for power.Rather, they were adamant to continuetheir own administrative system, theirway of life, culture, and language. Theywanted to retain their land rights overthe forests, and their human rights offreedom, equality, and brotherhood.Their aim was never to acquire estates,kingdoms, or power.

It was thus a conspiracy of historianswho intentionally did not record theserebellions in history. In fact, tribalrebellions were fought for political rights.They were fought to continue their ownnative system in the face of the newforeign system that was being forcedupon them. The prevalent native systemthat was practiced by the tribals wasa collective decision-making processbased on consensus. All lands belongedto the village, and they cultivated them

collectively. They had no notion ofproperty. The whole village and its landand forests were owned by the peoplewho lived in it.

Thus these revolts took the shapeof class wars because they were foughtbetween the poor people of India andtheir exploiters, both foreign and Indian.


These rebellions were steps towards thegreater struggle for independence. Thefirst was the Pahadia rebellion of 1766in Jharkhand fought under the leadershipof Ramana Ahladi. Soon after in 1781Rani Sarveshari raised the flag of rebellion.

In the first week of January, 1784,Tilka Manjhi, along with a group of tribalwarriors, captured Bhagalpur, Munger,and Santal, Pargana District. Tilka killedAugustus Cleveland, the Commissionerof Bhagalpur, with his arrow after seeinghim rape a tribal girl. To avenge thisthe British then arrested him and tiedhim to the legs of four horse-carts anddragged him from Sultanpur to Bhagalpur.Yet he did not die until finally he washanged from a tree at the crossroadof Bhagalpur.

- Vishnu Manki took command of theBundu rebellion in 1797-98.

- A struggle started in 1800 in Tamadunder the leadership of Dukhan Manki,soon erupting into a full-fledgedrebellion and lasting until 1808.

- Another Munda revolt of Tamad tookplace in 1819-20.

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- At the same time, Rugdev and KontaMunda started the Kol rebellion.

- In the same year the ‘Ho’ rebellionalso took place.

- Again in 1828 and 1832 Bindrai andSinghrai revived the Kol rebellion, anthe Kols captured the royal fort. Thusthe tribal rebels constitutedindependent government well before1857.

- Throughout this period, theadministration, police, zamindars, andmoneylenders – in connivance withthe local Darogas – continuedcommitting barbaric atrocities againsttribals. This led people to revolt in1853-56. With the slogans “Hul BaharZitkar” and “Hul Zegal Zitkar” theSantal-Hool revolt began under theleadership of Sidhu, Kanhu, Chand,and Bhairav. Ten thousand tribalswere killed in this revolt and thousandswere arrested or forcefully drivenaway. People supported this revolutionwith their hearts and souls, but alsowith money, weapons, clothes, andfood for the rebels. All the poorpeople, both Adivasi and non-Adivasi,joined in the Santal Hool.

- The tribal revolt of 1766 had reachedits peak in the Santal Hool of 1856,but the fire of revolt kept quietlysmouldering until 1895. In that yearBirsa Munda led another big rebellionknown as “Ulgulan.” This war wasfought against the new revenue systemand in an effort to recapture their

lands and forests from the British,zamindars, and moneylenders who hadusurped their lands unscrupulously.This continued well past 1900.

- The Santal revolt burst forth for thelast time in 1902. This was takenforth by the Kharwars, Manjhis,Korwas, Kokhas, Talangars, Khadias,Gonds and Mundas.


- In the lap of the Satpura Mountainsthe tribal-inhabited Khandesh revoltedagainst the British in 1825. Theirrebellion continued until the 20th

century. The British could not establishpeace in those areas even with theirwealth of money, swords, and guns.The credit of the first rebellion againstthe British also goes to Khandesh andthe tribal communities of Puna, Nasik,and Thane in Maharashtra.

- In 1876 thousands of Bhils in MadhyaPradesh got together to fight againstthe British. The British rounded upthousands of them and put them tothe gallows on trees.


- Rani Chenamma waged war againstthe British in the 19th century, around1824. Thus Rani Chenamma revoltedagainst the British 33 years beforethe Rani of Jhansi. Chenamma alsofought against the British to make heradopted son heir to the throne, butthe British court did not agree. Afterthe arrest of the Rani, this war turnedinto a people’s war. The revolt was

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led by the brave Rayanna, a Dhangartribal of Sangoli, who worked as therevenue collector in the court. Rayannawas hanged on 26th January, 1831.


- “Neeli,” the great woman warrior, withTalakkar Chandu and Kurchia tribalsin Kerala stood bravely against theBritish forces. They were hanged.

Andhra Pradesh

- On 25th December, 1922, AllurrySitaram Raju openly established a frontagainst British forces. Dozens of Britishsoldiers and officers were killed. Thiswar was also against the moneylendersand drinking establishments run byboth the government and privatepeople. Sitaram Raju also fought fordecentralization of power through thePanchayati Raj. By this time peoplehad realized what colonization meant.By then Gandhi had also stepped intothe politics of the country. It is strangethat Gandhi condemned Allurry forrevolting against the British. But itwas even more surprising that thesame Gandhi and his Congress Partypraised Allurry after he was killed.In India this kind of double talk hasexisted for ages. It is because ofthis double talk that tribal revolts werenever considered as freedom struggles.

- Bhima Gond fought against the Nizamon the question of land and was hanged.


- Govind Guru revolted in Rajasthanagainst the barbaric rule of the Rajas

and the British government. At thebehest of Rajput Rajas of Rajasthan,the British army killed 1500 tribalsovernight while they were on theirway to offer coconuts as a symbolof worship to Govind Guru in Bansvadaof Manbhum District.



- The revolt against the East IndiaCompany started as early as 1774by elected tribal sardars called Ciamsand by some rajas. In some areasof the northeastern state now calledMeghalaya the British attacked theKhasis but were defeated. The firstbattle of Jayantia Raja against MajorHanikar was fought from 1774-1821.

- There were ripples of discontent evenagainst the East India Company’sofficials who forcefully enteredMeghalaya and started constructingroads and invading their territoryindiscriminately. The British attackedTirot Singh on 4th April, 1829 becausehe did not accept the agreement theyoffered. This rebellion lasted for threelong years. Though they consideredabandoning the struggle, eventuallythe British convinced some of theassociates of Tirot Singh to acceptthe agreement, and Tirot Singh wasput into solitary confinement whenthe battle ended.

- After a few years the British issuedan order preventing people fromburying their dead in their graveyards

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and carrying weapons on festival days.They also imposed punitive taxes. Theyeven went so far as to forcefully collecttheir weapons and burn them in frontof their eyes. This triggered the revolt.

- Nangbah, who had participated in theTirot Singh battle as a young mantook the leadership of this revolt andwonderfully organized this long-drawnbattle. The British deployed manybattalions to put him down. But hecould not be cowed. Rather, a full-fledged army base was completelydestroyed by Khasi and Jayantia rebelsin which two officers and many Britishsoldiers were killed. British historianscalled it genocide. Ultimately aftera long war Nangbah was arrested onthe sly when he was sick. Thousandsof people were forced to witness hispublic hanging from a tree.


- In Nagaland the battle with the Britishlasted for five months, and continuedperiodically for a period of 19 years.


- Rani Rupliani declared in 1889 thatshe would throw the British out ofMizoram. She was arrested in 1893.Two years later, in 1895, she diedin prison.

Freedom, a dream and a feeling, wasalways there in the heart and eyes ofthe tortured and suffering people. Itwas their dream to be free from boththeir foreign and local Indian rulers.The leaders of the 1857 revolt wanted

to see these dreams of expansion andfreedom materialize. Let us now turnto the other issues.

As far as the British are concernedthis soldiers’ revolt was only a mutinyagainst British rule perpetrated by theBritish Indian army. This is what wehave read in our schoolbooks.Apparently this was a spontaneous self-ignited revolt by the Indians in the Britisharmy, for fear of the pollution of theirreligion.

There have been many reasons citedfor this revolt. One reason soldiersdecided to revolt is that soldiers wereforced to break open bullet cartridgesgreased with cow and pig fat with theirteeth. In Indian tradition, cow and pigfat is associated with religion. This iswhy they considered it a religious issueand raised their arms to protect theirreligion. Since this issue concerned bothMuslims and Hindus, they joined handsagainst the third power, even thoughthey had often been fighting amongthemselves. Religious leaders from bothsides issued appeals in support of thiswar. The appeal of Nana Saheb andGhode Pant to the Hindus and the appealpf Shahjada Mohammad Firozshah to theMuslims are enough evidence to provethis point. In these appeals words like“religious war,” “jehad,” and “kafir” wereused profusely. The “third power” werethe Englishmen of the East IndiaCompany. They were their commonenemy. Though this cannot be calleda religious war, it certainly started

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because of hurt religious sentiments.

Another faction asserts that the revoltwas caused by the conflict of two cultures:the Christians and the Muslims. It istrue that many Christians were massacredin Delhi during the revolt of 1857, butthe soldiers were not concerned aboutChristianity, but rather about protectingtheir own religion, which the British werebent on destroying. The issues beforethe soldiers were neither Christianity,nor nation, nor kingly power. Theydid not have any idea about the extentof the colonial power that had enslavedtheir country. Rather, if there wasanything that concerned them it wastheir religion and the rulers who wereout to destroy their religion. Theythought of their rulers as “English,” not“Christian.” This is why folk songs thatrecord the revolt of 1857 use the word“Firangi” (foreigner) to refer to theEnglish. In Rajasthan they used theword “Bhuretia” (white man). Nowhereis the word “Christian” used in any songor legend and for this reason WilliamDalrymple’s theory that the revolt wasdue to the clash of two cultures seemsto be wrong.

Another suggestion is that the rajas,maharajs, and nawabs joined the revoltfor their personal interest. There isno dispute about this contention. Thereal dispute is over the intention behindthe revolt. True, in the beginning theconfrontation was between the soldiersand British rulers over a religious issue.But later the common people, farmers,

and some intellectuals also joined thisrevolt. Thus grabbing the opportunity,the nawabs and rajas also jumped into settle their longstanding grudgesagainst the British regarding their jagirs,kingdoms, estates, rights of succession,and opposition to the impingement oftheir freedom. In the name of savingtheir religion, the kings and nawabs tookfull advantage of this unorganized soldiers’revolt. They cashed in on the religioussentiments and issued appeals to jointhe “jehad.”

How can we call it a war ofindependence? Was this revolt againstimperialism? The logic given for declaringit was a war of independence is thegreat political awakening in the countrythat followed. This awakening alsotriggered the large-scale revolt in whichboth kings and subjects joined hands.This can only prove it not to be a warof independence or a struggle againstimperial powers. There are severalreasons behind this.

- The leadership of the spontaneousrevolt was taken over by the peoplewho were fighting for their ownpersonal interests. Thus it is not properto call it a revolt to wrest freedomfrom the British.

- True, while it was a large-scale unifiedrevolt throughout India, we shouldnot ignore the fact that the kings andthe nawabs were already organized.They had their own standing army.That is why they had no problemcooperating and spreading the revolt

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throughout the country. It was easyfor them to overcome distance andtime.

- In fact, the soldiers who revolted werethe same persons who had beensuppressing and robbing the peopleat the behest of the British. Before1857 the same unit of soldiers at Chatra(Jharkhand) had brutally crushed thetribal revolt. It was these very soldierswho crushed the Santal rebellion ofHazaribagh and Siddo Kanho’s SantalHool of 1855-56. Hence we cannotsuggest that their aim was freedomfrom the British. If they had anyinterest at all, it was either religionor the right to forcefully collect taxesfrom the people for their own profit.

- It was only in 1870 when Indiansunderstood the meaning of colonialism.The idea of freedom understood thesedays did not exist then. If the peoplehad no understanding of colonialism,how could they pursue politicalfreedom?

Thus the struggle of 1857 was amixture of unorganized, half-organized,and organized powers. In this strugglepowers that were at variance ideologicallyjoined hands for their own vestedinterests and came together on theplatform of religion. In short, it wasthe revolt of self-interested forces thatwere captured by unorganized feudalpowers. Hence the motive behind therevolt was a bundle of individual interestsand nothing else.

There are two important factorsregarding the participation andassociation of tribal and low castecommunities in the 1857 rebellion. First,wherever the tribals joined the 1857revolt, they had already revolted earlier.In those places, even after the ceasefireof 1859, the tribals continued theirstruggle against the British who werecommitting atrocities against the peoplein revenge. Wherever the tribals andlow caste people fought, they foughtbravely and often died while fighting.They did not surrender, and the Britishsword, salary, or position could not buythem. Khwaja Bhil of Khandesh did notsurrender even after British assurancethat he would not be hanged. This,in fact, was the real freedom struggle.

The second point that needs attentionis that though inspired by religioussentiments, some backward people joinedthe rebels. It is also true, however,that it was these very soldiers who werecommitting atrocities upon them, actingas bailiffs of the rajas, nawabs, and theBritish. It was quite possible that whenthe upper class residents of villages tookup with the rebels the weaker majorityof the village was also forced to followthem.

The most astonishing thing about thisrevolt was that once the weaker sectionjumped into the battle, they never lookedback out of fear or personal benefit.They stood firmly, faithfully, and bravely,and fearlessly fought in this battle. Itis also likely that the weaker section–

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whether Hindu, Muslim, or other – werebrainwashed by their rulers and followedthe upper classes into the fray. Theymay have been convinced that the wordof the rajas and landlords was piousand that it would be a sin to deny theirorder. In India, kings have always beenconsidered representatives of God.

Thus it is likely that the commonmen jumped into the war and sacrificedthemselves in the name of loyalty towardstheir landlords, rajas, and masters. Still,their sacrifice was more valuable thanthat of the rajas and nawabs. It is awell-known fact now that it was not RaniLaxmi Bai of Jhansi who fought the battleof Jhansi. It was her maid JhalkariBai (who looked like Rani Laxmibai) whofought the battle and died, and she didso out of loyalty to the Rani. But wasn’tRani Laxmi Bai’s motive to win backher kingdom? Most of the rajas,maharajas, and nawabs were fighting toget back their territories or to getunbridled rights to freely collectrevenues from the people. This cannotbe called patriotism. Basically, this revoltwas in the name of religion in whichall the rights and privileges of the uppercastes were protected. They were fightingto keep them intact, just as they were,prior to British rule.

Mangal Pandey once had an angryencounter with Matadeen, a sweeper,because his tumbler had touchedPandey’s. Matadeen then taunted himabout biting the cartridges laced withcow and pig fat everyday. If that did

not pollute his religion, then why washe making such a fuss about a tumbler?It was this that instigated Mangal Pandeyto revolt. Yet everyone agrees thateven if Mangal Pandey had won the battle,he still would not have allowed Matadeento touch his tumbler, nor ever wouldhave considered him his equal. He wouldhave always looked at him as anuntouchable. Thus how can we call thisa common man’s revolt or war forfreedom?

What would have happened if theserebels had won the battle? Would Peshwa’sRaj in Maharashtra have continued andwould untouchables have still had totie a broom around their waist and asmall pitcher around their neck? Wouldit have made any difference in the statusof the people who fought against theMarathas in Patiala and were forced torun away to Madhya Pradesh becauseof Maratha atrocities? These people,who took shelter under Guru Ghasi Das,are still living in Madhya Pradesh underthe cover of a false identity.

People had been singing songs inpraise of the British until the times ofBhartendu Harishchandra. There wasno concept of India as one nation. Itwas a land of separate rajwadas andkingdoms. There had been a longstandingtradition of surrendering before foreignenemies. But it was only the Mogulswho then settled in India after defeatingand mining the wealth of Indian states.Rajput kings then gave their daughtersto Mogul emporers in order to attain

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higher status in their courts. Mogulofficials also enjoyed elite status in Rajputcourts.

All these questions need to beaddressed. For these rebels to getfreedom from the British did not meangetting freedom for the country or itspeople. Rather, it was to get freedomto do as they liked and to exploit thepeople for their own luxurious pursuits.

Now, one could also ask whether theBritish freed the common man from thefeudal cruelties of the kings and nawabs.But whether the British freed the commonIndian from the clutches of Indian rulersis not the question. It is a fact, however,that the British curbed the rights of theseunscrupulous rulers. The people weregiven the right to appeal against theatrocities of Indian rulers and if theirappeal was approved, the raja’s territorycould be confiscated. Kings and nawabswanted relief from this law, so that theirrule could continue unimpeded. Indianrulers had no vision for the welfare ofthe Indian people. For the commonman, both British colonizers and Indiankings were rulers, not friends. But thereis no question the Indian people hadundiluted loyalty toward their kings andnawabs. This sense of loyalty did notexist among the Indian masses for theBritish.

Vir Savarkar called the soldiers’ revoltof 1857 the first war of independencein his book, “1857, the First Indian Warof Independence.” Without reading it,the British banned the book in 1909,

leading to book’s fame across the country.Savarkar, who believed in the theoryof a Hindu Nation, used the revolt asa symbol of Indian valor because it wasled by opposing Hindu and Muslimpowers. He particularly favored rulerssuch as the Peshwas. It is likely hecreated this myth to inspire other Indians,particularly Hindus. In this same way,historians aligned with liberal andprogressive powers propelled this as ananti-imperialist war. It was quite obviousthat the powers fighting against the British– the kings and the people – supportedkingship, itself an imperialist system.Thus was one imperialist power fightinganother and cannot be called a people’swar against imperialism as was beingfought in other countries in the sameperiod.

If we analyze the results of the 1857war, we must recognize the fear anddread it left in the minds of the people.And, as it has already been suggested,it also created a feeling of hatred towardthe British. The British also becamemore harsh and strict in their governance.They no longer gave any concessionsto the Indians, but rather increased theirsuppression of the masses. Whereverthe tribals had revolted prior to 1857,however, they found some relief. TheBritish were forced to make special lawswhich to some extent allowed tribalsall over India to lead their lives theway they wanted. This was becausethey had realized they could not wagedrawn-out battles with tribals. Tribals

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were experts in guerilla warfare whichmade it impossible for the British torule them peacefully. The British thusmade different laws in different landsto protect their land rights. The truthis that tribals were more exploited bytheir local rulers than by the British.It is more accurate to suggest that theBritish learned to use Indian agents likethe rajas, landlords, and moneylendersto exploit them instead of confrontingthem directly. In spite of this, the tribalscontinued fighting against the British torescue their culture and indigenoussystems of governance.

It was strange that the rulers andthe upper class people who weresupposed to protect the people were

either selling out or surrenderingthemselves. They were selling out thecountry for their own greed. It wasthese very rulers who had driven awaythe tribals to forests, the Aryan kingsand feudal lords who had conspired tokeep them away from civilization. Inspite of all of this injustice, the tribalscontinued fighting until the end. Theyembraced death but were not lured bygreed. There were innumerable bravemen and women who died for the country.The names of many of these people havebeen erased. There are those bravefighters who were not considered fit tobe recorded in history, though theyinitiated and inspired the first war offreedom. Let us salute them.

Ramnika Gupta, a known Hindi poet and journalist, is the editor of

a quarterly magazine Yuddhrat Aam Aadmi. She has more than 65

books to her credit. She is the president of the Ramnika Foundation

and the Coordinator of the All-India Tribal Literary Forum. She concentrates

on tribal issues across India. She lives in Delhi.

Promila Garg is a former professor at JNU. She has worked extensively

on translation. She lives in Delhi.

Laura Brueck is assistant professor of Asian Languages and Civilizations

at the University of Colorado- Boulder. Her research and writing focuses

on contemporary Hindi Dalit l iterature. She often visits India.

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Translated by

Dhiraj Singh

It was around 1928, we were in Allahabad for a working committeemeeting of the Hindustani Akademi. We had heard Mahatma Gandhiwas also going to be there at that time. My husband had fora long time been very keen on meeting him. Pandit Sunderlalknew about this. Soon we received a letter from him asking myhusband to come to Allahabad two days ahead of the committeemeeting and meet Mahatma Gandhi.

“I have to leave today,” he told me.

“But don’t you have to go four days later,” I asked him.

“I am going two days ahead to meet the Mahatma.”

“I am sure he’d be there still when you go for the Akademimeeting,” I said.

“It’s possible that he might not stay there longer. He’s notknown to stay in one place for long.”

“Okay, then go.”

“People are surprised when they find out that I haven’t evermet the Mahatma,” he said.

And so my husband left two days ahead of the meeting andstayed on two days after the meeting but still couldn’t meet theman. When he came home I asked him what had happened. “Thepoor man doesn’t have the time. There were hundreds of peoplewaiting to meet and he was so busy. He reads hundreds of lettersevery day.”



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“But then how do people ever meethim,” I objected, “it’s not as if he’s evernot busy. His whole life is like that.”

“Well, these are very persistentpeople. And anyway I didn’t just wantto say ‘hello and goodbye’ I would’veliked to spend some time with him.Whatever he writes one gets to readso I thought it would be nice to talkto him. He’s known to be a greatconversationalist, just as he is great atanything else he does. I thought a face-to-face meeting would be good.”

“It’s a pity… you spent four extradays and for what.”

“Yes, it was my bad luck.”

Then in 1934 they had a Hindi Parishadmeeting in Wardha. This time he wentto Wardha to speak about his story,Hans (The Swan). He had to submit thestory to the Parishad as well as discusssome things about the state of Hindiand Hindustani in the country. This timeMahatma Gandhi had invited himpersonally. He went and stayed in Wardhafor four days. On returning he exclaimed:“The Mahatma is even greater than Ihad expected. There must hardly be aperson who met him and didn’t comeback transformed by him. Such is hispersonality that people are pulledtowards him. There is something abouthis face and the way he speaks thatpeople just forget about everything else.In fact, I think even the vilest man wouldnot be able to resist him. His presencealone is enough to make even the mostconsummate liars tell the truth.”

“But why doesn’t he have the sameeffect on Jinnah? Does it mean Jinnahis the stronger of the two?”

“I think it will happen in time. TheMahatma is a man of many talents.”

“So, have you also become a fan?”

“A fan? I have become his disciple.In fact, I think I’d become his disciplewhen he had come to Gorakhpur.”

“Oh, you became his follower firstand met him later,” I said.

“To be a follower doesn’t meanworshipping a person, it means tryingto emulate him.”

“And have you begun emulating him?”

“What do you think? I wrote‘Premashram’ after he came to Gorakhpurand then it was published in 1922.”

“But wasn’t that already a work inprogress?”

“Which further proves my point…that I’d become his disciple withouthaving met him.”

“So how does that prove hisgreatness?” I asked.

“It means that his greatness madesuch a good disciple out of me thatI can now anticipate what he’s goingto say next.”

“But this is hardly logical.”

“Well, it’s not about logic as muchas it is about faith. In my mind he isthe greatest person living in the worldtoday. He is also trying to work towardsthe upliftment of the poor, the labourers

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and so am I. My writing is actuallyinspired by him. He is also trying tobring together Hindus and Muslims. Itoo am trying to bring Hindi and Urdutogether as Hindustani.”

“And how do you do that?”

“I do it through my writing.”

“So just because you write inHindustani you think it will bring peopletogether?”

“Well, it is a language that’s agreeableto both Hindus and Muslims, and thecommon man. In fact, whenever we dohave a national language it will be achild born of both Hindi and Urdu.”

“But shouldn’t our national languagebe Hindi instead of Hindustani?” I asked.

“Do you know how the word‘Hindustan’ came into being? WhenMuslims came here and settled downthey began calling the land, Hindustan.Now the name Hindustan has stuck butwe’re still fighting over the language.And I think it will only end when bothHindus and Muslims think things outwithout getting all charged up. Theyshould think about co-existing, co-mingling… beginning with the languagethey speak. As long as they keep fightingabout language there is little hope fora solution.”

“So should we just drag in Farsi wordsinto Hindi and Sanskrit words into Urdu?”

“No one’s talking about dragging anywords anywhere. The common languageshould be the language spoken by most

people, and it shouldn’t matter whetherit is Hindi with a Farsi flavour or Urduwith a touch of Sanskrit. After all weare not a country of a single people.When there are so many different peopleand faiths why should we go aroundlooking for purity in language.”

“It’s all fine in theory,” I said, “thismixing doesn’t work when it happensin your own family.”

“And who says it doesn’t? In theolden days many a Hindu king wouldgladly marry off a sister or a daughterto a Muslim Emperor. In fact, it wassupposed to be a big thing for them.I’d agree it didn’t happen both ways.But it happens today also. All thosewomen who are thrown out of your Hinduhouseholds find a place among Muslims.Or they end up at the brothels. Justremember that all the Muslims in thecountry didn’t come from Persia andArabia. When they throw their womenout on the streets why don’t your Hindubrethren think about purity.”

“So now you’re a Muslimsympathiser.”

“I am no one’s sympathiser, noranyone’s enemy.”

“Who do you believe in then? Ramor Rahim?”

“For me Ram, Rahim, Buddha, Christall are worthy of worship. I considerthem all great.”

“No but tell me what are you?”

“I am a human being and I believe

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in humanity, being helpful to my fellowmen. That is who I am and those arethe kind of people I respect and admire.I have friends who are Hindus and thosethat are Muslims and I don’t considerone better than the other.”

“How are they the same?” I was gettingangry now, “Muslims kill cows and thatis the reason behind so many Hindu-Muslim riots in which so many peopledie.”

“So how does that make Muslimssingularly responsible? Why is it thata Muslim using an old and milk-less cowfor sacrifice boils so much Hindu bloodbut not a whimper when the Britishslaughter thousands of cows and calvesfor their dinner table? This isn’t reallyso much about cow sacrifice as it isabout a competitive hatred between thetwo. Tell me which Devi temple doesnot sacrifice rams? Is the ram not aliving creature? So why is it okay tosacrifice a ram and not a cow? Afterall everyone seems to love a good muttondish. You make Hindus sound like theonly people with compassion and mercy.Do you know which community has thehighest rate of crime against women?It is Hindus. They seem to have madeit a custom of throwing their womenout on the streets. Sometimes you don’teven need an excuse. Why then doesit surprise them when someone becomesa Muslim? Don’t they think of these thingswhen they’re showing their women thedoor? Do they leave them any choice?And why is only the character of a woman

judged so harshly? Why is the man notheld responsible? In my mind men aremore, if not doubly, guilty wheneverthe character of a woman is put in doubt.Why then is the poor woman only thrownout of the house? Why is she the onealways responsible for all the misfortunethat comes knocking at her door?

“Men have for ages made victimsout of women. In fact, it is the menwho make the laws. Laws that suit them.It is the men who have many wives,who marry women younger than theirdaughters. To me this seems like an unfairdistribution of guilt. Women have allthe guilt and men, all the freedom. Allthe laws have been made to maintainthis status quo. What is the poor womanto do then? She has very little choicebut to change her religion. Because themen in her life would rather that shekilled herself. That is what it seems liketo me. I don’t really know what or howwe expect our women to be.”

“And the prostitutes who are beingpushed out of the cities,” I had keptquiet for too long, “what do you haveto say about them?”

“Maybe that is a reflection of oursociety. A society that wants to brushwomen under the carpet. I am in factvery grateful to Dayanand. It was thanksto his Arya Samaj movement that womenearned some amount of respectabilityin Hindu society. All women should beeternally grateful to him for getting theSharda Bill passed.”

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“Why should we all be eternallygrateful to him?”

“It would be shame if you’re not.Even the Mahatma has done a lot forgetting women some equality in oursociety. In fact, if our society doesn’trealise its folly then the day is not farwhen Hindu girls will leave their housesand find themselves husbands of theirown choice.”

“That would not be a pity. Becausewhen boys and girls choose their ownlife partners at a young age they’re usuallynot wise in the ways of the world. Andoften they put themselves up fordisappointment and deceit. Suchmarriages may seem very attractive butthey’re anything like that.”

“But the fact is no matter how muchyou or I or the world tries to put anend to it, it is not going to stop. Theday is not far when such marriages wouldbe the norm. The more we try to distanceourselves from Western influences thetighter we get into their grip.”

“God save me from seeing that day,”I said.

“Why do you say that? Don’t youyourself try to run away from all thatis old and regressive in our society?”

“Yes but I don’t want to completelygive up my traditions. I only want tobring about change and reform whereit is necessary.”

“But why is this so surprising? Whereyou want some reform your futuregenerations would simply like to wipe

the slate clean. Laws and traditions havea way of changing with the times. Youcan’t expect to live like the ancientsin the 20th century. Things change andthey should. Why should anyone havethe right to exploit another?”

“Yes, you are right. We should begrateful to all the great men who havehelped our cause. In fact we should alsobe grateful to you.”

“What have I done to deserve that?I am merely someone trying to atonefor the sins of his forefathers.”

“Who can claim to know sinners fromsaints… isn’t everyone a victim in theend?”

“And why not? After all, what onedoes, does come back to him or her…that’s what we call the Theory of Karma.”

“But now there’s not even time toapportion blame… who’s done what, who’sresponsible for what.”

“Well, we can try. First our forefatherssuppressed their women and then wetheir children found ourselves suppressedby a foreign power. But now that we’restrong and grown up we will have tofight both kinds of suppressions together.”

“How can the women fight whenthey’re still being suppressed?”

“Well, that is something that’schanging gradually. I don’t know whywe end up arguing about that again andagain.”

“What do you think about women’semancipation?” I asked.

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“I think both men and women areborn equal.”

“Then you should do more for thecause of women.”

“I do my bit through my writing,through literature.”

“But how does it help? Most of uscan’t even read.”

“One doesn’t stop writing becausethere is illiteracy. It is always a gradualprocess. Do you know that the conditionof present-day Russia was already foretold200 years ago by its writers?”

“Well, who has lived to be 200.”

“You want instant results, don’t you?Well, you just might live to see them.Things have changed by leaps and boundsin the last 25 years alone.”

“But our society is riddled with thesame problems.”

“How can you say that? Your mothermay have considered going to jail forthe freedom struggle but you actuallywent to jail. And you were not alone,more than 20,000 women volunteeredarrest alongside their men. Isn’t thata sign of growing equality? These arevery positive signs for our society.”

Once, when the Sahitya Sabha meetingwas to be held in Delhi he came backfrom the press at about 4 pm and said:“I have to leave today at 5 for Delhi…please keep my luggage ready.”

“What is the hurry?” I protested, “ourdaughter is here…”

“She is going to stay for some time.”

“But tell me what is the urgency?”

“Jainendra has written…”

“When will you come back?”

“I think I should be back in 3-4days. This will be my first time in Delhi!”

“What if you give it a miss this time?”

“No, Jainendra will feel very bad.”

I packed his bags for 3-4 days buthe finally came back after a week. Iwas worried because he didn’t usuallystay on like this. I was thinking maybehe’s fallen ill or something. I called themanager so that he could send him atelegram.

“Don’t worry,” the manager said, “heshould be back in a day or so.” I alsothought, this is his first time in Delhithat’s why he’s decided to stay on. Ididn’t send the telegram but my worrywas growing.

When he returned on the seventhday I was very angry. “You have noconcern for us. You didn’t even thinkwhat we would be going through… Yousaid you were going for four days andyou come back after a week.”

He looked at me with patient eyes.“First hear my side of the story… thenyou’d probably not be as angry withme as you now are. I think you’d havedone the same thing if you were in myplace.”

“Well, you are the story-teller andeverything’s a story to you…”

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“Now that is not fair. Do I not careabout you?”

“I’ve just seen how much.”

This time he smiled. “Okay, first listento my story.”

“Am listening…”

He held my hand and began his story.“When I reached Jainendra’s house Irealised Pandit Sunderlal was alreadythere. The meeting started the day Ireached and we got busy for the nextthree days. During the meeting I meta gentleman from Punjab who insistedI go to his house. In fact, he had earliertried to meet me twice when I was inLucknow and once in Benaras. He wasmy big fan and insisted that I stay athis place. And believe me it was noteasy to convince him otherwise. Bothhe and his wife were insistent that Istay with them at their house. Even ifI tried I couldn’t wiggle my way outof their hospitality. So I went with themand stayed at their place for a few days.That is my story and I am ready toface your punishment.”

“What is their name?” I asked instead.

“Well, I really don’t know. This wasthe first time I met them. They saidthey had read my story, ‘Mantra’, andbeen deeply touched by it. It also inspiredthem to start their business. Since readingthe story they had been very eager tomeet me. And they wouldn’t take nofor an answer. They, in fact, hosted adinner for everyone at the meeting justto get my attention.”

“So while you were having fun, hereI was worried sick thinking you hadtaken ill or something. Did you knowI was going to send a telegram?Thankfully, the manager was hesitant.Otherwise I’d have wasted one and ahalf rupee and also been the fool.”

“Believe me my dear, I was worriedabout you worrying too much. But whatwas I to do, I was almost held hostage.”

My anger had by then subsided, Isaid: “Yes, what were you to do…”

“I am telling you the truth, theywere totally crazy about me. In fact,at first he couldn’t even collect thecourage to approach me. Then duringa break in the meeting he came up tome and briefly told me about hisinvitation. I was really helpless beforehis love and his great desire to hostme. Even his wife, who was bed-ridden,was insistent. And I didn’t have the heartto disappoint them.”

“That is the bane of a writer’s wife.Her husband belongs to everyone andthat is her curse.”

“Left to me I’d just stay home anddo the thing that gives me the greatestjoy: writing.”

“Please don’t do this to me again.”

“I won’t. In fact, what would be betterthan you coming along with me. Thatway neither of us would worry aboutthe other.”

“And what about the kids?”

“Phew. You have the knack of

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inventing newer problems every timewe have a solution.”

That was some day when I put myhusband in the dock. And for what…for spending a week away from us. Iwas angry and hurt especially at thefact that he’d had me worried. Today,I am neither ever worried nor angry,nor do I think of ever sending him amessage or a telegram. He was afterall a writer, a person who understoodlove, understood its nuances and depths.Why then did he leave me and go? Iknow I was blind and I was crazy. Because

I failed to recognise the love and beautyof his being. I guess, most people arelike that… they wouldn’t recognise Godeven if he appeared before them. Myhusband was like that too, and I wastoo blind to recognise him. He was alot of things to a lot of people. Andnow that he is no more I spend mydays and nights thinking about whatI’ve lost. I think I shall never find mypeace as long as I live. For withouthim my life seems empty andmeaningless. I guess that is what iscalled the Theory of Karma.

Shivrani Devi (1890-1976) was Premchand’s wife and a creative writer

in her own way. She wrote some short stories and a l iterary memoir

about her husband ‘Premchand: Ghar Mein’. The book is a mirror to

know Premchand in all his dynamism as a thinker, intellectual and

a householder. She passed away in 1976 in Allahabad.

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PREMCHAND: INTERVIEWD BYPandit Banarasidas Chaturvedi

Translated by

Sanjay Dev

Writing a letter on 11th May, 1930 from Calcutta, Pandit BanarasidasChaturvedi had sent seven questions to Premchand which wereanswered by Premchand through his lettter dated June 3, 1930.Here they go:

Chaturvedi: When did you start writing stories?

Premchand: I started writing stories in 1907. My first storycollection ‘Soze Vatan” comprising five stories was brought outby Zamana Press in 1908. But the collector of Hameerpur hadit burnt down. He felt it was seditious. Though its translationhas been since then, published in several collections and magazines.

Chaturvedi: Which of your stories you like best?

Premchand: It’s difficult to answer this one. From more thantwo hundred stories it is difficult to pick the best one, but wouldstill hazard writing names of a few from memory (1) Bade GharKi Beti, (2) Rani Sarandha, (3) Namak Ka Daroga, (4) Saut,(5) Aabhushan, (6) Prayashchit, (7) Kamana-Taru, (8) Mandir aurMasjid, (9) Ghaswali, (10) Mahatirth, (11) Satyagrah, (12) Laanchhan,(13) Sati, (14) Laila, (15) Mantra.

An Urdu story titled ‘Manzile Maqsood’ was a beauty. Umpteenof my Muslim friends have praised it, but could not be translatedyet. Felicity of the language will be lost in translation.

Chaturvedi: Name national and foreign writers whose works haveinfluenced your writing style?




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Premchand: None in particularinfluenced mine. To a large extent PanditRatannath dar Lakhnavi and to someextent Pandit Rabindra Nath Thakur.

Chaturvedi: How much you make amonth from your books and articles?

Premchand: Better not ask of income.Rights of all earlier books were givento publishers. ‘Prem Pachisi’, ‘Seva Sadan’,‘Sapta Saroj’, ‘Premashram’, ‘Sangram’and so on fetched three thousand rupeesin one instalment from Hindi PustakAgency. Maybe two hundred rupees for‘Nav Nidhi’ as yet. Dularelal gave rupeeseighteen hundred for ‘Rangbhoomi.’ Andfor other collections got hundred-twohundred. Myself published ‘Kayakalpa’,‘Azad Katha’, ‘Prem Tirtha’, ‘PremPratibha’, ‘Pratigya’ but have barelyrecovered six hundred rupees, so far.And am left with unsold printed copies.A sundry income of rupees twenty fivea month from articles, but it is hardlyenough. I now write for none except‘Hans’ and ‘Madhuri’. Occasionally I writefor ‘Vishal Bharat’ and ‘Saraswati’, that’sall! And yes, translations may havebrought in not more than rupees twothousand. Submitted translations for‘Rangbhoomi’ and ‘Premashram’ both fora meagre rupees eight hundred. Alas!no publisher was to be found.

Chaturvedi: Your take on contemporaryprogress in literary stories in Hindi?

Premchand: The world of literary storiesin Hindi is in very early stage. Amongthe story writers Sudarshan Kaushik,

Jainendra Kumar, ‘Ugra’, Prasad,Rajeshwari are the only conspicuous ones.I find signs of originality and diversityin Jainendra and ‘Ugra”. Prasadji’s storiesare emotional, but not realistic.Rajeshwari writes well, but very little.Sudarshanji’s compositions are beautiful,but are very wanting in depth. AndKaushikji tends to stretch a thing a bittoo far. None seems to have studiedcertain organs of society in particular,yet. ‘Ugra’ did but strayed. I took upfarming community. But there arenumerous communities which need tobe highlighted. Nobody has touched abit upon Sadhu communities.Imagination and not experiencedominated in our part of the world.The point is that we have not yet adoptedliterarature as a business. My life hasbeen a failure from economic viewpointand will remain so. By bringing outHans, I’ve forfeited the savings frommy books. Maybe otherwise, would havemade four-six hundred, but have nosuch hope now.

Chaturvedi: Name the language yourworks have been translated into?

Premchand: Some of my works havebeen translated into Marathi, Gujrati,Urdu, Tamil, but not all. Most have beentranslated into Urdu followed by Marathi.Many Telugu gentlemen asked translationpermission of me, which I gave readily.I can’t say whether translation happened,or not. Three or four stories have beentranslated into Japanese whose publisherMr. Sabharwal has made a remittance

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of rupees fifty not long back. I am gratefulto him. Two-three stories have beentranslated into English, that’s all!

Chaturvedi: What are your wishes?

Premchand: I have no wishes. Myfondest wish at the moment is that wewin the freedom struggle! I have neverhankered after money and fame. Makeenough for food and all. Have neverlusted for motor and bungalow. Oh yes,

I definitely want to write two-four qualitybooks, also aimed at victory in freedomstruggle. I have no big desires in termsof my two sons. Want this much onlythat they are honest, true and of firmresolve. I hate indulgent, rich and fawningchildren. I don’t want to sit back either.Want to do something or other forliterature and country. And yes, Icontinue to get my bread and an ounceof ghee and a few clothes.

Pt. Banarsidas Chaturvedi (1892-1985) was a prominent journalist,

editor and writer. In 1914 he wrote about immigrant Indians’ problems.

He was editor Vishal Bharat and Madhukar. In 1919 he wrote Rashtrabhasha.

He wrote Rekhachitra (1952), Sahitya aur Jivan (1954).

Sanjay Dev, born 1964 hails from Jaipur. Has a master’s in English

literature and a bachelor’s in journalism. As a free-lancer, published

in various national dailies. Has 20 years experience in translation.

Works as Editor for Parliament of India. Resides in Delhi.

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This essay deals with the early history of the Iranian talkies andhow one of its founders – Abdolhossein Sepanta, pioneered thefirst Indo-Iranian project in filmmaking in 1931. I briefly examineSepanta’s transition from the academic world to the film industry.Sepanta desired to establish a full-fledged film industry in Iranand India became the testing ground of his cinematic skills. WhenHimanshu Rai, the founder of the Bombay Talkies (1934-54), hiredthe German cinematographer Frantz Osten, the films and the audiencesin mind he had, were primarily based in India. But Sepanta’sprojects represent the only instance in the history of Indian cinemawhen films for a foreign audience were shot and processed byan Indian film company. However, as I shall demonstrate in theconcluding section of this essay, filmmaking for Sepanta endedabruptly as, an unfinished project of cultural nationalism.

National cinemas across the world have generally displayeda tendency to draw upon the diverse traditions of their performingand visual arts. Iranian cinema is no exception. Perhaps an earlyexample of Iran’s visual history is the appearance of bas-reliefsin Persepolis around 500 B.C., an art which reached its creativepeak during the reign of the Sassanian kings. This tradition continuedin the form of miniature paintings during the early and latermedieval periods. According to Shahin Parami, a “deliberate lackof perspective enabled the artist to have different plots and sub-plots within the same space of the picture.”1 Moreover, Iranians



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were the only cultural community inthe region, to have perfected the artof integrating storytelling with painting(pardeh-khani). In pardeh-khani, as theoral narrative progressed, the Pardeh-khan or the narrator, unveiled a seriesof paintings pertinent to a particularstage of the narrative. A similaraudiovisual mode was the Nagali, inwhich a Nagal or the storyteller, wouldenact scenes from a story and interlaceit with songs and dances. Nagalperformances were generally organizedin a qahava-khana or a coffee-house.Other art forms that embellished thevisual culture of Iran included theKhaymeshab-bazi (puppetry), Saye-bazi(shadow plays), Rouhhozi (comical plays)and Tazieh (passion plays), depicting themartyrdom of the Shia leader ImamHossein in the century.2

The advent of cinema in Iran markeda difficult transition not only into a newperformative mode, but also to thecreation of new spaces for culturalconsumption. Furthermore, the adoptionof the new mode of storytelling meantselectively drawing upon Hollywood filmsand diverse styles of European cinema,while at the same time appropriatingelements from traditional performing artsand finally relocating them into newdiegetic spaces. Cinema also created newsodalities of viewers who interrogatedprevailing public discourses about thenation, politics, morality and everydaylife and their representations in art.3

As in the case of other national

cinemas, early attempts at filmmaking,exhibition and viewing in Iran wereconfined to the aristocracy and the upperclasses. Many of the pioneers of Iraniancinema were foreign-returnedtechnicians, belonging to the ruling elite.4

Also, in many upper class homes,weddings, childbirths, circumcisions andother family events were filmed or filmswere screened during such occasions.Early film exhibitions were confined toEuropean imports. However, around thesecond decade of the twentieth century,small investments began to trickle intoindigenous film production. Rare footagesof this period reveal a mélange of “news,events, actualities and spectaclesinvolving royalty usually filmed in longshot.” 5 Perhaps the first among thesewas the short film documenting the visitof the Shah of Iran to Belgium. Theevent was captured by Ebrahim KhanAkkasbashi, the official photographer atthe royal court.6 Later, Akkasbashi alsofilmed national festivals such asMoharram as well as scenes from theroyal zoo in Tehran.

In the absence of proper exhibitingspace, a select audience sat on carpetedfloors to watch films, somewhat in thesame way as they did during the Ta’ziehshows. Because of the restricted natureof its exhibition and because of theprejudices held against it, early Iraniancinema was far from being a popularart form. Films were thought to bemorally corrupting; the clergy counseledmen to restrain women from visiting

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theatres. Such biases were not uncommonin other cultures.7 In neighboring India,the nationalist leadership, with notableexceptions, preferred to distance itselffrom the irresistible charms of the silverscreen. However, cinema’s entry intothe public domain was only a matterof time. Business communities were quickto seize the initiative. The lead was takenby Mirza Ebrahim Khan Sahaf Bashi in1904, who arranged a public screeningof a short film inside the premises ofhis antique shop in Tehran. The responsewas so overwhelming that he wasenthused to build a movie theatre ofmodest dimensions in the Cheragh Gazavenue.8 Sahaf Bashi’s foray into the worldof cinema could have been an enduringenterprise had it not been for his avowedlypublic support for constitutional politicsin Iran. His fulminations against themonarchical form of government in Iranas well as the role of the clergy, earnedhim two powerful enemies. Pitted againsttwo foremost forces, Sahaf Bashi soonrealized that he was fighting a losingbattle. His enemies ensured that he wasarrested and his theatre vandalized andshut down permanently. Soon after thisincident, Russi Khan – Sahaf Bashi’scontemporary and an entrepreneur ofRussian descent - was granted permissionto open another theatre in Tehran(1906).Unlike Sahaf Bashi, Russi Khan hadpowerful patrons at the royal court.Besides, the Russian army which wasthen stationed close to Tehran, assuredhim complete protection and support.

Khan’s theatre enjoyed undiminishedpopularity until 1909, which year aconstitutional government dislodged themonarchy and his theatre sealed forever.9

When monarchy was restored againin 1912, the former patrons of cinemabegan to work towards its revival. Withadequate support from the royal courtpouring in, Ebrahim Khan Sahnafbashi-i-Tehrani built the first commercial movietheatre of Iran, while Khan-baba KhanMo’tazeidi - the royal photographer -announced the opening of a string ofexhibition houses in the country. Anotheryoung entrepreneur – Ali Vakili – decidedto hold exclusive screening for womeninside a Zoroastrian school. Anadvertisement appearing in a localnewspaper in 1926 gives us a foretasteof Vakili’s marketing skills:

The famous series by Ruth Roland,the renowned world artist will bepresented at the Zoroastrian school fromMay 10, 1928. Watching the incredibleacrobatics of this international prodigyis a must for all respectable ladies. Gettwo tickets for the price of one.10

In another announcement, the ownerof the Grand Cinema in Tehran wentas far as stating that the managementwould filter unclean women as well asimmoral youth from its audience so thatonly respectable men and women couldwatch films separately:

As a service to the public, the GrandCinema Management has demarcatedparts of its hall for the ladies and from

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tonight, parts one and two of the series“The Copper Ball”, will be presentedtogether. Thus all citizens, including theladies may enjoy the entire series.Measures will be taken with thecooperation of the honorable policeofficers to bar unchaste women anddissolute youth with no principle.11

In yet another innovative experiment,it was decided to hold screenings betweentwo o’ clock in the afternoon and sunsetas this coincided with the time earmarkedfor Ta’zieh shows. Indeed, cinema castsuch a magical spell on the audiencethat the proprietors of the Ta’zieh showswere steadily driven out of business.12

Two more names in Iran’s fledglingfilm industry deserve mention. The firstamong these is Ovannes Ohanian andhis contemporary Ebrahim Moradi. OfArmenian-Iranian descent, Ohanian hadstudied cinema at the Cinema academyin Moscow. When he returned to Iranin 1925, albeit he wanted to lay thefoundations of a full-fledged film industry,he struggled to remain content with afilm school in Tehran. In 1929, Ohanianand with help from some of his graduatestudents and financial assistance froma theater owner, directed his first film– Abi va Rab, which was a remake ofDanish comedy serials already popularamong Iranian audience. 13 Ohanian alsodirected Haji Agha Aktor-i-cinema (1933)- his second and last film. To his dismay,Haji turned out to be a commercial failure.Not much is known about his careerthereafter except that he sought refuge

in other pursuits for some time beforesailing to India, where he remained until1947. Like Ohanian, Moradi also learntthe craft of filmmaking in Russia, wherehe lived as a political exile in the early1920s. Moradi returned to Iran in 1929,established his own studio (JahanNamaan) and shot Enteqham-e-Baradar(A Brother’s Revenge) in 1930. The filmcould not be completed as Moradiovershot his budget. He continued tomake other films, the last being Bolhavas(The Lustful Man) in 1934. The film wasreceived well at the box-office but notwell enough to sustain his enterprise.14

Thus by the mid 30s, the Iranianfilm industry was in a state of disarray.Filmmakers grappled with inadequatefinances, low end technology, poorproduction and exhibition facilities andabove all unflinching opposition fromthe clergy. It would however bemisleading to suggest that AbdolhosseinSepanta embarked upon a career infilmmaking in India precisely becauseof these reasons. In fact, Sepanta’s voyageinto the world of films can be termedserendipitous; perhaps when he arrivedin Bombay in 1927, all he must havehad in his mind was to become a personof great erudition.

Abdolhossein Sepanta (1907-69) wasborn in Tehran. He went to St. Louisand Zorosatrian colleges, where hedeveloped a profound interest in theearly pre-Islamic history and cultureof Iran. Sepanta’s intellectual pursuitsbrought him to India in 1927. In Bombay

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he met Bahram Gour Anklesaria – ascholar of ancient Iranian languages andwho was to become Sepanta’s mentorlater. He also met Dinshah Irani, Directorof the Iranian and Zoroastrian society.A direct descendant of a refugee familywho had fled Iran in the 1790s, Irani,a lawyer by profession, was adistinguished member of the Iraniandiaspora in India. He had founded theIranian Zoroastrian Anjuman as earlyas 1918 and the Iranian League in 1922.Sepanta’s interactions with the Parsifamilies in Bombay brought him in touchwith Ardeshir Irani, an event which wasto change the lives of the two greatmen completely.

Born in Pune, Ardeshir Irani (1886-1969), studied at the J.J. School of Artsin Bombay. He initially joined hisbusinessman father who dealt withphonograph equipment but quit it tocarve out an independent career in filmexhibition. For this purpose he enteredinto partnership with another Parsientrepreneur – Abdullah Esoofally. Thetwo acquired the Alexander and MajesticTheatres of Bombay in 1914. Six yearslater, Irani launched Star Films inpartnership with Bhogilal K.M.Dave. Theirfirst production –Veer Abhimanyu – wasreleased in 1922. In 1926 he realignedhis business to form the Imperial FilmCompany. The result was a series offilms such as Anarkali (1928), The livesof a Mughal Prince (1928), Indira B.A.(1929), Alamara (1931), Bambai Ki Billi(1937) and Kisan Kanya (1937). Irani

was a pioneer in two significant ways.He is credited not only for making thefirst talkie in India (Alamara) but alsofor producing the first color film (KisanKanya) in the country. So animated wasIrani at the prospect of being associatedwith the first Iranian talkie that he agreedto finance and co-direct the film as well.

The first Irani talkie Dukhtar-i-Loror the Lor Girl was produced jointlyby Sepanta and Irani under the bannerof the Imperial Film Company. The filmhad a prominent Iranian(AbdolhosseinSepanta, Ruhangiz Sami-Nehzad, HadiShirazi) and a small Indian (SohrabPuri and other junior artists) cast. Sepantawrote the entire script and played thelead role as well. The Lor Girl tookseven months to be completed. It createdquite a sensation in the Iranian pressas a Muslim girl had been cast in afilm for the first time in the historyof Iranian cinema. The film openedat Mayak and Sepah in Tehran in 1933and became an instant box-office success.It ran successfully for two years, a featthat could not be replicated by any otherfilm for a long time altogether.

The Lor Girl is a political film notonly because it is set in the turbulent20s but also because it also marks forthe first time, the appearance of a womanin an Iranian film. Ziba Mir Hosseni hasrecently argued that the clergy wasunequivocal in its rejection of cinemabecause for the first time an art formhad made women visible (haram) insociety.15 The managers of Ta’zieh shows

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for example, never showed women onstage, women’s roles being always playedby men. It has also been suggested thatpoets were careful in overtly representingwomen as ‘beloved’ in Persian verse;rather, they chose to work withinambiguities (iham).16 Iranian cinema wasnot alone in preventing suchtransgressions. Japanese cinema, inspiredby local theatrical traditions such asthe kabuki and shipna, deployed theonnagata (male actor in female role)throughout the 1920s and the early 30s.In the case of India, Raja Harishchandra,one of the first Indian feature films anddirected by Phalke, had Salunke- ateahouse waiter- playing the female lead.

The story of Lor Girl revolves arounda tribal village girl-Golnar (Ruhangiz),who earned her livelihood by singingand dancing in teahouses. Jafar(Sepanta) is a government agent. Thetwo fall in love and escape to India.They return to Iran after the restorationof polit ical stabil ity. The f i lm isemblematic of the fate of ordinary livesduring a period of political turbulence.What Sepanta might have had in mindwhen he was doing the script couldhave been the political situation in theLorestan-Khuzistan region, where thegovernment had mounted a limitedmilitary offensive against therecalcitrant tribal population. Finally,the film narrative suffered from theproblems of continuity and editing. Theaudience however, fell in love with thebeautiful and innocent Golnar who is

shown wearing a partial hejab in thefilm.17

Except for its Parsi background, thereis no explanation for what might haveattracted Sepanta to the Imperial FilmCompany. Around the late 20s,production houses and studios had startedmushrooming in Bombay, Pune andKolhapur. The Indian CinematographYearbook of 1938 lists 34 productioncompanies in Bombay, 6 in Kolhapurand 4 in Pune.18 Besides, Irani had shownlittle evidence of making sound films.In fact when Wilfred Deming – anAmerican engineer representing the TanarRecording Company in India – visitedthe Imperial Studios, he expressedconsternation at the prevailing conditions:

Film was successfully exposed in lightthat would result in blank film at home,stages consisted of flimsy uprightssupporting a glass roof or covering. TheFrench Debrie camera with a few Belland Howell and German makes completedthe rest of photographic equipment.Throughout, the blindest groping forfundamental facts was evident. Thelaboratory processing methods, withsound in view…were most distressingand obviously the greatest problem.19

Poor sound and lip synchronizationin films produced by the Imperial Studios,was also reported in the Bombay Chronicleand the Times of India.20 Irani’s testimonyhowever, reveals another side of thestory. He accused the Tanar Companyof selling him “junk” equipment basedon the single system process that did

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not allow sound to be edited later asit was directly transferred to the negativeplate.21 Such contestations not-withstanding, Sepanta pitched for theImperial Studios where the Lor Girl wasfinally born.

Buoyed by the success of its maidenIranian venture, the Imperial FilmCompany offered Sepanta productioncontrol over other films. Sepantasubsequently directed four more filmsfor the company, all shot on Indianlocations. The first among these wasFerdousi (1933), based on the life ofthe famous sixteenth century Persianpoet. This was followed by Shireen vaFarhad (1934), an adaptation of theclassical Persian romance that becamepopular during the reign of the Sassanianking Khusrau I. In 1935, Sepanta directedChashmaye Siah depicting the impactof Nadir Shah’s invasion on the livesof two young lovers. It is noteworthythat Sepanta cast a new girl in eachfilm.22 This was a daunting task indeed.In the 20s and 30s, even Indianfilmmakers were compelled to hireEuropean or Anglo-Indian women, cinemabeing looked down upon as a disreputableprofession by the society at large. Ithas been suggested that the songs inSepanta’s films were not favorablyreceived by the audience.23 From thepoint of view of the Iranian state, thiswas certainly not problematic. In factthe idea of making films purely forentertainment had never found favorwith the state. Nonetheless, this should

not lead us to the conclusion that becauseentertainment was a matter of lowpriority, Sepanta’s films included subtlepolitical subtexts. Stating his positionon the Lor Girl several years after itsrelease Sepanta observed, “As it wasthe first Iranian sound film to bepresented abroad, I felt it should presenta bright picture of Iran…I have to admitthat the film was a great boost for thenationalistic pride of expatriateIranians.”24

In 1935 Sepanta quit Bombay to seeknew opportunities in Calcutta. There hecame in contact with Debaki Bose, thefounder of the New Theatres and AbidBasravi, a merchant of Iranian descent.Basravi demonstrated extraordinaryinterest in Sepanta’s plans to directLaila-va-Majnun under the banner of theEast Indian Company. Sepanta castBasravi, his two sons and select membersof Indian Iranian families in this film.The film was completed in 1936, withthe Basravi family providing necessaryassistance in the various stages of thescripting, shooting and editing of thefilm. A triumphant Sepanta set sail forIran hoping to screen it for Iranianaudiences. But how hope quickly turnedinto despair was vividly recalled by himduring an interview:

In September 1936, I arrived inBushehr…with a print of Laila-o-Majnoon.Due to bureaucratic complications, thefilm print could not be immediatelyreleased to screen, and I had to leavefor Tehran without it. Government

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officials’ attitude was inexplicably hostilefrom the beginning and I almost wassorry that I returned home. Theauthorities did not value cinema as anart form or even as a means of masscommunication, and I soon realized thatI had to forget about my dream ofestablishing a film studio in Iran. I evenhad difficulty getting permission toscreen this film, and in the end the movietheatre owners forced us to turn overthe film to them almost for nothing.25

Sepanta was convinced that vestedinterests in Iran and elsewhere hadcolluded to undermine his enterprise:

Representation of foreign companies,who brought in second-hand vulgar filmsfrom Iraq or Lebanon, joined forces withthe Iranian authorities in charge ofcinematic and theatrical affairs to defeatme. This unfair campaign left a lastingand grave impact on my life.26

Despite the odds arrayed against him,Sepanta planned to return to India toresume shooting his forthcomingproductions Black Owl and OmarKhayyam. However, his mother’s failinghealth prevented him from leaving Iran.The late 30s witnessed a distraughtSepanta doing odd jobs including workingin a wool factory in Ispahan. A newspaperthat he started in 1943 remained shortlived. In the mid-50s he becameassociated with the United States aidprogram for some time. Finally in 1965,he shot a few documentaries, which donot reflect the epical style, details andthe grandness of scale, Sepanta was

known for. Four years later, on March28, 1969, Sepanta’s eventful life cameto a tragic end when died of a cardiacarrest in Esafan, where he had spenthis last days virtually as a recluse. Inaddition to more than a dozen films,Sepanta left behind a legacy of eighteentranslations and numerous files of thenewspaper that he once edited. An Iranianfilm historian has observed that albeitSepanta was the only filmmaker whowas able to define the aesthetic contoursof future Iranian cinema, his contributionremained far from being enduring.

If Sepanta had not faced the obstacleshe did and if Iranian cinema had beenallowed to develop on a national course,vulgarity would not have prevailed inour cinema for three decades from the1950s to the 1970s.27

This brings us to a crucial question– the relationship between the State andentrepreneurship. In the case of mostnational cinemas, the State has regulatedand directed the motion picture industryboth by institutionalizing the mechanismsof finance as well as through censorship.What should be represented on-screenand how has always remained acontentious issue between filmmakers onthe one hand and the custodians of publicmorality and order on the other. Thescreen thus becomes the battlegroundfor rival ideologies and discourses. Therealways exists a formidable yet flexiblealliance between capitalism (institutionalfinance, market access, a defined systemof arbitration) and the cinematic form

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(prevailing performative practices,censorship regulations). This is why theState has always viewed the screen asa subversive site.

Like their counterparts in other partsof the world, filmmakers in Iran wereworking under serious constraints.Though monarchs like Mozaffar al-DinShah and Reza Shah Pehlavi(1925-41)encouraged the use of thecinematograph, the real problem withcinema was not technology but thequestion of dealing with modernity.Cinema’s negotiations with modernitywere fraught with unexpectedpossibilities. For example, by a frontalpositioning of the women, cinema couldsubvert what Ferzaneh Milani has referredto in another context as the “aestheticsof immobility.”28 Cinema also posed thedanger of undermining the institutionalbasis of Iran’s feudal monarchy. Insteadof providing it with a regulatory

framework and bringing cinema into thepublic sphere, the Iranian state chosethe path of disavowal. This situationcontinued until the Islamic Revolution(1979), by which time the State decidedto take on cinema frontally and finally.

Why did success eventually eludeSepanta? His celluloid journey had begunat a time when the import of Iranianfilms into Iran was comparatively low29

and attendance in cinema halls constantlyrising.30 One explanation for Sepanta’sfailure could be that he launched hisgrandiose project at a time when Iranhad haltingly begun its transition towardmodernity. Nonetheless, the short-livedIndo-Iranian collaboration revealed thepotential that such projects carried forthe benefit of both the countries. Hadsuccessive Iranian and Indian filmmakerscontinued to collaborate further, thehistory of the two national cinemas wouldhave been written quite differently.


1 . Shahin Parami, Iranian Cinema before the Revolution,

2. Ibid.

3. Such borrowings have been observed in other cinemas. As one film scholarhas observed: “Cinema as a medium was informed by what one may term‘intertextual excess’ whereby it could borrow from high and low culturaluniverses at the same time and recombine them in unexpected ways” (M.S.S.Pandian, Tamil Cultural Elites and Cinema: Outline of an Argument, Economicand Political Weekly of India, April 13, 1996, p.950).

4. Hamid Naficy, Iranian Cinema, in Geoffrey Novell Smith (ed.) The OxfordHistory of World Cinema, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997, p.672.

5. Ibid.

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6. The transition of Akkasbashi froma photographer to a cinemato-grapher is evident from a significantentry of king Mozaffar al-Din Shah’stravelogue diary:

“[A]t 9:00 p.m. we went to theExposition and the Festival Hallwhere they were showingcinematographer, which consists ofstill and motion pictures. Then wewent to Illusion building …in thisHall they were showingcinematographer. They erected avery large screen in the centre ofthe Hall, turned off all electric lightsand projected the picture ofcinematography on that large screen.It was very interesting to watch.Among the pictures were Africansand Arabians traveling with camelsin the African desert which was veryinteresting. Other pictures were ofthe Exposition, the moving street,the Seine river and ships crossingthe river, people swimming andplaying in the water and many otherswhich were all very interesting. Weinstructed Akkas Bashi to purchaseall kinds of it [cinematographicequipment] and bring to Teheranso God willing he can make somethere and show them to ourservants.”( w w w . v i c t o r i a n - c i n e m a . n e t /akkasbashi.htm.)

7 . See my essay, Cinema and HindiPeriodicals in Colonial India (1920-47), in Manju Jain (ed.) Narratives

of Indian Cinema, Primus Books,New Delhi, 2009.

8. For details of the Iranian filmindustry during the Second WorldWar and soon after see, A BriefCritical History of Iranian FeatureFilm (1896-1975),

h t t p : / / w w w . l i b . w a s h i n t o n . e d u /neareast/cinema of iran/ intro.html#foot14.

9. Ibid.

1 0 . Massoud Mehrabi, The History ofIranian Cinema, Part One,http// www.massoud

1 1 . Ibid.

1 2 . M. Ali, Issari, Cinema in Iran, 1900-1979, 1900-1979, Metuchen: TheScarecrow Press, New Jersey, 1989,p.97.

1 3 . Mehrabi, http://www.massoudm e h r a b i . c o m / a r t i c l e . a s p ? i d=1414606616.Sadly, the only copyof this film was destroyed duringa fire accident at the Mayak Theatre.

14 . For details see Omid Jassal, TheHistory of Iranian Cinema, RozannehPublications, Tehran,1995.

1 5 . Zoba Mir Hosseni, IranianCinema: Art Society and the State,h t t p : / / w w w . m e r i p . o r g / m e r /mer219/mer219.html

16 . Ibid.

1 7 . Covering the head partly (and notfully) with a hejab constituted

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nothing short of a sacrilege in feudalIran. For details, see Shahla Lahiji,Portrayal of Women in IranianCinema, An Historical Overview,www.iran films/portrayal of womenin iranian cinema.htm.

18. See B.D. Bharucha (ed.), The IndianCinematograph Year Book of 1938,Bombay Motion Picture Society ofIndia, Bombay 1938.

19 . American Cinematographer, June1932, cited in B.D.Garga, So ManyCinemas, Eminence Designs, PrivateLimited, Mumbai 1996, pp.71-72.

20. Ibid.

2 1 . Cited in Erik Barnouw andS.Krishnaswamy, The Indian Film,Oxford University Press, New Delhi,1980, p.68.

22. Reza Tahami, Iranian Women MakeFilms, Film International Quarterly,Summer 1994, vol.2, no.3, pp.4-13.

23. Saeed Kashefi, Film Music in IranianCinema, Iran Chamber Society,August 27, 2007.

24. For details

25. Ibid.

26. cited in Houshang Golmakani, StarsWithin Reach, in Aruna Vasudeva,Latika Padgaonkar and RashmiDoraiswamy (eds.), Being andBecoming, The Cinemas of Asia,Macmillan Delhi, 2002, p.87.

2 7 . Ibid.

28. The concept has been meticulouslyexplored in Farzanneh Milani, Veilsand Words: The Emerging Voicesof Iranian Women , I.B.TaurisPublishers, London, 1992.


Country of Origin 1928 1929 1930

United States 1 3 3 2 2 7 1 4 5

France 1 0 0 1 1 0 94

Germany 30 4 7 60

Russia 32 5 7 42

Other Countries 1 0 1 9 6

Total 305 460 3 4 7

(Source: http// iran/intro.html#foot14.

30. Ibid.

LALIT JOSHI is a Professor in the Department of History at Allahabad

University. His areas of teaching and research include Cultural Globalization

and the History of Cinema. He has published extensively in Hindi

and English in international and national journals and anthologies.

His manual on Hindi Cinema titled HOUSE FULL is going through

a second edition. His forthcoming publications include a Cultural History

of Allahabad and another on Global Bollywood.

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eHINDI IN GUYANASatishkumar Rohra

Translated by

Ravindra Narayan Mishra

The word Guyana Amerindian (This word is made of America-Indian) is language of the race and its meaning is land of manysources of water. There is abundance of water in Guyana. TheAtlantic Ocean touches a very large area of Guyana. Besides thereare four great rivers here – Acikibo, Demrara, Berbis and Kortin.In the mountainous region of Guyana there are many gulfs, rivuletsand waterfalls.

Guyana is situated between 1to 9 northern lattitude and 57to61 western longitude. North to it is Atlantic Ocean. Surinam isin its east. Towards the south and south- west is Brazil and inthe west is Venezuela. Guyana’s area is 83000 square miles andits population is 800000 (Eight Lakh). Guyana’s climate is temperateand this place receives annual rainfall of 100 inches. The maincrop of this place is sugarcane (from which sugar is made here)and rice. There is a huge stock of Bauxite here. Gold and diamondsare also found here in huge quantity. Guyana is situated on Caribbeanocean which is a branch of Atlantic Ocean in the south of America.

Historical Background

The story of Guyana is oft repeated story of imperialistic tendencies.After an intense struggle among imperialistic powers - French,Dutch and British Guyana was divided in three parts around 1930.These parts were French Guyana (This part is called Kayan now-a-days and this part is still under French control), Dutch Guyana(This part is now called Surinam and it is an independent country)

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and British Guyana. The British Guyanacame to be known as Guyana. Around1950 it was given limited freedom andChedi Jagan, the leader of the PeoplesProgressive Party was given the reignsof power. In 1960 Guyana got completeindependence and Forbes Burnham, theleader of National Peoples Party got thereigns of power. Since then the statepower of Guyana has been in the handsof the National Peoples Party with itsleader Forbes Burnham. In 1970 Guyanawas declared a Cooperative Republic.Guyana is a member of the Commonwealthand the Non- aligned Movement.

Guyana’s society and linguisticcondition

Guyana is a multi racial country. NormallyGuyana is called the country of six races.These races are- Amerindian, African,East Indian (people of Indian origin),Chinese, Whites and Mixed (the crossof white and other races). Out of thesethere are two main races – East Indianor the people of the Indian origin whoconstitute 50-55% of the population andAfricans who make up for 35 to 40%of the population. The remaining racesare under 10-15%. Amerindians are theoldest race inhabiting this place.

The common colloquial language ofGuyana is ‘creole’ which is simplifiedform of English which has words fromHindi, African and many other languages.The medium of education andadministration is English and in all theformal situations English is used. Thepeople of Amerindian race still speak

their languages. Among the languagesare- Aravack, Karib, Baraus andVepisiana. The Chinese use Chineselanguage in their family life. Aged peopleof Indian origin sometimes talk to theircontemporaries in Hindi (Bhojpuri). TheAfricans had brought Congo, Vorba etclanguages but the present generation ofAfricans doesn’t have any specialknowledge of these.

The Advent of Indians in Guyana

The Indians came here 140 years agoas bonded labour. These immigrantIndians had come as indentured labourafter making agreement. So they werecalled Girmitiya in many other countries.In Guyana they were called coolies. Eventoday people of other races call thepeople of Indian origin cooliemen. Butthese days coolieman is not a derogatoryword, in fact it means hard working andfrugal. The main crop of Guyana issugarcane. When it used to be BritishGuyana the sugarcane farming was doneby slaves bought by the white Zamindars.In 1938 the system of slaves came toan end. The symptoms of this systemcoming to an end had started appearingeven earlier. Because of the slave systemcoming to an end the African slavesworking on sugarcane farms became free.After becoming free these African peoplecontinued to live in Guyana only butmost of them refused to work on thefarms of their ex-white masters. Nowthe white Zamindars of these farms werelooking for such labour that may notbe called slave but could work like slaves.

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For this purpose there could have beenno country better than India. The thenwhite government of India (East IndiaCompany) also helped these whiteZamindars. The poor Indians got trappedin the promises of greener pastures bythe agents of the white Zamindars whowere called Arakati at that time. On May5, 1838 the first shipment of bondedlabor reached Guyana. This practice ofbringing bonded labour to Guyanacontinued till 1905. In the period ofthree fourth of a century 2.25 Lakh peoplewere brought to Guyana from India.Normally these labour from India usedto come after accepting the conditionof working in Guyana for 5-7 years. Theyhad permission to return to India atgovernment expenditure after the periodof term was over. According to theevidences gathered after the expiry ofthe term 75000 people had returnedto India. Rest of the people settled inGuyana even after expiry of their termand started living like free farmers. Thedescendents of these Indians are knowntoday as East Indian or Indo- Guyanese.The descendents of those Indians arenot only farmers but also doctors,engineers, lecturers, officers andsuccessful businessmen in large numbers.

Immigrant Indians– a culturalcommunity

The Indians settled in Guyana appeareddifferent not only in their appearancecolor and clothing but their culturalspecialties established them as a specialcultural community. Their speciality is

maintained even today. It is true thatdue to influence of time they have beenaffected by western civilization. In thelong period of one and half century theirinteraction with other races has alsoincreased but even today due to theirfood habits, family relations, social system,social belief and cultural assumptionsthey are Indians. One is pained for justone thing that the inheritance of languagehas slipped away from their hands. Thatis why while walking in many parts ofGuyana one realizes that it is an Indiaoutside India at the same time it painsto learn that from the point of viewof language Guyana is a dumb India.In Guyana there are many places wherepeople of Indian origin constitute 90-95% of the population but even at theseplaces people converse in creole andone rarely hears Hindi sentences fromthe mouth of some very old person.

Immigrant Indians and Hindi– ahistorical background

The immigrant Indians who had comefrom India they had come from threemain ports- Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.Among these immigrant Indians thelargest number was of people who hadcome from western Bihar and easternUttar Pradesh (Bhojpuri area). The mothertongue of these people was Hindi(Bhojpuri). People speaking Bangla,Marathi and south Indian languages hadalso come but they were small innumbers. So, soon Hindi (Bhojpuri)became the language of communicationand social interaction of the Indians.

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With the passage of time Hindi becamea device to maintain their social identityand cultural tradition.

The unfavourable conditions in whichthe immigrant Indians had to live canonly be imagined today. Away from theircountry, relatives, a completely strangecountry and no way to return, livingamidst different and hostile races,miserable material conditions and apainful and humiliating life. In such asituation it had become crucial that theentire immigrant Indian populationshould establish themselves as a socialgroup and maintain their culturaltradition. For both these things Hindibecame the medium. By making Hinditheir language of communication theyestablished themselves as Hindi speakingsocial group. This way Hindi becamea source of their social identity andsocial organization. Even their contactwith the works of Medieval Bhakti poetswas only through Hindi. The Ramayanof Tulsi was life giving for them. Thosewho were Hindi speaking had memorizedthe works of saints and devotional poetslike Mira, Kabir and Surdas. Their wordsgave them hope and confidence in thosedifficult conditions. This is why in thosedays, to be connected with Indian culturaltradition and to preserve it meant beingattached to Hindi. This way Hindi hada three dimensional role. Hindi was thelanguage for mutual communication andsocial interaction for the immigrantIndians, Hindi for them was a symbolof social identity and Hindi was the device

to preserve and maintain the culturaltradition.

Decline and Resurgence of Hindi

After coming to Guyana the immigrantIndians kept using Hindi language in theirdaily lives for a hundred years. But sincelast fifty years the use of Hindi has beengradually declining. Today the situationis such that except for some old peoplein day to day life no body uses Hindi.The main reason for the decline of Hindiwas the policy of the British governmentaccording to which English was madepivot for education and administration.As a result only people with specialproficiency in English could getopportunity for higher education andgood jobs. The result of this Englishpolicy was that the descendents ofimmigrant Indians gravitated towardsEnglish and away from Hindi. This waynot only in formal conditions but alsoin family lives the use of Hindi declined.In spite of decline in use of Hindi indaily lives Hindi continued to be thedevice for social recognition andmaintaining cultural tradition of theimmigrant Indians.

After the independence of Guyanapeople were attracted towards theircultural progress. With this newconsciousness the age of renaissance inHindi also started. The credit of thisrenaissance goes to their religious andsocial organizations. These days thereis big enthusiasm for Hindi in Guyana.Not only people of old generation butalso people of new generation have started

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thinking of Hindi as their own languageand they consider it necessary to learnthis language. This author conducted ascientific survey of sample sociallanguage. On the basis of that surveyone finds that 70% of the people above50 years of age think of Hindi as theirmother tongue and 80% of them thinklearning Hindi is essential for everyIndian. It is very surprising to see thatalmost the same percentage of newgeneration ( 16 to 25 age group) thinkslearning Hindi is necessary for peopleof Indian origin. Yes, regarding the periodof language there are differences amongthese sufferers. Among the people ofthe old generation (above 50 years ofage) Hindi speaking people are very largein number. The number of such peoplewho can speak Hindi easily is meagrein the younger generation. But thereis no doubt that among the youth oftoday there is big enthusiasm for learningHindi. And their views about Hindi arethe same as those of older generation.

The Present Position of HindiLearning in Guyana

There are two kinds of Hindi studies-formal and informal. In Guyana the wholeof formal education is nationalized. Thiseducation has three levels – primaryeducation, secondary education andhigher education. At the primary levelthere is no arrangement for teachingHindi. On the request of different socialand religious institutions the governmentgave permission to teach Hindi in thoseschools in which any of the already

working teachers had the ability to teachHindi and the head master of the schoolhad no objection to this. At the sametime the society for promotion of Hindiof Guyana would arrange readingmaterials/books etc for the students. Onthe basis of this permission in 5-6secondary schools in form 1,2,3, (class6,7,8) there is arrangement for studyof Hindi. At two schools (Tagore schooland Hindu College) in form 5 (equalto high school) there is arrangementto teach Hindi. For higher educationthere is Guyana University in Guyana.With the teachers provided by the helpof Indian government institutions, IndianCultural Relation Council in 1976 asyllabus of Hindi was started. In thebeginning it was only a ‘Reading Course’which was for students studying IndianHistory. Presently Hindi is a subject ofB.A. (Honours) as a foreign language.

The university organizes summersyllabus and short term courses of 4-6 weeks. Many aged people alsoparticipate in these courses.

Besides formal Hindi education 100Hindi schools are run in the whole ofGuyana by different religious and socialorganizations. These schools are generallyrun in temples. The classes are heldfor two or three days per week. Thestudents studying at these schools takeJunior, Senior, and Advancedexaminations conducted by Guyana HindiPrachar Sabha. Every year 600 to 800students participate in theseexaminations. A cultural centre is being

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run by the Indian Cultural RelationCouncil. A Hindi Professor is appointedthere. Hindi classes are run by this centreas well. There is new enthusiasm forHindi in Guyana these days. But to restorea language which has become out ofuse is a difficult task that cannot beaccomplished without support ofgovernment. Maintaining Hindi as acultural language is not a very difficultwork. Although when it comes to bejudged in its practical use in Guyana,Hindi has been reduced to zero yet onecan realize very naturally the atmospherefor Hindi. All around Hindi songs areblaring, there is unique attraction for

Hindi films, the establishment of manydevotional and Ramayana groups, onevery religious occasion arrangement forgeneral Hindi songs and devotional songs,use of Hindi in religious ceremonies andHindi schools running in villages aftervillages are some such tendencies. Thesethings give rise to this feeling that forthe people of Indian origin in Guyana,Hindi is even now their own language.Apart from their social and culturalidentity Hindi is such a ‘link language’which not only binds them on the culturalplane but also links them with Indiaand Indianness.

Courtesy: ICCR, Delhi

Satish Kumar Rohra, is professor of languages in Gandhigram, Gujarat.

Ravindra Narayan Mishra teaches Political Science in Khalsa College,

University of Delhi. He writes in original as well as l ikes to translate

at will . He lives in Delhi.

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It was on first April, 1994 , that I joined erstwhile Osaka Universityof Foreign Studies as Visiting Professor in the Department of Indology/South Asian Studies. One and a half decade has passed since then.In my view, this duration is sufficient for retrospecting the workdone during my tenure at that University. (The Osaka Universityof Foreign Studies is now an integral part of Osaka Universityin the form of Research Institute for World Languages.)

Before leaving New Delhi for Japan, I had some clear plansand some vague ideas of the techniques likely to be adoptedby me for teaching Hindi to Japanese students. One of these wasto select (for M.A. course) Hindi texts, or parts thereof, dealingwith the ‘exclusive Indian reality’ and ‘typical Indian mentality’,which a common foreign student was/is generally not aware of— the communal tensions between communities sharing almostthe same culture (‘Tamas’ by Bhisham Sahni), our habitual tendencyto talk even to strangers, the menace of hunger (some poemsby Nagarjun), the Indian ‘ sense and interpretation of history’(some poems from ‘Magadh’ by Srikant Verma) along with thetexts dealing with the problems being faced by the contemporaryworld like ‘old age problem’ (‘Chief ki dawat’ by Bhisham Sahniand ‘Ardra’ by Mohan Rakesh) etc.

Other than the above, I had an idea and desire to adopt dramaticsas an effective tool of language-teaching. To my satisfaction, mostof the ideas (clear or vague) were implemented and bore desirablefruits not only during my tenure (1994-96) at that Japanese university,

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but also during the years that followed.My idea was happily and enthusiasticallyapproved by Professor Katsuro Koga andProfessor Akira Takahashi.

The universities in Japan observesummer vacation mid July to midSeptember. We initiated the ‘Hindidramatics plan’ in July (1994) itself.Professor Takahashi, along with a groupof our students (and a number of beercans) arrived at my official residencein Onohara Higashi area of Minoo-cityto further discuss and finalize the planthat we already had chalked out.

The students were enthusiastic toparticipate and ready to spare requisitetime for the rehearsals. We hit the hammerat the right point and decided to stagethe world-renowned Indian classic‘Abhijnanshakuntalam’ of Kalidasa inHindi. Rehearsals started and continuedduring summer vacations and intensifiedafter the university reopened. Rehearsalsduring September and October oftencontinued late into the night.

The annual festival of the universityheld during October-November 1994witnessed presentation of a full lengthplay, ’Abhijnanshakuntalam’, in Hindi bythe Department of Indology. It provedto be an assuring and inspiring experiencewhich ultimately culminated into a long-going tradition of ‘Hindi drama byJapanese’ which many of us, today, areaware of.

Regular and intensive rehearsals boresignificant results. Some of the students

who had acted on or behind the stagehad improved a lot in terms of Hindiconversation; their pronunciation wasnow comparatively nearer to that of thenative speakers and had gainedconsiderably in other linguistic skills aswell. The experiment of utilizingdramatics as a technique of language-teaching had been reasonably successful.

The sense of satisfaction and successhad paved the way for future plans. In1995, a comedy (‘Sachiko ki Shaadi’) dealingwith the differences in the ways of Japaneseand Indian life was a hit not only atthe annual cultural festival of theuniversity, but also beyond its boundaries.

This entertaining play was such asuccess that Professor Tomio Mizokamiand its cast decided to stage it in Kobe,a city with a considerably large Indiancommunity. It was staged there on 2nd

December, 1995. A large number ofJapanese and Indian audience enjoyedthe show.

The play found a bright mention inJapanese media. It was partiallybroadcast by Radio Japan along withthe interviews of main characters andwriter-director, Dr. HarjenderChaudhary. Some audience were of theview that ‘Sachiko ki Shaadi’ played arole in reducing the depression causedby the great earthquake, which, withits epicentre near Kobe, had wreakedhavoc in Western Japan in 1995.

During the following years, ProfessorTomio Mizokami took the lead. It was

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the joint effort of the staff and studentsof Osaka University of Foreign Studiesand Professor Tomio Mizokami that made‘Hindi drama by Japanese’ cross notonly national borders, but also theboundaries of the continent. In 1997,the Japanese team of Hindi studentscame to India and performed here forthe first time. They were also invitedby The National School of Drama tostage their play in our national language.Further, Hindi intellectuals all over theworld would remember that they (theJapanese team) were officially invitedto perform at the VIth World HindiConference held at London, UK, inSeptember 1999.

Many cities situated across lengthand breadth of India and countries likeNepal, Mauritius, United Kingdom,Singapore and Thailand have witnessedthe performance of ’Hindi drama byJapanese’ during the long period rangingfrom 1997 to 2007. During this entiredecade, Hindi theatre troupe from Japanperformed 79 times in the countriesother than Japan.

It is noteworthy that Tokyo Universityof Foreign Studies has been followingthe tradition by presenting Urdu dramain India and Pakistan during the lastfew years under the guidance of ProfessorAsada. The Hindi drama troupe of OsakaUniversity of Foreign Studies and theUrdu drama troupe from Tokyo Universityof Foreign Studies have travelled togetherto perform in our country. The Hindistaff and students of Tokyo Universityof Foreign Studies have been performinglocally in their annual festivals and onother occasions.

Retrospecting my theatricalexperience at Japanese University andthe resultant tradition of ‘Hindi dramaby the Japanese’, I intend to flash theidea to the universities/institutes involvedwith the teaching of Hindi abroad thata theatrical performance is definitely aninteresting and effective tool of teaching/learning Hindi as a foreign language. Itmay be hoped that Hindi teaching andHindi theatre would go a long way, handin hand, to pave the path to internationalunderstanding and world peace.

Harjendra Chowdhary, born 1955, teaches in Delhi University, College

of Vocational Studies. He has taught in Japan and Poland. He writes

short stories and poems. He lives in Delhi.

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s fro

m a


elT’TA PROFESSORManohar Shyam Joshi

Translated by

Ira Pande

Poets must die when they’re young and novelists be born onlywhen they’re old.’ Can’t recall where I read that line, or its author’sname. God knows who wrote it: a failed middleaged poet or asuccessful old novelist. Sounds more like the former, if you askme. A middle-aged German poet, perhaps, with a bald pate anda malodorous body, whose female admirers peer beyond his beer-bloated, flatulent belly trying to find the young man who wroteromantic lyrics.

Look, successful or not, I am a middle-aged novelist too, andalthough I may now write to live, I no longer live to write. Allthe stories I put off writing because I waited for them to mature,have grown old along with me. In fact, they are as close to deathas I am now. So what immortality can this dying baggage have?

Mind you, once–very long ago–I dreamt of writing immortalstuff, something that would floor my readers and critics. Andperhaps I did write an odd dozen that future generations mayread on a bright and sunny or dark and cloudy day. Such readersmay pause at a sentence, mark the page ruminatively with a fingeror get up to read it aloud to someone else. But when they lookout of the window and see the brave new world, they’ll probablyshake their heads and say to themselves, ‘No—anyone I read thisto will think I’ve gone a bit soft in the head. This is for thosewho value period writing or those nuts who believe in literaryimmortality and that sort of shit.’

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My old world is dying all aroundme: what is more, even the memoriesof that world now appear old and tiredlike me. So.. .no, I don’t believe in anyone’simmortality now, least of all in my own.I have virtually given up writing; infact, I find now that I can’t even musterup the desire to read anything writtenby someone else. I often find it difficultnow to remember myself as the youngwriter who once had stories bubblingup inside him as spontaneously aslaughter and tears. Was I the man whoonce, while drinking a solitary cup oftea in the restaurant behind theUniversity, suddenly burst into laughterand then hastily got up and left beforesomeone thought I had’ gone mad? Wasit me who left, still chuckling over mythoughts, in search of someone with whomto share the reason why I laughed?Someone to whom I could relate an entireplot, while talking and walking at thesame time, completely oblivious of thetraffic or even the people on the roadwho turned to stare at me? Was it mewho could, at the sound of an old romanticfilm song, or on reading a line like ‘Poetsmust die young. . .’ get a lump in mythroat and tears in my eyes? Unableto summon a listener, I’d run then tothe bathroom and stare into the mirrorover the washbasin at the spectacle ofmy welling eyes and contorting face andsilently relive the story that lay trappedin those tears.

Was that me? Or was it a characterin one of my stories?

Whatever the truth, I am no longerthat man. Period. I seem to have lost

the magic button that created wavesof emotion within me, the one that mademe laugh and cry without reason. It’sall haywire now, so that often I crywhen I should laugh and burst intolaughter when I should burst into tears,And all those stories that I did not writein my youth have aged and died a little–like me–some outside me, and somewithin.

However, there were some promisingstories that I looked at from time totime, to test their health, as it were.I raged against their ageing as I ragedagainst mine. I have piles of dusty fileswith several opening chapters writtenbetween long gaps. All they seem tome now are mute reminders that bothmy imagination and handwriting havedeteriorated over the years. Among thatcollection of trash are also some lucklessplots that took birth, developed, anddied of suffocation in my mind evenbefore they saw ink and paper.

What I am about to write is a requiemfor just such a tale.

I had gone to Almora last summerto visit our ancestral home, when I wasreminded of this tale by someone (hewas actually a character in it) from amoving bus. There I was, standing neara dried-up apricot tree in our home,reflecting on the ancestor who must haveplanted it, when someone from the roadabove our home yelled: ‘Joshi, Ma’at-saip!’

My startled gaze flew up and I sawa private bus going to Bageshwar thathad probably stopped to pick up apassenger from the main road above

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our house. I traced the voice of myhailer to an old man, who appeared tobe smiling at me from one of the windows.I hurried up the terraced fields thatled to the road and furiously joggedmy brain to recall who he could be.He’d called me ‘Ma’at-saip’, so I figuredhe must have some connection withSunaulidhar village, the only place whereI had ever taught in a school. It wasalso the only time in my entire life whenI was called ‘Ma’atsaip’ -Kumaoni for‘master-sahib’.

I huffed my way up to the road wherethe bus stood. The old man looked atme from a window and congratulatedme on having become such a famouswriter. I tried desperately to rememberhis name and what he must have lookedlike when he was younger. No luck. Soall the while that he talked to me, Ischooled my face to wear an expressionthat said, ‘Of course I remember you!’It was only when he talked of how hehad been left far behind me in the literaryrat race and cursed his own fate thatthe penny dropped. So this was the juniorclerk of the Sunaulidhar school who wrotehorrendous romantic verse, I recalled.But no matter how hard I tried, theidiot’s name still eluded me.

The driver cranked his old bus intolife and as it lurched forward, the poetyelled, ‘Ma’at-saip, won’t you write about“T’ta Professor” Khashtivallabh Pant,Dubbul M.A.?’

I never got a chance to respond.By now the bus had gathered some speed,so when he waved his hand likeKhashtivallabh I waved a limp hand

foolishly in return, my lips soundlesslymouthing a ‘t’ta’. I slowly walked downthe hill again, still trying to recall theman’s name, but although a line of hisvile poetry came clearly to me, for thelife of me, I could not remember it.Faces have had names erased, and nameshover in my head without accompanyingfaces now. The departing poet must havealso often reflected on the frustrationsfelt by an ageing, creaky brain becausehe was, after all, a poet: a poet anda junior clerk. Just as I was then awriter: a writer and a temporaryschoolmaster.

And all of a sudden I was transportedto a time when I lived in a farawayvillage called Sunaulidhar that had theHimalayas studded on its horizon likea gleaming horseshoe.

I was in rebellion against my familyand the tyranny of universityexaminations those days. I had botchedmy MA exam and, after a quarrel athome, landed in the remote village ofSunaulidhar so that my family wouldnot nag me to try and get a governmentjob. For their peace of mind, I’d toldthem that I would do a ‘private’ MAbut actually all I had wanted to do wasto live in a pretty village and write.

The day I went to the school forthe first time, I realized that theatmosphere there was pretty loaded. AndI mean that in a comical sense. Myfirst encounter was with the headmasterof the school—Shobhan Singh. He objectedto my calling him a headmaster andsaid, call me Principal, please; the‘headmaster’ here is one Khashtivallabh

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Pant, who prefers to be called Professor.

Ah, I thought, chuckling silently. Sothis little school that had just beenpromoted to a high school from a middleschool had a principal and a professor!As he went on about the running feudbetween himself and Khashtivallabh, thepoetic possibilities of the pretty villageretreated from my mind before its hugecomic potential. Then, to impress me,a graduate from Lucknow University,Shobhan Singh dropped several importantnames so that I understood how he wasno yokel but one of us. What he didnot think it necessary to address,however, was the small matter of whereI would stay. When the manager of theschool had interviewed me in Almorafor the job, he had clearly mentionedthat Prihcipal-saip would give me a roomin the quarters that had been constructedfor him. Principal-saip, on the other hand,suggested that I may use the unfinishedstoreroom of the school laboratory asmy digs and share it with the junior clerk.

So I reached the storeroom of thelab and found the junior clerk addressingan envelope to the editor of Saraswatimagazine. I introduced myself and gavehim the principal’s message and askedwhere I could keep my stuff. He cursedthe principal saying, ‘He could have letyou put your things in the office, couldn’the?’

I let that pass, and asked him, ‘Areyou a writer?’

‘I am a Poet,’ he replied petulantly.‘A Poet, understand? Not some writer-viter.’

I told him pleasantly that 1 was awriter too, and that one of my scientificarticles had recently appeared in Sangam.Scientific articles can hardly be calledwriting, he sneered.

‘Talk to me of short stories and novels,understand? I am sending my poem toSaraswati for publication and have toleave for the post office now.’ Then hecast a disdainful eye over my luggage.‘Keep your things here if you must, butI am not going to leave you here alone,understand? There is too much stuff lyinghere-the lab’s, my Own... If anythinggoes missing, the shit will break overmy head,’ he said darkly.

I offered to walk with him to thepost office for I also had a short storyto send to Sangam magazine. So weboth reached the village bazaar whichhad all of two shops. The first one belongedto Jeet Singh, who stocked everythingfrom groceries to shoes and clothes, andalso doubled as the village post office.The junior clerk had by now workedout that the editor of Sangam, IlachandraJoshi, must be some relative of mineand promptly asked me to put in a wordfor his poems. I said I would certainlyhelp him with a letter to the editor who,incidentally, was no cousin or relative.However, I did know him. The youngman then proceeded to tell me of thenepotism rampant in the literary world,confiding that this was why he alwayswrote under a pseudonym.

‘I always keep clear of all caste biases,’he said virtuously. ‘However, if yourecommend my work to llachandraji,’he added slyly, ‘he will know I am a

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brahmin.’ Then he hurriedly checkedwhether I belonged to the same subcasteas the editor. I assured him that neitherthe editor nor I had any interest inour castes or subcastes.

So we posted our work and, tocelebrate the discovery that Sunaulidharnow had two writers, decided to visitthe second shop of the village whoseowner, Kheem Singh, sold tea, jalebis,pakoras and delicious potato gutkas. Iended up not only paying for thiscelebration but also listening to the juniorclerk’s poetic outpourings as well. Bynow he had unbent sufficiently to payattention to the problem of myhomelessness.

‘Here there is no such thing as roomsto rent,’ he informed me between noisyslurps of tea. ‘Everyone lives in his ownhouse where many generations of a familylive together. There is one largish housethat has place,’ he went on, ‘but thatbelongs to “T’ta”, Professor KhashtivallabhPant, and there is no way he will acceptyou as a tenant because you were appointedby my uncle, Sher Singh, manager of theschool board. You see, T’ta hates SherSingh because when the school waspromoted to a high school recently, SherSingh imported a principal from Nainitalinstead of giving T’ta the job.’

‘Is this Pant some retired professor?’I asked innocently.

‘Hah!’ he snorted contemptuously. ‘Heis an ordinary schoolmaster who startedhis career here when this was a primaryschool. He wants to become a professorand that is why he has done a dubbulMA-in Hindi and history. Privately. He

keeps sending applications to collegesall over but you know how it is: Apply,apply, no reply.’

‘So was he upset at not beingappointed principa1?’ I asked.

‘Was he not!’ the young man continued.‘He really believes that his efforts ledto our primary school being promotedto a high school, get it? Now it’s truethat my uncle, the manager, asked himto write out the applications for him,but that doesn’t mean that T’ta wasresponsible for this happening! Gettingall this organized was my uncle’s effort-he took the help of his brother-in-law,the forest contractor Pan Singh Bisht,who donated the slush money neededto move the red tape, understand?’

My head was reeling by now andby the end of all this, all I knew wasthat I was still homeless and wouldprobably end up sleeping under the starson a bed of pine needles through mystay. When I told the junior clerk asmuch, his poetic heart was so movedat my plight that he vowed to get mea room and kitchen in T’ta’s house. So,armed with a letter from his uncle themanager, he took me to T’ta’s place.

T’ta was busy doing some complexyogic exercises and we had to wait awhile. He came, glanced through theletter, pointed out several grammaticalmistakes and informed us curtly thathe was not prepared to share his homewith any Tom, Dick or Harry. Ignoringme completely, he then turned to thejunior clerk and said that whoever thisMr Joshi-Hoshi may be, his house hadno spare room.

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‘In fact,’ he went on, still addressingthe junior clerk and studiously avoidingmy eyes, ‘I want to send a message toyour uncle that people like this Joshiperson should not be appointed teachersin the school. When the school had adubbul MA like me to teach the childrenHindi and history, what do they meanby hiring a mere graduate like this personto handle maths and science? And thattoo, a person who shamelessly smokesin the presence of his elders and betters?What kind of ideal is he going to setfor our students? Look at him, a merestripling-how on earth- is he going tocontrol the rough and robust village boys?’

We slunk away and the junior clerkplaced my predicament before Principal-saip. I had imagined that the principalwould be able to persuade the clerkto let me share the storeroom with himbut instead I found the junior clerk askingme why I had accepted a position inSunaulidhar when I had no place of “myown in the village.

Slowly, the power dynamics of theschool were becoming clear to me: theprincipal was beholden to the schoolmanager who had got him appointedprincipal over T’ta. The clerk was themanager’s nephew so he had a claimon the principal’s support. Thus, hisinsisting that the principal share his housewith me-rather than offering to sharehis own room-started to make sense.

Eventually, the matter was resolvedwhen the principal decided that KheemSingh should be told to give Joshi-jyua room in his ‘hotel’.

Kheem Singh was located and, after

he was made to see how criticallydependent he was on the income fromthe school’s students and teachers, hehad no choice but to agree that thestoreroom behind his shop would bemy lodgings and he’d provide me withmy meals. So Kheem Singh shoved asidethe sacks of potatoes and firewood toone comer and put in a wooden takhtand a table and chair for me. Thus itwas that I became the first and onlytenant of Kheem Singh’s ‘hotel’.

I believe he still quotes the five rupeesand eleven annas I am supposed to owehim for his contribution to the causeof Hindi literature.

To cut a long story short, I startedliving in Kheem Singh’s ‘hotel’ and saton a rickety chair as I composed literatureon an even more rickety table. In between,I also swallowed unavoidable doses ofthe poetic outpourings of the junior clerk,who was delighted that not only hadhe now access to an account at KheemSingh’s shop, but also that there wasa fellow writer who was not averse topoetry and gossip. The main subject ofthe gossip was T’ta because he was thedeclared enemy of the junior clerk’s uncle,the manager.

One day, as the junior clerk was onhis favourite subject, the man in questioncame to the neighbouring post office-cum-general store and started chattingwith the owner, Jeet Singh. The subjectof T’ta’s declamation was the teachersof today, and every barb was clearlyaimed at me.

The junior clerk whisperedconspiratorially that T’ta invariably came

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to Jeet Singh’s shop in time for the postfrom the town because he was scaredthat someone may read the love lettershe received. But who could possibly fallin love with a man like T’ta, I askedmy companion.

‘Only T’ta knows the answer to that,’the junior clerk shrugged, ‘or possiblyhis lover. All we know is that thereis a lover somewhere. The postman tellsus that three or four times a year, T’tagets a letter with the name and addresswritten in a particular hand. Earlier, thepostmark was Lahore but after ’47, theletters come from Delhi,’ he said darkly.

‘But it could be a relative, couldn’tit?’ I said.

‘Oh, we know all about his relatives,’he scoffed. ‘The old man had an unclein Lahore once upon a time, and T’taran away from his village to study there.But the minute T’ta’s gloomy shadowfell on that house, the uncle died ofa heart attack. The uncle was an AryaSamaji bachelor so there is no possibilityof T’ta having any cousins there.’

At this point, the postman appearedand smilingly handed over an envelopeto Professor-saip.

‘Look, look,’ the junior clerk nudgedme, ‘look at T’ta’s eyes light up. I sweareven the old man’s nose is twitching,guru,’ he giggled. ‘Tell me, have youever seen anyone’s eyes light up likethat on getting a cousin’s letter, huh?Wonder who the Heer of this cartoonRanjha is! I’ve often begged the postmanto let me steam the letter open. Promisedhim I’ll stick it back exactly as it isbut the wretch won’t let me!’

T’ta was all set to leave, royallyignoring us next door, when I deliberatelyaccosted him. I bowed low over mygreeting and forced him to acknowledgeus even as he was in the act of puttingthe letter away safely in his pocket.

‘Whose letter is it, Professor-saip?’I asked politely. ‘God knows where youlearnt your manners, Mr Joshi,’ he repliedstiffiy, ‘but in Lahore we were taughtthat asking personal questions was a suresign of bad manners.’

Then he turned away and left swiftlyin the direction of the dense forest thatlay at the edge of the village.

The junior clerk clapped a hand onmy shoulder, ‘There you are, maharaj,’he laughed openly. ‘Witness now thedeparture of your hero into the denseforest to read his love letter in peace.Now he will go to the house of a womancalled Kalawati. Arrey, I know all aboutthe old rogue-for all his puritanicalexterior, there is a Lothario lurking insideour crusty professor. Not for nothing hashe left his wife in her village-he’s neverever brought her here. Not even once!’

‘Wonder how he produces so manychildren, though,’ quipped Kheem Singhas he fried us a fresh batch of pakoras.

And we all guffawed.

‘Have you ever noticed,’ the juniorclerk went on, ‘how T’ta yells and cursesus in Inglis but coos like a pigeonto any woman he meets? And have youever noticed how he behaves with thathalf-Chinese primary schoolteacher,Kalawati Yen?’

Ah! Kalawati Yen. I must tell you

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about her. You see, the British had onceplanted tea gardens around Sunaulidharand employed Chinese labourers to workon them. The gardens didn’t take rootbut the Chinese did, and Kalawatibelonged to one such family. She wasan exotic beauty and in my opinionthere was just one young man in theentire village who was capable of lovingher as she deserved: me. So the thoughtof Professor T’ta trying to romance herhad me in hysterics.

‘Our T’ta is a real joker, I tell you,’offered the junior clerk. ‘You won’t finda character like him anywhere in theworld, believe me. You have to writeabout him, Ma’at-saip!’

In those days, I was arrogant enoughnot to write on topics suggested by others,so I ignored his request. I wanted to

write something that would be classicaland modern at the same time, somethingthat would blend D.H. Lawrence withUpton Sinclair, and Agyeya withPremchand. At that point, the characterof Kalawati Yen and her Chinese ancestryappeared more promising to me thanT’ta. Yet, while the pretext of researchingher Chinese forefathers would give mea chance to come closer to her, it wouldalso intensify my encounters with T’ta,her self-appointed guardian andbodyguard. How could I possibly wastemy sophisticated intellectual aspirationson such a buffoon?

However, I soon began to see thepotential of the comlc ‘zero’ in himbecause, despite being an internationalintellectual, I was also the local satiristand lampooner.

Manohar Shyam Joshi (1933-2006) was a prolific writer who tried

his hand at virtually every form of writing: novels, ad. copy, t .v.

scripts and journalistic features. Author of novels like Kuru Kuru Swaha,

Kasap and Kyaap, he won Sahitya Akademi award in 2005. He wrote

the first hindi soap opera ‘hum log’ followed by buniyad. He was

editor of saptahik hindustan, a leading weekly journal.

Ira Pande, has been university teacher and editor of journals Seminar

and Biblio besides being a creative writer. She is currently chief editor

IIC Publications. Her translation of Joshi’s novel T’ta Professor, has

earned her this year’s Crossword award. She lives in New Delhi.

Page 229: Hindi Varta Jul Sep

July-September 2009 :: 229

1. Ramnika GuptaA-221, Defence ColonyGround FloorNew Delhi-110024

2. Promila Garg5/19B, RoopnagarDelhi-110007

3. Laura BrueckDeptt. of Asian Languagesand CivilisationsUniversity of ColaradoUCB 279Boulder, CO 80309, U.S.A.

4. AnamikaD-II-83Kidwai Nagar (W)New Delhi-110023

5. Dinesh Kumar ShuklaA-201, Irvo Classic ApartmentSector-57, GurgaonHaryana

6. Ravinandan SinhaEditor, The QuestPreeti EnclaveChandni ChowkKanke RoadRanchi-834008

7. Meera KantB-95, Gulmohar ParkNew Delhi-110049

8. Ranjana Kaul485, Mandakini EnclavePhase-IINew Delhi-110019

9. Dhiraj SinghC-26, Parwana ApartmentsMayur Vihar, Phase-IDelhi-110091

10. Surya BalaB-504, Runwal CentreGovandi Station RoadDevnar, ChemburMumbai-88

11. Dhirendra AsthanaE-104, Gita Nagar, Phase-VIMira Road (East)Mumbai-401107

12. Ishita Siddhartha537/121, PuraniyaNear Railway Crossing, AliganjLucknow-226024

13. PratyakshaB-1/402, PWD Housing Comp.Sector-43, [email protected]

14. Prayag Shukla

H-416, Parshwanath PrestigePlot No.-2, Sector-93ANOIDA-201304

15. Giridhar RathiY-A-4, Sah Vikas68, PatparganjDelhi-110092

16. Asad ZaidiB-957, Palam ViharGurgaonHaryana-122017


Page 230: Hindi Varta Jul Sep

230 :: July-September 2009

17. Rajesh Kumar SharmaDepartment of EnglishPunjabi UniversityPatiala (Punjab)

18. Asghar Wajahat79, Kala ViharMayur Vihar, Phase-IDelhi-110091

19. P.C. JoshiFlat-109, Sakshara ApartmentsA-3, Paschim ViharNew Delhi-110063

20.Kamal Kishore GoyankaA-98, Ashok Vihar, Phase-IDelhi-110052

21. Subhash SharmaD-71, Nivedita KunjR.K. Puram, Sector-10New Delhi-110022

22. Sanjay DevA-9-38, Sector-18, RohiniDelhi-110085

23. Lalit Joshi18, B/6, Stanley RoadAllahabad-211002 (U.P.)

24. Satish Kumar RohraInstitute of IndologyGandhi Gram, Gujarat

25. Ravindra MishraA-26, Shakti ApartmentsSector-9,RohiniDelhi-110085

26. Usha Mishra15, Federation RoadAbbey WoodLondon se 2 ojt, U.K.

27. Arlene [email protected]

28. Pooja BirlaUniversity of IowaU.S.A.

29. Ira PandeEditorIndia International CentrePublicationsNew Delhi

30.Musharraf Alam ZauquiD-304, Taj EnclaveLink Road,Geeta ColonyDelhi-110031

31. Harjendra ChaudharyE-1/32, Sector-VIIRohiniNew Delhi-110085