Premchand, the master narrator had his fingers on the pulse of the day-to-day lives of the common man of his time; their joys, their sorrows, their aspirations and even their despair. However, even the darkest of his tales is tinged with a gentle touch of humour and also re-iterates that the underlying values of life – namely, love, caring, respect are eternal.
Idgah is a touching story of love – love for his grandmother by a young boy. On the completion of Ramadan, the month of fasting, Hamid, an orphaned boy sets off to town towards the Idgah with his friends. Whilst they bought toys and sweets, he resisted the overwhelming temptation to succumb and remained steadfast in his decision to buy a pair of tongs for his grandmother, as he had noticed how her fingers burned when she made the hot ‘rotis’ over the stove.
And here is where Premchand’s brilliance a s a writer shines. Instead of making the story a sad and depressing one, he succeeds in making it one that makes us laugh by making Hamid turn the table on his friends and convinces them that the pair of tongs was far superior to anything that they had purchased.
In A Winter’s Night, a food-for-thought kind of story we get a glimpse of the hard life of a farmer and his often, futile struggles to eke out a living. Halku has to give up his meager savings of three rupees to the landlord towards his overdue rent; money that he had saved to buy a blanket to huddle into during the biting cold wintry nights spent in his field to protect the crop from maurading animals. The lives of marginalised farmers have not changed much, even in this day and age. In fact, this story can be a very good case study for children to appreciate the importance of micro-finance in the life of a farmer.
Kazaki, again is a love story. A story of love that was shared between a servant and the master’s son and the imperiousness of an arrogant master. Kazaki was a courier, picking up post and delivering them. One day, he stops to catch a fawn for the little boy and was late arriving with the mail and was fired with all the predictable consequences.
This story highlights how employers are often insensitive about the feelings and the hardship of their employees.
A prolific writer, the ever-green Premchand, through his stories brilliantly exposed the evils of those day – inequality, corruption, money-lending, the status of women, religious rituals and superstition. Stories that gained immense popularity in those days and continue to appeal to a wide range of audiences even today. Stories that will make you laugh, cry and ponder over. Stories that will tug a chord in every heart.
Brillaintly translated by Sara Rai, grand-daughter of the illustrious author, the stories have a very comtemporary feel to them and hence will enable the young readers to connect, to empathize and mull over them long after the book has been put down.
The end-notes and the introduction to the author, his life and times are an added bonus.
A must have for every school library!
Young India Books recommends.