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A mirror to modern day Indian society

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Temple & the Mosque (The Best of Premchand) translated by Rakhshanda Jalil features 17 classic short stories of the legendary Hindi writer who passed away almost 75 years ago. Surprisingly, the issues addressed in the pieces are still very relevant today.

Munshi Premchand wrote extensively about social situations, about the scourge of casteism, illiteracy, poverty, and of the villains who perpetrated unmentionable sorrows on hapless persons who had no voice by virtue of their so-called low birth. There were also the gentle heroes. And those who overcame travesty with humour. Many tales have village or small town settings:

The Thakur’s Well: Gangi’s defiant heart rebelled against the ties and torpor of convention. How was she inferior, and these guffawing men superior? What was it that set them apart? The sacred thread that the Thakurs wore around their neck? Thugs and bullies…that’s what they were…every single one of them. They stole, they cheated, they put false law suits. It was only the other day that the Thakur had stolen a poor shepherd’s sheep, killed it and feasted on it. And that Pandit – his house was little better than a gambling den. The merchant sold oil mixed with ghee. They knew how to get work done out of you without paying you a paisa in wages.

Intoxicants, Both!
The Englishman picked up a water pistol. Next to it was a pot filled with coloured water. Bull filled the water pistol and aimed a jet of coloured spray at Rai saheb’s face. But Rai saheb sat there as though turned to stone. What a stroke of luck! What had he ever done to deserve this good fortune! What an officer! Such love for his subjects! Ah! If only Seth Jokhanram had been here, he could have seen for himself how much the district magistrate favoured Rai saheb. One ought to ask him if any white man had ever sprayed him with coloured water, let alone the district magistrate himself. This can only be the fruit of past good deeds, no doubt. At least a thousand years’ penance, no less, could make a man fit to reach this elevated position. With folded hands, he now said, ‘Most reverend sir, you have made my life complete today. Now that you have played Holi with me, may I be given leave to fulfill my heart’s desire by doing the same?”

  • The Temple & the Mosque translated by Rakhshanda Jalil

Price Rs.250


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