Stories On The Village By Premchand

Premchand is a writer I have grown up reading. A fond memory that I have of him is reading his stories in Hindi in my school years. I remember every year there was at least one story by him in my syllabus and although the reason then used to be teaching us morality, his stories were always more than that. They were fun. I have been fascinated by him ever since and honestly when I saw this book at the IGI Airport’s book shop while I was heading for my trip to Sikkim-Darjeeling (Ah, nostalgia!), I couldn’t stop myself from buying it. Premchand used to write in Hindi and Urdu. He used to write about issues which were relevant then and are relevant now. Often regarded as one of the greatest Indian writers, Premchand is mystical and magical. He often wrote about social issues and critiqued caste system and moral bankruptcy and the high caste Hindus culminated a lawsuit against Premchand for defamation. That was the power of his words.

“What an unjust custom! She, who didn’t have even tattered rags to cover her body while she was alive, must now have a new shroud.”
-Stories On The Village, Premchand

I started reading this on Tuesday and completed it last night and this book is brilliantly conceived, well written and super engaging. It is a collection of 10 interesting and enlightening short stories that revolve around many issues in Indian villages including the caste system, untouchability, Brahminical patriarchy and upper caste privilege. Although these stories were written in the early twentieth century most of them still ring true and are quite relevant. The translation is great. It is free of any grammatical errors and the feel of the stories was retained. However, I know I would have lost out on some of the magic that Premchand would have crafted in the language he originally wrote in (Hindi and Urdu).

Premchand’s wit and creative storytelling make every story beautiful. The best part was how these stories end, the climax is so interesting!!! Halku’s respite of not having to spend cold winter nights out in the open in ‘A Night In The Month Of Poos’, calling out society’s double facedness and moral corruption in ‘The Shroud’, Hamid’s thoughtfulness and gestures and depicting the purity of a child’s heart in ‘Idgah’, calling out society for its notions of false pride and portraying how the rich only care for money and the poor have heart and courage in ‘The Funeral Feast’, portraying how justice is above everything including friendship and nothing comes in its way in ‘Holy Judges’, calling out superstitions and raising the problems with the idea of ‘Dharma’ and in Hinduism and questioning blind faith in ‘Babaji’s Feast’ and all the other stories which Premchand uses as a measure to critique and comment on social issues in the village.

About who should read the book? I think, anyone who is looking for a brilliantly translated book and engaging stories should read it. One can also pick it up if they want to come out of a reading slump. I would have!

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