Collected Short Stories by Premchand
This book is a review of collected short stories of Premchand. If I say I am writing about Mr. Dhanapathi Rai Srivatsav, not many might understand who he is. If I say I am writing about Premchand’s book, everyone shows interest.
Yes, Premchand is one of the greatest story writers of India in this century. Everyone of you, at one time or the other must have come across his name. Though he wrote in hindi, he is known all over India. He wrote several great pieces of work like-’Godan’, ‘Seva Sadan’, ‘Gaban’, ‘Nirmala’ etc. I read only the last two.
This book of short stories is a collection of some of his best stories though I missed one of my childhood favourite stories, ‘kafan’ a lot. It is well translated by Jai Rattan. I also would like to share with you one incident regarding his life.
Once Premchand was awarded ‘Rai Sahib’ title by the government and a notice regarding it came to his house. His wife was very happy at it and came running to inform him. Premchand received it indifferently and replied – ‘I want to decline it’. When she asked the reason, he replied – ‘The Rai Saheb’ title given by people is enough for me. I don’t need any govt title. If I accept it, I’ll become a servant of the government and not an everybody’s man’. Thus ended the episode.
It is a collection of 20 short stories by Munshi Premchand as he is popularly known. Almost all the stories deal mostly with the normal sequence of events that occur in day to day life. The first story – ‘Secret of Culture’ starts like a soliloquy as many of the other ones does. But, the story line is intoduced to the reader in a fine way. It ends saying – ‘Culture is merely a second name for cunning. One can do the worst misdeeds but so long as one can hide them, cover them up well, one is a man of culture, a gentleman’.
It can be considered either a satire or a doleful remark. The second story – ‘The way to Salvation’ wants to prove the statement – ‘a scholar hates another scholar, a poet hates another poet. But a gambler helps another gambler, a thief too helps another one’. The next one – ‘Salvation’ is about the caste inequalities. ‘The box of Jewels’ is a story of a man stealing from his boss in a weak moment and later realising his mistake through wife.
‘Lone Voice’ is just a usual one. ‘Foolish Friends’ is about two innocent children who despite of their good will do harm owing to their ignorance. ‘The Wrist Watch’ is a nice story to read. It is about a man who happens to take his friend’s costly watch and fail to return it. ‘The Undeserved Reward’ is just an event in the life of a man who is a friend of an influential officer. ‘Navier’ is a touching story which tells how circumstances change men.
‘The New Bride’ is a usual story of an oldman and his young wife. ‘Lottery’ tells how the madness to get money in short-cut can bring out a drastic change in a family’s way of living. ‘Resignation’ is the story of a submissive lower middle-class clerk. ‘The Police of Justice’ is written I believe with the naxal movement and the likes in mind. ‘A House of God’ is the anguish of an untouchable woman on the death of her child. ‘A Police Officer’s Tale’ is probably the only one among the lot which will evoke a loud laughter. ‘The Necklace’ too is written with a humorous end. ‘The Son-in-Law’ is about a son-in-law who stays with his wife’s parents and brothers doing all works there.
On the whole, the stories deal with different aspects of life. ofcourse, most of the stories are about middle-class life. They evoke laughter, anger, pity, helplessness, amusement, wonder and every other feeling that exists. It is an assorted collection in which you have every type of stories ofcourse, excepting crime and horror stories.
The following phrases were written about Premchand on the back cover – ‘..what distinguishes Premchand’s writings is that, in them, we feel the tempo of the times in which he lived. Usually he catches our attention by a few striking phrases and straight away plunges into action.’ I agree with every letter of it. This can be easily understood by the readers right from page one.