Regarded as one of finest ever writers of the country, Munshi Premchand has undoubtedly left a monumental impact on Indian literature. Pemchand’s stories – mostly set in the pre-Independence era – depicted important socio-economic and cultural evils plaguing India in very deft and poignant ways.
Premchand’s stories were disturbingly real and moving and had a way of connecting to people directly. His countless stories have stood the test of time and are relevant even in today’s times. Here, we have selected seven masterful stories by Munshi Premchand that are truly heart-rending.
Idgah: Undoubtedly, one of the most renowned stories of Premchand, Idgah is simple and heartwarming story of a child who goes to the village fair and instead of bringing any toys or sweets for himself, he brings a pair of tongs for his grandmother. He does so because he does not want her to bur her fingers while cooking rotis. The story is moving and shows the deep bond between the little boy and his grandmother very poignantly while teaching us about love and hardships in a very subtle manner.
Karmbhoomi: A true master class, Karmbhumi depicts the journey of Amarkant. A bright man with his own ideals, Amarkant leaves his parents’ house when his father refuses to accept the love of his life, Sakina. Amarkant then wanders around different villages until he comes across one village of untouchables. This has a profound effect on him and he goes on to adopt the village eventually and begins teaching the children of those untouchables. Amarkant also helps the village folks in different ways and the bond he begins to build with them is superbly portrayed.
Godan: Perhaps one of the most talked about novels of Premchand, Godan was extremely significant it its times because it talked about the socio-economic awareness prevailing our country then. The basic premise of the story centers on an old, poor couple – Hori and Dhania – and the significance of a cow to them. Through their story, the writer depicts the woeful conditions of the Indian poor, lower caste people in the British raj. This pioneering book had an overwhelming effect on Indian readers and was later adapted for film and TV as well.
Nirmala: Like most Premchand stories, this too told a heartwarming tale. Only this time, the protagonist was a woman named Nirmala. Through the lead character, the author portrays how the social evil of dowry and the custom of marrying off young girls to much older men were gnawing at the country. So we see a 15-year-old Nirmala married to a man who is 20 years older than her. How Nirmala copes with her husband, his sons and the daughter who is later born to her, forms the rest of the story. This is a very real and sad tale which leaves you thinking.
Shatranj Ke Khiladi: A story that legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray adapted into a film, Shatranj Ke Khiladi perhaps does not get as much acclaim as Premchand’s other works but is still a splendid tale. The story centers around two indolent aristocrats of Awadh, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali, during the British era. To kill time and to avoid their responsibilities, the two play chess all the time. So absorbed are they in their game that they fail to notice anything happening around them. In the end, the game consumes them both in a fatal way. A captivating story told masterfully.
Gaban: Narrating the story of a newly married couple, Ramnath and Jalpa, Gaban is one of the most illustrious works of Premhcand. Ramnath here is shown to be a man susceptible of his wife’s demands for endless jewelry and because of it ends up in severe economic crisis. He also messes up his personal relationships because of this and eventually becomes a loner. This is a classic story of how lust and acquisitiveness can destroy one completely. Though set in a pre-independence era, the story rings true today as well.
Nasha (Short Story): This delightful little short story is centered on two best friends Ishwari – the son of a rich landlord – and Bir– a poor clerk. Bir is fiercely critical of landlords while Ishwari keeps defending them. Once, Iswari invites Bir to his palatial home. There, Bir is enamored by the affluent lifestyle that Bir has and the luxurious way he is treated. Slowly and steadily, Bir begins to get influenced by this lavish way of life and it gets to his head. How this intoxication then wears off and realization dawns in is beautifully depicted. A story that can easily be related to today as well, Nasha’s plot has several significant facets like hypocrisy and the sway of money which are worth noting.
What is your favourite Munshi Premchand story? Let us know in the comments below.