A writer's legacy lives through his stories and ideas. These stories are inspired by the world that we live in. But even as times change, few stories continue to be relevant. Such are the stories of a legendary early 20th-century writer Dhanpat Rai Shrivastav, famously known as Munshi Premchand.
Born in a small town of Lamhi, on the outskirts of Varanasi, this illustrious writer had a lot to share with the world. Known for providing Hindi literature with a new direction, Premchand provided a fresh look into the trials and tribulations in the life of a common man. His work reflected the socio-economic conditions that existed during the nationalist movement as he spoke about issues such as prostitution, feudal system, poverty, widow remarriage, etc. He also mastered the craft of storytelling by intricately weaving in human emotions.
July 31, 2020, marks the 140th birth anniversary of this celebrated writer. The present tumultuous times that have only been compounded by the ongoing pandemic can be looked at through the perspective of the writer. The Swadeshi movement which was started around the same time still stands strong as we are now urged to be vocal for local.
It is striking how our country still battles the themes that predominantly visible in the books of Munshi Premchand. With more than 250 short stories and several essays, the writer's words still stand true to the times we live in now.
In the memory of the prolific writer, here are some stories to remember him by.
Published in 1936, Godaan talks about the struggles of the common man and is based on the economic deprivation of the village poor during the British era. But what is striking is that the story is relevant even today. The simplicity of the lives of people and the economic issued faced by many still stands true.
The book was later adapted into a Hindi film in 1963. The film starred Bollywood actors Raaj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Mehmood and Shashikala. In 2004, Godaan was also a part of a 27-episode TV series.
The title means vow. Published in 1927, the theme of the book revolves around the criticism and prejudice around widow remarriage. The issue still plagues our rural society and is often side-lined. Through the book, the writer also offers the solution of economic self-reliance for oppressed women of society.
In his real-life too, Premchand married a widow Shivarani Devi and faced opposition from the society.
Rangbhoomi or Chaugan-e-Hasti
Premchand was known for writing complex plots with utmost simplicity. The book Rangabhoomi (published in 1924) deals with the oppression of the working class. It also includes the plight of rural Indians and farmers. Come to think of the situation now; these are the people who still struggle and are oppressed. In the book, he talks about capitalism, the self-interest of the civil servants and the problems that prevail in society. All of this still plagues society today, leading the reader to a sense of relatability.
An account of the pre-independence times, the book Gaban (published in 1931) talks about the socio-economic conditions of the common man. It revolves around a character who believes himself to be suspected for fraud in British India. This is one of the most popular novels of Premchand and was also made into a film in the later years.