Yesterday was Munshi Premchand's 131st birth anniversay. Rajesh Khar, editor - Pratham Books, writes about the king of novels.
Image Source : yogesh300‘Upanyas Samrat’ was anything but a kingLike Tolstoy he was a common man’s man and wrote about the common man throughout his life. Often referred to as ‘Upanyas Samrat’, the king of novels, Premchand wrote prolifically both in Hindi and Urdu producing over three hundred stories, fourteen novels and a large number of essays, translations etc. which if he were to publish in modern times, would definitely have made him a rich man, a king. But this king of Hindi and Urdu novels died penniless like millions of his contemporary countrymen. It is said that once in order to get respite from the so called bad ‘nakshatras’ and to propitiate ‘Shani graha’ a Brahmin suggested that he donate a tin full of mustard oil to the poor but that was beyond his means. He then askedPremchand to donate a sack full of black gram which too was not within his means. The Brahmin asked him to donate a sack full of charcoal to which Premchand expressed his incapability. He asked to donate a few ‘sers of gur’, which again was beyond Premchand. Finally he was asked to manage at least a quarter ‘paav’ of black gram, but that too was beyond Premchand’s means. The Brahmin was taken aback and is said to have said to him – ‘Tab yajman, shani bhee tumhara kya bigar lenge’.Born as Dhanpat Rai to Munshi Ajaib Lal and Anandi on July 31, 1880 in a village near Varanasi, Premchand lived a life of struggle. He lost both his parents during his childhood and his education stopped abruptly in intermediate class. He finished graduation only after joining as a teacher in a school in Gorakhpur. At Mahatma Gandhi’s call of Satyagraha, he resigned from this job and went through a number of editing assignments before publishing his own paper. However, it was not a successful venture. Premchand even wrote a number of screenplays for Hindi movies but the industry didn’t suit him and he returned to Varanasi a sick and ailing man. He died in 1936.Premchand was a person of exemplary behavior and conduct throughout his life. Just like the protagonists in his stories, he himself lived a very simple but revolutionary life. He married a widow Shivrani Devi back in 1909 which was almost a heroic step in those days.Premchand’s famous works include his last novel ‘Godan’ which is considered one of the best novels written in Hindi. It is a story of the protagonist, Hori, a poor peasant, who desperately longs for a cow, a symbol of wealth and prestige in rural India. The story depicts deep-rooted beliefs, and the ability of people to survive and uphold these beliefs despite great misery. ‘Karbala’, ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’, ‘Panch Parameshwar’, ‘Daroga Sahib’, ‘Poos Ki Raat’, ‘Idgah’ etc. are his creations which have not only depicted the Indian psyche but also created an indelible impression on it.