There has been much written about Premchand, but perhaps there are no better ways of knowing an author other than through his books. His first work was published in 1907 and his literary career spanned across three decades. Over the years, his work has been translated into English enabling more differs to access it.
On his birth anniversary, here is one of his short stories, The Door: A Fragment from volume one of his collected short stories published by Penguin Random House, India.
My life is always in peril. The boys of the house don’t give me a moment’s peace. Banging both my panels hard together is their idea of fun. This cracks my ribs. To make it worse, strong gusts of wind knock the life out of me. How mercilessly they rattle me. Oh God, help me! And, as if this is not enough, the master of the house doesn’t pity my cries of pain.
Instead, he becomes angry at me. I am the confidant of the house and it is my duty to help keep up appearances. They often keep me closed even when the master is present in the house. They shut me particularly on the days when people come to ask for donations or when the cloth merchant comes to demand payment. They go back disappointed. I valiantly save my master from embarrassment and from offering lame excuses.
But a few days ago when the postman, seeing me closed, went back with the money order, the master started cursing me. Nobody mentions my good deeds but everybody gets angry when they see something wrong. The ways of the world are strange. I have to suffer abuses simply for discharging my assigned duties. Finding me closed, impatient dogs hoping to get delicious food become so upset and so dejected.
And not to mention the thieves. They are after my life. Sometimes they punch me in my sides or unhinge me or try other tricks. Even the beggars detest me. On finding me closed they curse me and return disappointed. Oh! How wistful are the memories of the days gone by! I have seen better days. I cannot forget the day when the lady of the house, laden with bangles and bracelets and head bowed from shyness, stepped out of the palanquin as a newlywed bride. At that time I was the first one to see her radiant face and to kiss her delicate feet.
One day when the master for some reason was late in coming home, the newlywed bride sat waiting for him and then, feeling shy even of the walls, her head bowed in modesty, she came and stood near me. For a long time, clinging to my side she kept gazing in the direction of the vast ground outside the house. There was such a flutter in her heart and such thoughtful longing in her eyes. When at last she saw the master approaching, overcome with great joy, she rushed inside the house. How can I ever forget such delightful moments? As the master grows older he becomes fonder of me. Now he often sits by my side. Perhaps, he feels sad at the thought of separation from me.
Don’t you know that when he fell ill recently the lady clung to me and wept many times? Who would ever step inside this house if they knew that they do not have the right to leave? I am the link between the home and the outside. Such a vast world outside. The home is limited and the outside world is limitless. There is a relation between the limited and the limitless. My job is to join the drop with the expanse of water outside. I am a boat that carries people from mortality to immortality.
Translated from the Urdu by Adeel Mehdi
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