Prem Chand is an iconic Hindi writer. From early childhood, I had been reading his books and short stories, sometimes as a part of school curriculum and at other times, for pure pleasure. His stories have an adorable earthiness. He writes about the common man and his day-to-day problems in such a fantastic way that the reader can instantly connect to his own life and becomes much more than a mere spectator.
Recently, I read ‘Nirmala’ – a famous novel by Premchand that is centered around a young girl Nirmala, who is forced to marry a man of his father’s age. She is flabbergasted to know that her husband is not just a widower, but has three sons as well. And, his eldest son is of the same age as that of Nirmala.
It takes lots of patience and perseverance on her part to accept her destiny as a step mother of grown up children. But, at last, her maternal instincts take over and she begins to treat them as her own kith and kin. She even tries to adjust herself in accepting her balding, old husband and foul-mouthed harsh spoken sister-in-law.
All goes well, till her husband becomes suspicious of Nirmala having illicit relations with his elder son. This comes as a ruthless shock for the dutiful son, whose heart is singed by his father’s irresponsible behaviour and baseless allegations. He leaves home for good and starts living in a hostel. But, unable to deal with this strange turn around, he dies prematurely, leaving the old man to cry over his stupidity.
As I read the novel, it became clear that it is pretty easy to misunderstand others. In fact, we are always looking for such opportunities, as by nature, human beings are the most envious animals. Be it money, status, spouse or property, we tend to treat them as mere possessions and want to be doubly sure of their loyalty, forgetting that it is impossible to grab slippery sand in a tightly closed fist.
In a simple story, Premchand exposed the flimsy existence, most of us guard as valuable assets. The novel was written almost a century ago, but seems true for our fast modern age as well. Since the human emotions are even less important today, it seems as if there is a Nirmala and his suspecting husband, sitting dormant within all of us, one a potential victim and the other, a waiting devil lurking his suspicious hot-head every now and then.
This age-old story of love, jealousy and guilt won me over, with its sheer ordinariness, told in the inimitable affable style of the great Premchand. It is all time classic and I would recommend everyone to read it, even if it is the only book out of the huge collection of Premchand’s work, you are ever going to read.