New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made his first ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address after the recent Lok Sabha polls, as he remembered famous Hindi-Urdu playwright Munshi Premchand, saying his stories are still relevant today.
Modi said instead of flowers, books should be used as welcome presents, as he mentioned that he was recently gifted one of Premchand’s works titled ‘Premchand ki Lokpriya Kahaniyan’ (Premchand’s Popular Stories). He also referenced three noted stories by the celebrated author.
He said: “Premchand’s stories offer a realistic portrayal of society and are spontaneous, simple and convey human emotions.”
Referring to the story titled ‘Nasha’, Modi said: “On reading it I recalled my youth when poverty was widespread. It tells us that we should beware of bad company.”
‘Nasha’ is a story of two friends – Ishwari, the son of a wealthy ‘zamindar’ or landowner while Bir is the son of a poor clerk.
Bir is a strong opponent of the zamindari system which he sees as ethically and morally wrong. But then he is introduced to Ishwari’s family as a zamindar who is a follower of Gandhi and leads a life of austerity.
This leads to a change in Bir’s attitude and he succumbs to the same negative attributes which he had been against.
Modi said Premchand’s story titled ‘Eidgah’ also touched him deeply.
He referred to the story “of a boy named Hamid and his love for his grandmother and his maturity at a young age. The four-year-old boy goes to the fair to buy a pair of tongs for his grandmother evoking heartfelt human emotions.”
Hamid was an orphan who lived with his grandmother in extreme poverty. When a fair is held in the nearby town Hamid and his friends too go there. But Hamid has only three paisa given to him by his grandmother which he uses to buy a pair of tongs for her instead of sweets and toys.
He does this as he has seen his grandmother burning her fingers while cooking ‘rotis’. On returning home, his grandmother scolds him for wasting his money on the tongs which is of no use to a child.
But when Hamid tells her the reason he bought the tongs, her eyes well up and she hugs Hamid while weeping profusely. She realises that even at such a tender age Hamid showed maturity beyond his years.
Thus, in a reversal of roles, Hamid acts like the adult while his grandmother weeps like a child.
Modi also mentioned another Premchand story titled ‘Poos ki Raat’ which depicts the ironies of life.
The Prime Minister said: “In this story, a farmer whose crops have been destroyed, is still content as he now would not have to sleep in the fields in the cold night.”
It is significant that Modi is an MP from Varanasi – the birthplace of Premchand who is often called the “emperor among novelists”. He was born on July 31, 1880.
Premchand’s tales depict social and economic hardships, exploitation and social evils.
He wrote several novels, stories, plays, memoirs and social commentaries, including the timeless ‘Godaan’ which is considered as a modern classic.
Premchand died on October 8, 1936.