My Seven Favorite Hindi Stories: Part 3

6. Mare Gaye Gulfam (Phanishwar Nath Renu)

Hiraman, is a bullock-cart driver operating in the northern districts of Bihar, the parts abutting Nepal. He became a widower shortly after marriage. He has remained single ever since. He ekes out a living transporting all kinds of stuff (including, once, a circus tiger). One day he gets a passenger, Hirabai, a young and pretty nautanki performer who is traveling to join her new troupe. An immediate bond gets struck between the two due to the common root of their names (“Hira”). It is a long journey which Hiraman tried to make pleasant by singing village songs to her and also telling her stories about the region. His simplicity and the concern he shows for her through the two day long journey endears him to Hirabai. Hiraman in turn is completely taken in by her beauty, her voice, wafts of perfume emanating from her. Hiraman thoughtfully buys for her the rural repast of chiwda and dahi, and she asks him to have it along with her much to his embarrassment. They arrive at their destination and now is the time for them to part. Hirabai wants him to stay for a few more days and organizes free passes for Hiraman and his friends for the nautanki she is performing in. The nautanki experience is the first time ever for Hiraman. In the initial minutes of the commencement of the nautanki, a villager in the audience makes some vulgar remarks about Hirabai. Hiraman can not bear this and he beats up the guy. The show gets suspended as the mayhem spreads and the police is called in. It is then Hiraman tells the show manager that they are here as guests of Hirabai and hold special passes. Peace is restored. Hiraman watches this show for ten nights continuously enraptured by the aura of Hirabai. He has even decided to tell Hirabai not to work in the nautanki company but find a job elsewhere to avoid people from gossiping about her. The suddenly on the tenth day, he is informed by a friend of his that Hirabai is has summoned him at the railway station. He discovers that she is quitting the town and returning to here old nautanki company. There is an emotional farewell before the train leaves. Hiraman is totally shattered by this development. The story ends with Hiraman setting off to return to his village as he finds no charm in staying back when Hirabai is not around.

This story was written sometime in the late 50’s/ early 60’s by Phanishwar Nath Renu. A warm and at-once a heart-breaking story of a platonic relationship between two unlikely protagonists, a bullock-cart wallah and a nautanki dancing star. The way Renu develops the relationship, tentative initially, and then getting warmer; the bond which develops between the two. There is a lot of respect for each other, and mutual affection. She is more demonstrative of the two, calling him Mita, Ustaad, Guruji etc. She even places her hand on his shoulder to emphasize a point. He is ever respectful, but totally captivated by her. You cannot but help feel the deep anguish of Hiraman when he has to bid the final good-bye to Hirabai at the railway platform. You can nearly feel his eyes misting with the thought that she will not be around. Another beauty of this story is the evocative use of the language of the region. Here is what goes through Hiraman’s mind when he sees Hirabai having chiwda and dahi: “laal hothon par goras ka paras. Pahadi totay (parrot) ko doodh bhaat khatey huey dekha hai?” And his description of Hirabai’s voice: “Bachchon ki  boli jaisee maheen, phenugilaasi boli.” One could go on-and-on.

PS: This story was made into a movie- “Teesri Kasam”- starring Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman. While it was a failure at the box office, it won the best feature film award in 1967. It had some great songs as well: “Sajan re jhooth mat bolo”, “Chalat musafir moh liya re pinjarey waali muniya”, “Mare gaye gulfam”, “Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamaar”, “Paan khaye saiyan hamaar”. The first two kasams referred to in the story are: One: Not to ferry contraband goods across the India-Nepal border as he got into some trouble doing this. Two: Not to ferry bamboo as he had got involved in an accident involving a horse-cart which was damaged due to the long bamboos being carried in his cart. And the third kasam he makes: Never again to take a nautanki dancer as a passenger in his bullock-cart.

7. Parda (Yashpal)

Choudhari Peerbakhsh, is the head of a large lower middle-class family. His forefathers were relatively well-to-do though the Choudhari’s immediate family has to survive with his meager salary of Rs 18 as a low-paid clerk in an oil mill. The salary has progressively risen in the past fifteen years from Rs 12 but this rise has not been enough to take care of the ever-growing family of an old mother, the couple and their five offspring. They stay in a rented house in a run-down working class locality with cobblers, washermen and laborers as neighbors. Choudhari is respected in his neighborhood thanks to his white-collared job and the fact that there is a parda (curtain) at the entrance door to his house. The parda is what protects the dignity of the Choudhari household, both literally and figuratively. Over generations the quality of the parda has degenerated, but a parda is a parda, irrespective of the material it is made of. The Choudhari is forever in penury, his salary refuses to keep pace with the growth in his family and the rising cost of living. His employer is loathe to give him advances and loans and consequently he takes recourse to the Pathan money-lender (“kabuli wallah”). The Pathan is easy with the loan but is tough on recovery. When Choudhari misses an installment, the Pathan makes a big ruckus and haunts the Choudhari day and night to recover it. The Choudhari tries to escape the visits of the Pathan till one morning he is accosted for the dues. The Choudhary pleads helplessness which the Pathan does not unbelieve. Thanks to the parda which hangs on the main door, the Pathan believes that the Choudhari is well-to-do and has assets hidden inside the house. Finally, in desperation, the Pathan tugs at the parda which falls off exposing the near naked female members of the household who have only this parda to take care of their modesty. The neighbors, who have been watching the going-on turn their heads away, the Pathan walks away in shame while the Choudhari faints in abject humiliation. When he regains consciousness he has no motivation to reinstall the parda as he now stands totally defeated and realizes that the parda, which concealed the household’s penury has no purpose left to serve anymore.

Yashpal’s easy style of narration accentuates Choudhari’s plight even more. The authors description of the ruses the Choudhari employs to fob off the money-lender may read a bit comical but you cannot but help a deep sense of sympathy for him. Reading this story even now even decades after it was published you can still empathize with the Choudhari. Even today you can still find many Choudharis around you while the credit card companies serve as the Pathans. The middle-class’ attempts to maintain the veneer (parda) of respectability and the lenders attempts to take back their dues.

=============

Here are links to the other two pieces:

Link to part 1:

https://santoshojha.wordpress.com/2008/07/30/my-seven-favorite-hindi-stories/

Link to part 2:

https://santoshojha.wordpress.com/2008/08/02/my-seven-favorite-hindi-stories-part-two/

Those, dear readers, were my seven favorite Hindi stories. As I said earlier, such lists are very personal and you may have a different list of your own. Please share your selection with me. And do comment on how you found my piece. You could either post your comment here on this blog or you could mail me at santoshojha@gmail.com. Nothing like a comment from a reader to encourage a writer!

Here is a link to a site which has 5 of the 7 I have discussed here. Unfortunately, I could not locate Parda and Eidgah on the net, I am sure some diligent Googling would unearth these too.

http://www.abhivyakti-hindi.org/gauravgatha/

Thank you for you patience.

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32 Responses to My Seven Favorite Hindi Stories: Part 3

  1. sanjiv vaidya says:

    I have no other words to describe but that it is a SUPERB piece of work Santosh ! I am extremely impressed.

  2. santoshojha says:

    Thank you, Sanjiv.

  3. usdubey says:

    Dear Shri Ojha,

    I want to read ‘Mare gaye Gulfam’ (by phanishwar nath renu) in original Hindi. I want to buy any book containing that story in original. Or help me searching that if avilable online

    As regards ‘Eidgaah’ it is very much available online. Please search at ‘Munshi Premchand’ .

    u s dubey

  4. usdubey says:

    Dear Shri Ojhaji,

    I could not find original Hindi text of ‘Mare Gaye Gulfam’ in your linkages. I would prefer buying the book containing that story.

    U S Dubey

  5. ravi says:

    Ojha ji

    Great to find some commentary on hindi stories.

    I remembered Panchlight(Petromax) by Renu Ji recently – I quite loved the descriptions. by any chance do you remember the name of the lead character in the story?

    Please let me know if you do – thanks!

  6. Vandna says:

    Dear Ojhaji!!

    Very good work, very impressing. I have read some of the stories mentioned above and I really liked your selection.

    All the best

  7. Amit Jain says:

    Hi Santosh,

    Do you have any links to stories with a character named चचा छक्कन (केले ख़रीदे और चित्र टांगा are two that come to mind). While I remember reading Premchands etc., the ones that stick to my mind are always these two.

    Anyway, thanks for the memories! I had not read most of these stories. I guess I spent my time reading the cheap novels rather than the classic literature.

    • Atul says:

      The episoded discussed in the tale of Chacha Chakkan are eerily similar to the English Novel “Three Men in a boat” by Jerome K Jerome.

  8. santoshojha says:

    Amit: I can remember the story you refer to very vaguely. Will let you know if I can remember it. And, by the way, I too have read more than my fair share of “cheap” novels!!

  9. Sanjeev Roy says:

    The “Phenugilas” phrase used by Renu to describe Hirabai’s voice is an old Bihari phrase to pronounce Phonograph (as Record player were called in mid-1900s). I have heard that phrase being used by my gradmother and I was immediately reminded of that. Thought I would share the Phonetic connection between Phenugilas and Phonograph (alliteration intended !!)

  10. sriith says:

    This story has inspired me lot and emotionally takes me aback on the plight of choudhari which is a classic case of the middle class families in the creditcard collectors web . We need to take Lessons from classic stories and lead our life simply

  11. manish joshi says:

    this is a very good story i read this story when i was in 12th…..

  12. Prem says:

    First thing first, I want you to know that I very much like your weblog. And, here is the link to Eidgah, http://munshi-premchand.blogspot.com/2006/03/blog-post_114186257841658058.html and many more stories by Munshi Premchand (http://munshi-premchand.blogspot.com/). I too love few short stories that I believe helped mould my character–Pariksha, Haar ki Jeet, and, of course, Eidgah and Parda.

    I have been known to be very talkative; my wife often complained I wouldn’t let others talk. Your matter-of-factly writing style is such as if you are “talking” with those who read you. I can be good “listener” now that I am hearing impaired. I will come back to the weblog to read more about what you say. Thanks.

    • santoshojha says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Prem. I agree with your observation about the influence some short stories have had on us. And Munshi Premchand’s stories were some the best ever!

  13. santoshasthana says:

    Dear Santosh, hindi literature has had such stalwarts who have poured in their souls into their creations. Phanishwar nath renu yashpal, munshi prem chand, shivani have been such hindi writers. I appreciate your efforts to popularise this fast dwindling genre. Godhan was the name of the lead character in panchlight. Remember chigo-chidh-chin in the story? God bless.

    • santoshojha says:

      My effort and my capabilities are too modest to keep alive the genre. However, I thought it was good to share some stories which have impressed me when I was growing up and continue to do so even till this day.

      Thank you for the information on Panchlight. And thank you for leaving this comment on the blog.

  14. I. J. Singh says:

    Maya published by Mitra Prakashan published some excellent stories in the sixties. One story whose title and name of the author I am not able to recall published around 1965-67 was an excellent story about a young girl in love with a lecturer who is suddenly married to a businessman who is completely devoid of basic decency, aesthetics and culture. The girl strikes a balance between love that she has lost and the money power that her marriage has given her. There is also a very sensuous description of her meeting with the lecturer just before her marriage.

    In case anyone can identify this story from this brief description, I shall be very thankful.

  15. Atul says:

    As is usual with me, I have not watched the movie “Teesri Kasam” (1966) nor had I read the novel “Maare Gaye Gulfaam”. I was only aware that the movie was based on this novel by Renu. It is an excellent summary of the novel.

    What a moving tale ! If the movie flopped at the box office, then it shows that Indian audience at that time were not mature enough and sensitive enough for movies like this. And I can undersrand Shailendra ending up heartbroken and dying at seeing his dream project thus rejected at the box office.

    Thanks for sending me the link to this writeup. I had not read it earlier.

  16. […] neither seen the movie nor read the novel, but Santosh Ojha, a contributor to this blog has given a nice summary of this novel in his blog . Reading this summary, I realised what a moving tale this novel and this movie was. Now I can […]

  17. I have been searching for the story Parda for years, as I had studied it in school, but wrongly thought it was written by Premchand. Thanks for your information. This should definitely make it easy for me to find it now.

  18. Lakshmi says:

    Please can someone tell me the meaning of phenugilasi? Thank you. Very much appreciated. Lakshmi.

    • santoshojha says:

      A good friend of mine, Sanjeev Roy, did explain the meaning in his comment on this post. The word means Phonograph.

  19. Lakshmi says:

    Oh I missed that comment. Wonderful phonetic connection. Thanks to both you and Sanjeev Roy. I had just read the story recently and had been breaking my head over what Phenugilasi would mean. I knew it would not be in a dictionary but checked anyway. The story is just marvellous. Thanks for the comments and write up on it. Best wishes.

  20. sundarhindi says:

    Dear Santosh, You have made a very beautiful post. I liked all these stories. Parda and Eidgah are two of my favorites. Reminded me of my childhood. Parda to har ghar ki kahani hai aajkal..jo jhooti shaan mein jeete hai.. Can you please post a story “Kya Likhu?”.. i couldn’t find it on web. Thanks.

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