A Review of the Hindi Story Aaga Peecha by Premchand

The Hindi literature has always been the primary source to comprehend the magnitude of the sociopolitical problems of the Indian society, whether it is the deep rooted patriarchy, subjugation of the commons using religion and other divisive rituals, inner conflicts of an individual or any other rural and urban pertinent topics of discussion and contemplation that remain ignored by other populist mediums. Beyond the noise of social media and newsrooms, the stories, playwrights and novels written in Hindi effortlessly portray the sensitive and heart-rending conflicts. They allow readers to look into the lives of the characters that are relatable and thereafter enable them to reflect upon their own lives.

Munshi Premchand

One of such Hindi authors who has always amazed his readers by his detailed description and deep analysis of the people around him is Munshi Premchand. His intense, realistic and thought-provoking stories are quite similar to those written by Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. My father often hails him as the Shakespeare of India and I cannot agree more on this. His timeless stories are devoid of any preaching and concentrate more upon presenting the daily encounters as they would have occurred. The warmth, sensitivity and pain described in his stories assist readers in experiencing a range of cathartic emotions that have steadily diminished around us. They assist us in getting into the shoes of the character as wonderfully accomplished in the stories of Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. I had the opportunity to read Prem Chand’s short story “Aaga Peechha” .  Even though the story was penned down by the author a long time back, it still stands relevant for the society.

Like his other women-centric stories, even “Aaga Peechha” is about those women who, despite deprivation and other odds, accept their lives and strengthen their values and principles to face any humiliation and ostracization. It’s about women who not just mirror all feminine qualities, but also strong moral values. It’s also about women who are the ideal examples of  both inner and outer beauty, who through their strong character  build up a strong family, man and society. They might fascinate those around them like a colorful flower swaying with the breeze, but are as determined and steadfast as a mountain in the times of stormy nights.

Women presented in Premchand’s stories are strong and inspiring

The story revolves around a young and dynamic girl raised by a prostitute. The story describes the emotional turmoil of the girl due to the stigma attached to her  being a daughter of a prostitute. Despite being extremely talented and mature for her age, she is time after time reminded of her social status by others. And, she finally realizes that any personal merit or socioeconomic achievement will never enable her to detach herself from this social stigma. As a consequence, she develops distrust and hopelessness toward social institutions, including marriage, until she meets a fellow classmate who looks at her beyond her body and admires her for her merit and achievements. The story unfolds in a beautiful manner wherein the emotional upheavals of both the girl and the boy has been beautifully portrayed. Such relationships despite being intense and beautiful have to witness innumerable emotional social conflicts. 

By the time characters build up their confidence and determination to give a proper conclusion t such relationships, they are consistently weakened by the rigid rules and certain dogmas attached to certain communities and profession, such as prostitution. When they succeed in overcoming all dogmas and  restraints, they encounter innumerable indescribable inner conflicts. The story makes readers think and contemplate over human psychology and social strictures that fail people in realizing their dreams and forming relationships that can exist only in an ideal world. It needs courage to overcome both inner and outer conflicts to live up to our ideals and principles.

Sight of My True Self

Is renunciation the only way to happiness? 

Renunciation of wealth, 

Renunciation of desire, 

Renunciation of ego

II

Surviving amidst emotions of all hues, 

Creating a facade to live up to the game, 

Accepting the unequal system, 

Nursing the wounded heart thrashed multitude times, 

Protecting cherished dreams from evil eyed folks, 

So, am I really happy? 

III

Tears often tumble down my boat-shaped eyes, 

Down my cheeks, 

To rest like a droplet of dew on my hand. 

Sometimes I hold them like the holy water in my folded palms, 

Look into the water that refutes to be still. 

To enjoy the sight of my true self. 

III

It’s funny, but true, 

Rainy and cloudy days make me look lovely, 

Walking in heavy rains makes me happier, 

Hiding under the bamboo shade and laughing over the broken umbrella lightens my heart, 

IV

Resting my head on pillows piled upon each other, 

I gaze aimlessly, 

I search deeply, 

I ruminate effortlessly, 

My eyes like a window swinging to and fro shut 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Times…. Fantasies and Dreadful Thoughts

Time is flying away too fast, or on the contrary, it stands still like never before. I look for answers, only to hear nothing in response, absolutely nothing. Days now pass away in search for a “ray of hope”, which remains far beyond my reach. Bombarded with essential and non-essential information on the virus, I now know everything, thanks to the fourth estate that continues to make a scapegoat out of the common masses and divide citizens on man-made classifications, but only the exact time period when this pandemic should get over. I search for peace in between the chaos by disconnecting from the lonely and scared souls, least someone infects me with the fear far more deadlier than the virus. To beat all blues and dreadful thoughts, we make love at home, an unforgettable love. These fantasises help me in overcoming all fears and morbid feelings.

The 12 Most Romantic Lovers Depicted In Art

In the pitch dark room, with nowhere else to go  but just remain like choiceless prsioners within the four walls, we make love to forget and forgive. We give wings to our fantasies to recuperate from the threat lingering like the invisible shadow of death. We passionately kiss each other and embrace ourselves in each other’s arms to pen a beautiful story in such strange times. We wake up after a refreshing love making and whisper “I love you!” , least anyone else can hear, with so many people passing their time by remaining locked in their homes. My eyes twinkle again and heart starts to beat effortlessly again; it’s a nice sensation.  I turn towards him to caress his hair and bare arms. With a twinkle in my eyes, I emphasize, “Let’s make the fullest of this time.” Maybe rekindle the love that was disspiating away, or pen a new love story set in such a weird and grotesque context.

This pandemic is an unimaginable and inexpressible experience; it’s a test of human endurance and our believe in hope. I feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, by the news announcements and commentaries screeching unstoppably around me. I prefer retreating into my room to pen my emotions or sleep away  in peace. In my writing room, I feel more relaxed and human. I keep writing down my emotions and thoughts that surge with the passage of every day. Despite all relentless efforts, there’s no respite from this pandemic. We are creating history, a history build on human animosity, political rivalry, ruthless competitiveness and unbearable narcissism. The pandemic has been an enlightening experience for many, those who never looked beyond money, who were too occupied in building their mansion, who felt invincible, and the list goes on. I can see hope quite lucidly when I write and discreetly pray for this strange time to end.

Vagabond – A story of a woman who eliminated her fears

A scene from the film Vagabond directed by Agnes Varda

The dichotomy of public and private space seemed just a jargon until I realized how far a woman remains controlled, especially in the public space.  Unlike men, women are supposed to be more coy and mindful in the public space. It is really difficult to conduct a debate over a topic focusing on the division of behavioral pattern on the basis of gender that has been normalized by the society. Raising an eyebrow against such a societal pattern is like creating a storm. When I started growing up, I was exposed to classic cinema and literature unlike many girls of my age. They made me realize that women are not mere agent to pacify others’ wishes and longings. In fact, they like any man long to have her own time and fun. Unlike what many men wrongly believe, every woman has a restless soul and critical mind until unless her intellect has been purposefully subdued to such an extent that she remains ignorant and unaware about her own inner desires and feelings.

When Mona spends time with a goat farmer

Women tend to define and limit their idea of adventure to just fit in the common framework of the society. The society loves to control their mind and body by categorically mentioning the appropriate and inappropriate indulgences for women. There are judgmental eyes roving all around to label a woman as a slut, whore, sinful, goddess, etc. by merely scrutinizing her from head to toe and not paying any damn attention to her thinking mind and perturbed heart.  Many readers after reading this might say, “Well, you are not saying anything new. So, why don’t you stop blabbering and speak something new.”

There have been times when I have looked out through my window in the darkness and dreamt of walking in the empty streets of my city. I have also dreamt of sitting under a tree and watching the sky turning from crimson red to pitch black to the shades of yellow and red. I also yearned to travel alone in a train running past beautiful landscapes dotted with trees and huts, getting down any random station to sip a cup of coffee, start a conversation with a stranger, among others. However, it is difficult to be absolutely free to indulge in our dreams, especially when one is born as a woman. She needs to take steps toward her dreams by ensuring safety. If she has no money, she cannot dare to live her dreams. If she has to exercise total freedom, she must be ready to witness disruptions and hurdles that may range from molestation, assault to characterization as a whore.  In sum, a woman with desires is seen as nothing more than a willful woman. This  has been well presented by none other than the renowned French woman director, Agnes Varda.

Through her path-breaking film, Vagabond, Agnes succeeds in portraying the innate emotions and desires of a woman so far not presented by anyone in the celluloid world. I remember talking about this film during my college days. Even in those days, the fate of the protagonist immensely disturbed me. Raised on classic cinema and literature, it had always been difficult for me to accept the division of role among women and men on the basis of gender. Therefore, it was totally impossible for me to comprehend the extremely discriminatory behavioral patterns imposed on women in the society. So, somewhere down the line, the film Vagabond resonates my and innumerable other women’s feelings.

This poetic tale of a beautiful and thoughtful woman who one fine day decides to throw away her job of a secretary and wander around the French countryside will make every woman to contemplate about their life and yearnings. The protagonist of the film chose the toughest season of the time, i.e., winter to camp around, which is enough to draw attention of the locals and strangers. Though her decision and step may sound erratic and not worth taking risk, her journey and encounters and experiences widen her horizon as an individual by bringing her closer to the truly free life that she wanted to live. In between, some of the women who happened to meet her felt more connected to her than freely sympathetic toward her miserable condition. They feel as if she is living the dream that they too wanted to live one day. However, nothing comes for free, so even the protagonist had to witness assault, humiliation, poverty, etc. to live her dream. Though she meets a fatal end, her journey remains inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s difficult for me to pen down the exact emotions that surged within me while watching this film. I can define them to be closer to poetic, longing, dreamy, etc.

Beyond the mundane structures of the society, the protagonist, named Mona, truly lives her life by meeting and observing the world. She met people who loved her, detested her, humiliated her and used her, yet it’s Mona who stands taller than others. Some of the beautiful scenes of the film include when she passes her time by blissfully sleeping in the arms of a new lover, indulging in wine and sumptuous food, and lazing around the backyard of an empty mansion.

Sometimes she traded her body to earn her living and sometimes she just wandered around with her backpack. She learns new trades to survive when she meets a Tunisian farmer who truly cared for her. If I can put my heart into my writing, then I can say that I loved her uninhibited life devoid of any ambition and the feeling of loss or pain. She is truly a survivor and dreamer. It also seems that she is not living her dreams rather living her life by eliminating her fears. She has no fear of living on streets, no fear of any man, no fear of not leading a normal life, which makes her more fascinating and interesting than all of us.