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.

Experiencing new sensations

My dream to live in between trees and mountains has become more passionate with time. Frankly, I can now see my dream more vividly than before. But, we are always caught between the reality and the unquestionably accepted lifestyle.

In this entire race to live as per the parameters defined by a few, the hope to experience the life in the truest way has failed to exist. Or, it has been deliberately erased from the definition of dream. The concept of dream has been unilaterally defined as material possession. The more, the better. 

There are still innumerable things that I still think to be indispensable to my life, but, in truth, are mere modern tools calculatively created and designed to keep us enslaved to a popularly accepted and exalted lifestyle. Rather than freeing us, this commonly accepted lifestyle has substantially atrophied our spiritual and emotional growth. 

The addictiveness of technology and increased consumerism have turned us into machines deriding creative and critical thinking. My goal to free myself from such attachments might sound tough, but is required to experience certain yet to be felt sensations. This includes the experience of simple living and indulgence in the simplicities of daily life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untraceable Memories Slipping Away Like Dust

It’s easy to pretend nothing happened, 

When frankly so many things happened, 

Our pretentious conversations founded on lies and deliberately selected memories are like a TV show talk,

Ridiculous and misrepresentation of the truth,

You pick the best memories but discreetly throw away the rotten ones stinking of treachery, 

Now untraceable in the soil, none believes them, rather strike them off as mere illusions lurking in my differently wired mind, 

I have spent innumerable years digging that land where those memories remain hidden from the human eye, 

The wound inflicted years back has steadily desecrated those memories into mere dust,

And the dust files away or slips away every time I try holding them in my hands, 

Leaving behind mere sensation and no evidence of pain

 

 

 

 

Sometimes tranquil, sometimes playful

I

Her beauty was above all, 

Creases of uncomfortableness lined her face like the pink streaks in the sky,

Her unbrushed golden hair flew like a tree in wind,

Her trembling lips eager to sing were too shy to open up, 

But they bloomed like deep red rose petals with dew drops resting on their silky skin

II

She ambled with a straight back, 

And ran like a child holding her skirt in the field, 

Her eyes flaming like a fire held more secrets than the old mansion where she lived

III

Sometimes she played with grass by unconsciously entwining it around her finger, 

Sometimes she loved collecting pebbles strewn at the sea bank, 

Sometimes she strolled like a sea bird and left the imprint of her feet on the slippery sand

IV

Dressed in red, she often looked out of her window to watch the sea, 

Sometimes tranquil, sometimes playful, just like the sea floating within her bosom, 

She liked watching the sun drowning willingly in the sea waves expressing joyously their affection,

Affected by her magnetic beauty they rushed to embrace her in their arms, or touch her feet sinked in sand grains. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.