Every language brings a distinctive flavour in the story, making its world unique and familiar at the same time. The world of Hindi stories always comes across as very honest and subtly profound to me.
Just like visiting a beautiful village, coloured green with flora, blue with water-wells and brown with earthen-wares, the Hindi language stories that I have read till now have become this lovely quaint place in my head.
And the people that inhabit this place, interesting characters from all over India, each one has struggled, battled, lived and loved this life truly.
Malkauns, Yaman, Basant bahar, Darbari, Khayal and other such ragas intricately design the wind here.
The latest addition to this place of mine is a compilation of short stories of some of the most famous Hindi writers of the early 20th century. Munshi Premchand, Jaishankar Prasad, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Upendranath ‘Ashk’ and Bhisham Sahani are the greats whom I have met before via their other stories and poems.
The others – Vishambharnath Sharma ‘Koshik’, Sudarshan, Vishnu Prabhakar, Kamla Chaudhary, Jainendra Kumar Jain, Chandragupt Vidyaalankar, Acharya Chatursen Shastri, Yashpal, ‘Agyaya’ and Siyaramsharan Gupt are the ones whom I had the opportunity to meet for the first time.
What a world they have all created – sensitive, soulful, revolutionary and inspiring.
Here, the writer whose short story I would like to share with you is Pandya Bechan Sharma ‘Ugra’.
The title of his short story is मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool).
अम्माँ का नाम गुलाबो, मुँह देखो तो छुहारा, आकृति धनुष की तरह। गुलाबो अम्माँ की अवस्था अस्सी और पाँच पचासी वर्ष।
[Translation – “Amma (Granny) is called Gulabo (Rosy), face, a dried date, shape, bent like a bow. Gulabo Amma is eighty and five, eighty-five years old.”]
Bang!! That is how the story begins, gripping instantly, visually powerful; it reminds you of an old lady, one who is waiting on the roadside to cross the road or sell vegetables or beg.
The author’s famous penname ‘Ugra’ describes his writing aptly. Ugra means fiery, radical, hot-blooded.
He writes economically, hitting the right chord without any delay, not shying away from the truth, not allowing the eyes to escape, making a satirist out of you before you can realise it and run.
The Story Gist
Amma is old and so is the cow that had for past ten years served the family without a complaint; she gave six-litre milk every day, six of her bull calves and four heifer calves were sold for a good amount.
But now old, she is of no good and thus, Amma’s three darling sons want to get rid of the cow.
Though politically inversely aligned – eldest one a congressman, other a communist and the youngest follows a Hindu party – they have unanimously made up their mind to either sell the cow to the butcher or send it to a cow-shelter or simply abandon her.
But Amma has become a heavy hurdle for them; she is horrified to even hear of such a suggestion about her beloved cow.
She argues with them, starts eating one meal a day so that they still buy the cow’s feed and saves her one wintry night when the youngest son tries to drag the cow away.
Amma lovingly apologises to her; seeing the cow shivering in the cold weather, she runs to her room, calling herself a fool.
Out of the two blankets that she owned, she picks her own warmer one, goes to the cowshed and happily covers the cow with it.
A two page long short story, dramatically strong, dipped in sweet sarcasm, this piece raises questions unabashedly. What path have you chosen dear one? What rules do you abide by?
You weigh matters miserly, falsely, egotistically and complain of the imbalance. Why do you refuse to learn and almost always forget?
Ugra’s मूर्खा Murkha (A Fool) boldly strengthens the storyteller’s voice; still pertinent to the present times, one looks around to see what all has changed and what has not.
The lovely quaint place is kaleidoscopic in nature; I often see through its lens to pick up the different shades and rhythms of life.