It is a collection of 10 enlightening short stories revolving around themes of untouchability, caste discrimination and upper caste privilege in then India. Although the stories are set in a time way earlier than now, most of the things discussed in the stories still ring true. Since I read the translation, I am pretty sure that I missed out on various beautifully crafted phrases by Premchand.
My favorites include: One and a quarter ser of wheat, Salvation, The lashes of good fortune, Temple and From Both sides.
In One and a Quarter ser of wheat, Premchand describes the plight of lower caste sections of the society at the clutches of higher caste Brahmins. The protagonist borrows one and a quarter ser of wheat from a Brahmin in the village and struggles to pay back the debt’s interests all his life. Even after his death, his son is bound to slave labor to pay the debt back.
The lashes of good fortune and From both sides talk about how higher caste Hindus have the ability to be empathetic and kind towards the disadvantaged in the society irrespective of their social status.
Salvation and Temple reflect upon the extremes some people are willing to go through to avoid the “untouchables”. It also deals with the superstitions prevailing in the society surrounding the underprivileged.
I absolutely loved reading the stories and I would love to read “Stories on Women” by Premchand too. Most of the stories in this collection had portrayed women as submissive and powerless. But I know that Premchand wrote stories that talked about the plight of women in a patriarchal society and that he condemned the discriminatory practices against them.
Overall, this collection was deeply engaging and I highly recommend.