Hindi literature is incomplete without Munshi Premchand. Premchand, the pen name adopted by the Hindi novelist, Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, has written nearly 300 short stories and dozen novels. Some of the best books by Premchand are Sevasadan, Rangmanch, Gaban, Nirmala, and Godan. Much of Premchand’s best work is collected in Hindi under the title ‘Mansarovar’. In his early short stories, he depicted the patriotic upsurge that was sweeping Hindustan. His collection of patriotic stories, Soz-e-Watan, was published in 1907 and attracted the attention of British government. In 1914, Premchand switched over to Hindi, by then he was an established Urdu writer. Short stories or afsanas were started by Premchand. His afsanas mirrored the society that he lived in and presented the harsh realities of life. His writing was simple but his work depicted the excellent use of satire and humor. Some of the greatest short stories by Munshi Premchand are listed below. These are must read by everyone once in a lifetime.
A story ahead of its time. Subhagi is one of the short stories by Munshi Premchand that is not as popular as Eidgah or Kafan but is a must read. Tulsi has a son, Ramu and a daughter, Subhagi. Tulsi loves his daughter Subhagi. Unfortunately, Subhagi becomes a widow at a tender age of eleven. Time passes and soon Ramu gets married. Tulsi tries to get his daughter married but Subhagi is not interested. She looks after her parents while Ramu is least interested in his parents. The brother and sister begin to quarrel and soon the situation gets out of control. The house is divided into two – Ramu and his wife begin to live in one part and Subhagi and her parents live in other part. Subhagi begins working and starts supporting her parents. The story has a happy ending and gives out a clear message that women are no less than men.
Another piece of gem from Munshi Premchand. The narrator is a wealthy zamidar who has a servant called Gangu. Gangu is unlike other servants. He is short tempered and does not mingle with other servants. One fine day, Gangu comes to the narrator and resigns from his post. On being asked for the reason for his resignation, Gangu tells the zamidar that he wants to marry Gomti Devi. Gomti Devi has been married thrice before but has left her previous husbands. Most of the village does not hold Gomti Devi of very high character. Nevertheless, Gangu marries Gomti Devi. The zamidar curious to know the fate of Gangu, goes to meet him from time to time. After few months Gomti Devi runs away again but Gangu finds her and brings her and their new-born son back. Ahead of its times, Balak will question whether being literate makes you knowledgeable?
#9 Shatranj ke Khiladi
Set around the revolt of 1857, Shatranj ke Khiladi is set in Awadh. It is the reign of Wajid Ali Shah and everyone was drowned in sensuality. Two friends, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali, spend their days playing chess. They have no interest in current state of affairs. When their king, Wajid Ali Shah, is arrested by the Britishers they feel no remorse and continue playing chess but when Mirza Sajjad Ali is about to loose his king (in chess), he is not able to take it.
#8 Thakur ka Kua
Thakur ka Kua by Munshi Premchand highlights the issue of caste system in India. Even though this story may seem outdated, there are many parts in our country where still caste system exists. Jhoku and Gangi are husband and wife. They are extremely poor. Jhoku is ill and Gangi brings him water to drink. The water has a foul smell. Gangi knew she could only get clean water from either Thakur’s well or shopkeer’s well. Thakur would not let her take water because of her caste and shopkeeper will charge money which she didn’t have any. She decides to get water from Thakur’s well. At night, she goes to Thakur’s house. She find the main door closed and decides to draw the water from well for her sick husband. Right when she is about to take the noose out of the pitcher, the thakur door opened and Gangi dropped the bucket full of water and ran for her life. The end of the story is heart wrenching.
Two friends, a teacher and Vikram, pool money to buy a lottery ticket. They decided to split the winning amount if they won. When Vikram’s family finds out that the friends has bought a lottery ticket, they start dreaming of the money. Vikram’s father and uncle, who were atheists, begin going to the temples. His mother starts praying and his brother would go to different sadhus and munis. As the day of the drawing was coming close, both the friends were nervous. The teacher begin to doubt Vikram’s intentions. Will Vikram give him his share? They don’t even have an agreement? The ending will bring a smile on your face. This is one of the Premchand short stories that explore human relationships as well as how we begin to day dreams even before the chickens are hatched.
#6 Namak ka Daroga
Salt at one of time was a precious commodity which led to to salt smuggling. Namak ka Daroga is story of Munshi Vanshidhar who gets appointed at a salt inspector. One night he catches one of the most respectable landlords of the area, Pandit Alopdin and his servants smuggling salt. When Alopdin tries to bribe Vanshidhar, the latter refuses to budge and gets Alopdin arrested. Because Alopdin has excellent connections, he is freed and Vanshidhar is suspended. He is resented at home but nonetheless he does not feel he has done any wrong. In the end, Pandit Alopdin hires Munshi Vanshidhar as his property manager. Even though written in 1910, Namak ka Daroga is one of the short stories by Munshi Premchand that is very much relevant today. To keep our job safe and secure, we sometimes prefer wrong over right.
#5 Panch Parmeshwar
This story has a bearing on the impartiality of anyone in the judicial position. Panch Parmeshwar is a story of two childhood friends Jumman Sheikh and Algu Chaudhary. Jumman lives with his wife and aunt. Out of affection, Jumman’s aunt transfer her property in Jumman’s name. Unfortunately, the couple start mistreating the old lady. She demand for a pocket money to pay for her expenses but Jumman scoffs at her. She decided to take her case to Panchayat. The panchayat is only attended Jumman’s enemies and Algu Chaudhary. Whether Algu will judge in favor of his friend or against him forms the crux of the story. This is one of the best short stories by Munshi Premchand.
One of the most popular short stories by Munshi Premchand. Eidgah is a story imbued with kindness and love, is a classic piece of literature which has captivated several hearts since ages. A story about Hamid and her old grandmother begins on the morning of Eid, the festival of Muslims. While Hamid’s friends are buying sweets and toys, Hamid buys a tong for his grandmother (as she used to burn her fingers while making rotis). The story makes one realize that one need not be rich to show acts of kindness.
#3 Budhi Kaki
A story aptly describing the plight of old people and the inhumane treatment suffered by them at the hands of their own kith and kin, will make every reader teary at the end with a spectacular ending of hope, repentance, and love. Budhi Kaki is an old lady who lives with her nephew (Buddhiram) and his wife (Roopa). Despite being ill-treated by her relatives, the lady keeps quiet. Her only weakness is food and she is served food on time. The nephew, Buddhiram, get his son engaged. On the auspicious day, the family holds a feast. When not given food, the kaki comes out but is shunned by Buddhiram and Roopa. She wakes up hungry in the middle of the night. Not to wake up other members, she eats the leftovers left in the plates by the guests. Roopa wakes up to find kaki licking jhoothan and tears wells up in her eyes. She realizes her folly and serves Kaki food.
Kafan is the story of a father (Ghisu) and a son (Madho) who below to weaker sections of the society. The duo are extremely lazy and poor. Madho’s wife dies during the childbirth. Having no money to pay for her shroud, the father and the son go to the landlord for help. The landlord spares them some cash and soon they both are able to collect five rupees. Unfortunately, instead of buying shroud, they spend the money on liquor and food. The story will not only make you pity for the father and soon but also make you angry.
#1 Poos ki Raat
Having a knack for writing about social issues, Premchand once again captures the societal injustices and the pangs of poverty in this story revolving around a “Poos ki Raat”. The story begins with Halku paying three rupees to Sahna. He had saved the money to buy a blanket. He works as a watchman – guarding the crops at night. After paying the money, he goes out to the fields to watch the crops with his dog, Jabra. The cold is unbearable. Whether Halku will stay alive or will cold night consume him? This is a touching and also a realistic story.
These were some of the best short stories by Munshi Premchand. I would also recommend you to read do bailon ki katha, nashaa, bade bhai saheb, pariksha and vidhvans.
While most of his work is written in Hindi and it is very hard to find his books in English, we suggest you check out this site. Most of his work has been translated in English by the blog owner.