Qazzaqi by Munshi Premchand, Translated by Fatima Rizvi
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Among all my childhood memories, the most abiding is that of the qazzaqi1. It is now forty years since I last beheld him but I can still picture him quite clearly in my mind’s eye. In those days, I lived with my father in a tehsil in the district of Azamgarh. The qazzaqi was an exceptionally buoyant man of the Pasi caste, who was very courageous and dynamic. Everyday he would bring us the post, stay over for the night and depart the following morning, carrying back a bag full of letters which needed to be delivered. The same evening, he would return with post that required distribution. All day long, I would await his arrival eagerly. At four o’clock, sharp, quite impatient for him to arrive, I would go out into the street and soon he would appear, carrying a staff on his shoulder the bells on it ringing, running at a high speed. He was a tall and well-built young man with a tanned complexion. His body was so perfectly sculpted that even the most meticulous artist couldn’t possibly find fault with it. His small moustache set off his well-shaped features to advantage. He would run even faster after he caught sight of me, the bells on his staff ringing more noisily – my heart too would beat more loudly with gladness at his arrival. I would dart across to meet him and in a moment, the qazzaqi’s shoulder would become my throne. That seat was the Paradise of my naive aspiration. Perhaps even those who dwelt in Paradise would not have experienced the same levels of happiness as I experienced sitting atop the broad shoulders of the qazzaqi. The whole world would suddenly become small and meaningless to my mind and when he would sprint away, carrying me on his shoulders, I felt I was flying on a winged horse.

 

By the time he arrived at the Post Office, the qazzaqi would be sweating profusely, but he was not in the habit of resting. He would deposit his bag and set out immediately with us towards a field. Sometimes he would play with us; at other times he would sing us birhey2 or tell us stories. He had a large repertoire of tales about burglary and larceny; murders and massacres; ghosts and banshees. I always listened to him with rapt attention, spellbound by the tales. The thieves and the bandits of his stories were true heroes who stole from the wealthy to help the poor and the deprived. Rather than looking down on them, I began to hold these men in high esteem.

 

2

 

One day, the qazzaqi was late. The sun had set but he was not to be seen. I felt rather lost and waited by the road, eyes wide but the familiar face was nowhere in sight. I strained my ears to hear the jingle of the bells on his staff but that cheerful resonance was not to be heard. As darkness overcame daylight, my hope began to fade. Every time someone came from that direction, I would ask expectantly, ‘Is the qazzaqi on his way?’ but they either did not listen to me, or merely moved on with a nod.

 

Suddenly, I heard the familiar jingle. In the darkness that engulfed everything around me, I could perceive only ghosts – even the sweets stacked on the mantle shelf in my mother’s room were avoidable after dark. Despite the ghosts that cluttered my mind, I darted in the direction of the sound. Yes! It was the qazzaqi. The moment I set eyes on him, my impatience gave way to annoyance. At first, I began to hit him. Then I stood sulking a little distance away.

 

The qazzaqi chuckled and said, ‘I have brought something for you but if you hit me, I will not give it to you.’

 

Gathering up my courage, I responded, ‘Okay, go, don’t give it – I don’t want it.’

 

‘If I show it to you, you will surely grab it in your arms.’

 

My annoyance melted into curiosity: ‘All right, show it to me.’

 

‘Come, get on my shoulder – let us run, it is late already – Babuji must be upset. I turned around and retorted, ‘First show me what you have brought!’ Had the qazzaqi not been concerned that he was delayed, had it been possible for him to linger even a minute longer, he might have got the better of me. He showed me what he was holding close to his heart – it had an elongate head and eyes that shone brightly. I snatched it out of the qazzaqi’s hands. It was a young deer. Ah! Who can measure the elation I felt at that moment? I have cleared many difficult examinations since then; I have been honoured with high-ranking positions and decorated with the title of Rai Bahadur. But the ecstasy that I experienced at that moment still remains unparalleled. I carried the creature in my arms, cherishing its supple and fragile body, and darted towards our house. I had quite forgotten that the qazzaqi was so late. ‘From where did you get this?’ I asked him.

 

‘Bhaiya, there is a wood a little distance away where deer dwell in large herds. I wanted to give you a fawn, if I could lay my hands on one. Today, I saw this fawn in the herd. As I dashed towards it, the rest of the deer made a speedy escape. This one too tried to escape but could not keep pace with the adults. I grabbed it. That is why I am so late.

 

The two of us arrived at the Post Office, chatting between ourselves. Babuji did not see me – neither did he see the fawn. He had eyes only for the qazzaqi. Beside himself with rage, he asked, ‘Why are you so late today? The post-bag is long overdue! What can I do with it now that the post has already been sent out? Why you are so late? Answer me!’

 

It seemed as though the qazzaqi had lost his voice.

 

Babuji continued to berate him. ‘Perhaps you are no longer interested in your work. You are, after all, a mere low-caste. You get two square meals a day now – that has turned your head for you, has it? Perhaps you will come to your senses only when you are weak and dying with hunger.’

 

The qazzaqi did not utter a word.

 

Babuji only got angrier. He continued his tirade. ‘Put the post-bag down and head straight home. The swine has come in so late with the post. But does the delay affect you at all? No! You will get employment as a day labourer anywhere you choose. But I am liable to be held responsible for your lapse. I am answerable.’

 

The qazzaqi looked as though he would burst into tears and said, ‘Sarkar, I will never be late again.’

 

‘Why are you so late today? Answer me!’

 

The qazzaqi had no answer. I too seemed to have lost my voice. Babuji was very short-tempered. He had to work exceedingly hard. That is why he got so cross so easily. I avoided him and he too never expressed any affection for me. He came home only twice during the day for his meals, spending an hour each time. For the rest of the day he worked at the Post Office. He had put in several requests for an assistant, which had gone unheard and unheeded. The outcome was that even on holidays, Babuji would work. Only mother knew how to deal with his foul temper. But how could she come to the office? The qazzaqi was fired in the dictatorial manner attributed to Nadir Shah of Afghanistan, while I stood and watched! His staff, cummerbund and turban were confiscated and he was issued marching orders to be enforced with immediate effect. Ah! At that time I longed to be in possession of the proverbially gold-rich Lanka which I could generously offer the qazzaqi, so that he would never feel the pinch of removal from service and father would know that the qazzaqi had not as much as suffered a scratch. That would teach my father a lesson! The qazzaqi was just as proud of his cummerbund as a soldier is of his sword. His hands trembled as he began to unfasten it. All the while, the root cause of his misfortunes, that tender living thing, was hidden away, seated ever so comfortably on my knees as though it were nestled in its mother’s lap. As the qazzaqi began to leave, I too got up, following him slowly, step by step. When he reached the door of my house, he spoke, ‘Bhaiya, go home. It is getting dark.’ I stood there, quiet, trying exceptionally hard to fight back the flood of tears that threatened to break loose any moment. Again he addressed me, ‘Bhaiya, I am not going far away. I will come again sometime and together we will run with you on my shoulders. Babuji has fired me but surely he will not prevent me from playing with you! I will not leave you and go anywhere. Bhaiya, go inside and tell Amma that the qazzaqi is taking leave. Will she forgive him his shortcomings?’

 

I ran into the house but instead of saying anything to my mother, I burst out crying. Mother came out of the kitchen and asked, ‘What is the matter son? Has somebody hit you? Has Babuji said something? Wait till your father gets home. Let me find out. He always seems to be beating you – don’t cry son and don’t ever go to him again!’

 

I made a huge effort and managed to control myself, and uttered, ‘Qazzaqi….’ Mother thought the qazzaqi had hit me. ‘ Achcha, let him come here,’ she threatened. ‘I will ensure he is removed from service immediately. How dare he hit my darling boy when he is merely a hurcarrah? I will have his turban and staff confiscated right away. Wah!’

 

Immediately I corrected her. ‘No, the qazzaqi has not hit me. Father fired him. He has confiscated his turban and his staff. Even his cummerbund has been taken away.’

 

‘Your father is wrong to do that. That poor fellow works quite conscientiously. Why did your father dismiss him?’

 

‘The qazzaqi got delayed today.’ Having said so, I put the fawn down for my mother to see. There was no fear of it running away within the house. Mother had not set eyes on it as yet. The moment she did so, she became thoroughly perturbed. She dashed forward and caught hold of my hand fearing that the petrified animal would bite me! On the one hand I was crying hysterically and on the other, I burst out laughing at her confusion.

 

‘Oh! This is the young one of a deer! From where did you get it?’

 

I narrated the episode of the fawn and its dreadful consequence from start to finish. ‘Mother this fawn runs so fast that that no one could have ever caught it. It can run as fast as the winds. The qazzaqi chased it for about four or five hours – only then did he manage to catch hold of it for me. Mother, nobody in the whole world can run as fast as the qazzaqi. That is why he got late – but Babuji dismissed the poor man and took away his cummerbund, turban and staff. What will he do now? He will go hungry and die.’

 

‘Where is the qazzaqi?’ asked mother. ‘Let him dare to come here.’

 

‘He is waiting outside. He says, “Request Ammaji to forgive me my shortcomings.”’ All this while, mother was making light of what I had had to say. Perhaps she thought that Babuji had merely reprimanded the qazzaqi. On hearing my last statement, however, she realised that Babuji had actually discharged the qazzaqi from service. She went outside immediately and began calling out, ‘Qazzaqi … Qazzaqi…’ but there was no sign of him. I called out to him again and again; I wept and called out his name, but in vain.

 

I had my dinner. Children do not go hungry even when they are crestfallen – especially if rabdi is placed before them. However, as I lay in bed, thoughts whirled through my head late into the night: If I were in possession of a hundred thousand rupees, I would give them to the qazzaqi and tell him to say nothing to Babuji. The poor man was going to die of hunger. Would he come tomorrow? Why would he come? But he said he would come again. I would get him to eat with me tomorrow. I fell asleep building such castles in the air.

 

3

 

I spent the next day looking after the fawn. First I gave it a name – Munnoo. Then I introduced it to my friends and my classmates. In just a day it became so attached to me that it followed me everywhere. In the same space of time it became the central thing in my life. In the palace of my dreams that I intended to build at some point in the future, there would be a separate room for the fawn. I also intended to have a bed and a phaeton for it.

 

By the time it was evening, however, I abandoned everything and stood on the road waiting for the qazzaqi to come. All odds were against his arrival but somehow, something made me believe that he would come. All of a sudden it occurred to me that he could be dying somewhere for want of food. I went inside. Mother was lighting the lamps. On the quiet, I took some wheat flour in a basket and dropping some along the way as I ran out, I reached the road. Hardly had I done so, when I beheld the qazzaqi coming towards me. He carried a staff; on his waist he wore a cummerbund and on his head he was wearing a turban. I ran over to him and threw my arms around his waist and in undisguised surprise, I enquired: ‘From where did you get the cummerbund and the staff, qazzaqi?’ He lifted me in his arms and raising me onto his shoulders, he replied, ‘Of what use was that cummerbund, Bhaiya? It was the cummerbund of servitude. This one is a cummerbund of my own making. At first I was in the employ of the government but now I am at your service!’

 

As he was saying so, his eyes fell upon the flour basket. ‘What is this flour for, Bhaiya?’ he asked. A little embarrassed, I responded, ‘I have brought it for you. You must be hungry. What did you eat today?’ I could not see the eyes of the qazzaqi, for I was seated on his shoulders, but from the tone of his voice I could judge that he was overwhelmed, ‘Bhaiya, how can I eat chapatti? There is neither salt nor dal, and no ghee either.’

 

I felt thoroughly ashamed. He was right. How could the wretched man eat a dry chapatti? But how could I procure salt, dal and ghee? Now, mother would be in the kitchen. With immense good fortune I had managed to make off with the wheat flour. (I was quite ignorant of the fact that my theft had already been discovered, given away by the trail of flour on the floor.) How could I get hold of these three things now? My mother would never give them to me if I requested her. She made me grovel for hours, for every paisa that I asked for. All of a sudden it struck me that I had several annas and paise in my school bag. As a child, I took great pleasure in collecting small sums of money – I not do know when I grew out of this habit. Had the practice persisted, perhaps I wouldn’t be as hard pressed for funds as I am today. Babuji never expressed his fondness for me but he ensured that he kept my pockets warm, possibly because he was so busy all the time that he wanted to rid himself of me. He must have thought that this was the easiest way. Were he to refuse, he ran the risk of my crying or throwing tantrums – he pre-empted the consequence and avoided the hazard. Mother’s disposition was quite the reverse. She never felt threatened by my crabbiness. Perhaps because she could continue with her household chores despite my tantrums. A man can lounge in bed all day long and listen to someone crying but any raucousness can be disturbing while one is engrossed in making mathematical calculations. Mother loved me very much but the instant anybody made a reference to money, her humour underwent a radical change. I did not have any books but I did own a bag in which I kept a few forms from the Post Office, folded over like a book. I wondered whether the money I had would suffice for the purchase of dal, salt and ghee. After all, I could not clutch all of it in my fist. Having thought about these different things, I addressed the qazzaqi. ‘If you put me down, I will fetch you some dal and salt. But do you promise to visit me everyday?’

 

‘Bhaiya, why would I refuse to come if you fed me everyday?’

 

Instantly I responded: ‘I will provide you with food everyday.’

 

‘Then I will visit you everyday.’

 

I got down from my perch and ran into the house to fetch the money I had. Were I in possession of the Kohinoor diamond, I would not have hesitated to offer it to the qazzaqi if it ensured his daily visits. With a great deal of astonishment, the qazzaqi asked me, ‘From where did you get so much money, Bhaiya?’

 

Proudly, I responded: ‘It is mine!’

 

‘Your mother will beat you. She will accuse me of having tricked you into giving it to me. Bhaiya, you can purchase some sweets with this money and put the flour back in the urn. I will not die of hunger. I will use my hands – I can work. How can I die of hunger?’

 

Over and over again I told him that the money was mine, and that he could take it, but he refused. He strolled around with me for a long time, he sang songs for me, then dropped me home and went away. He also left behind the flour basket at the door.

 

Scarcely had I stepped into the house when mother yelled at me, ‘You thief, where have you taken the flour? Now you are learning to steal as well! To whom have you given the flour? Tell me at once or I will skin you alive!’

 

As the saying goes, my nani died the instant I heard my mother’s angry words. I was in serious trouble. Mother was like a lioness when she was angry. I mumbled, ‘I have not given it to anybody.’

 

‘Haven’t you taken the flour? Look how much lies strewn all over the courtyard.’ However much she reprimanded me or cajoled me, I could not bring myself to utter a word. The dilemma that lay ahead of me was so grave that I felt oppressed. I could not even summon the courage to ask her why she was so angry. The basket lay outside the door but I did not have the courage to bring it in either. In other words, I had lost all power to act – my legs would not carry me any longer. Suddenly the qazzaqi called out, ‘Bahuji, the flour is outside, at the door. Bhaiya took it to give to me.’

 

My mother immediately went to the door. She did not observe purdah from the qazzaqi. Whether or not she spoke to him, I do not know, but she returned with the empty basket. Then she went into the storeroom, took something from the chest and walked back to the door. I noticed that her fist was closed. I could not stand there waiting any longer. I followed my mother. She called out to him several times but the qazzaqi had already left. Putting on an air of courage, I offered to go and seek him out, but, bolting the door, mother asked with a resigned air, ‘Where will you look for him in the dark? He was here just now. I asked him to wait. I wonder where he disappeared so quickly?! He is a very diffident person. He was not willing to take the flour but I insisted and turned it over in his scarf. I feel very sorry for him. I wonder whether the poor fellow has any food to eat – I brought some money for him – I wonder where he could have gone?’

 

Now I summoned up some courage. I narrated the entire story of my theft. When parents interact with intelligent children at their level rather than as their seniors, they are able to exert greater influence. They can deliver better instruction too.

 

‘Why didn’t you ask me? Wouldn’t I have given the qazzaqi some wheat flour?’ asked Mother.

 

I made no reply but thought instead, ‘Right now you are filled with pity for the qazzaqi, so you will give him whatever you wish. Had I requested some charity, you would certainly have beaten me up instead.’ However, I was relieved that the qazzaqi would not go hungry; that Mother would give him something to eat everyday, and that he would take me out for a jaunt day after day.

 

I spent the following day playing with Munnoo. In the evening I went out and stood by the road. It grew dark but the qazzaqi was not to be seen anywhere. Silence engulfed the road and soon the lamps were lit but the qazzaqi did not come. I returned home crying. ‘Why are you crying son?’ asked Mother. ‘Didn’t the qazzaqi come by?’

 

I began to cry even more loudly. Mother held me close. I got the feeling that she too was moved to tears. ‘Be quiet, son. Tomorrow I will send a hurcarrah to seek out the qazzaqi,’ she said. I fell asleep crying softly to myself.

 

The following morning, as soon as I awoke, I said to Mother, ‘Send for the qazzaqi!’

 

‘I have sent someone already, son. The qazzaqi should be on his way,’ replied mother.

 

Happy once again, I began to play. I was certain that my mother would do as she had promised. She had dispatched a hurcarrah early in the morning. At about ten o’clock when I returned home with Munnoo, I learnt that the qazzaqi had not been found in his house. Instead, his wife had been weeping because apparently, he had not returned home. She feared that he had run away.

 

Nobody can understand what tender hearts children have; they are unable to express their feelings in words. Often, they are also unable to judge exactly what it is that is bothering them; which thorn it is that is pricking their hearts, or what it is that makes them cry every now and again. Why is it that they sit by themselves, crestfallen and unable to take an interest in playing? I found myself in such a state. Now, I would come into the house, now, I would go out and now I would go and stand by the roadside. My eyes searched for the qazzaqi. Where had he disappeared? Had he run away somewhere?

 

That evening, I stood by the road looking rather lost. Suddenly I saw the qazzaqi in one of the lanes. Yes, it was the qazzaqi. I ran towards him calling out his name as I did so, but found no trace of him anywhere. I wonder where he had disappeared. I searched from one end of the lane to the other, but there was not even the scent of the qazzaqi.

 

I went home and told my mother. I got the feeling that my experience had moved her. The qazzaqi was not seen anywhere for the next two or three days. I too began to forget him, somewhat. Children are very likely to exhibit a great deal of affection at one point but they are also likely to become uncaring, in another. They may be extremely fond of a particular toy but they may also break it as easily, once they have tired of it.

 

About ten or twelve days passed. It was afternoon and Babuji was having lunch. I was busy tying brass anklets onto Munnoo’s legs. A woman covered in a veil walked in and stood in the courtyard. Her clothes were grimy and tattered but she was fair-skinned and attractive.

 

‘Bhaiya, where is Bahuji?’ she asked.

 

I went up and asked, ‘Who are you? What are you selling?’

 

I am not selling anything. I have brought you these lotus seeds. Bhaiya, you are very fond of lotus seeds aren’t you? I looked longingly at the cloth bundle she held in her hands and asked, ‘From where have you brought me these? Can I see them?’

 

‘Your hurcarrah has sent them for you, son,’ she responded.

 

I jumped with joy and asked, ‘Qazzaqi?’

 

The woman nodded her head in reply and began to open the bundle. Just then, Mother came out of the kitchen; the woman immediately bent down and touched my mother’s feet in reverence. ‘Are you the qazzaqi’s wife?’ asked Mother.

 

The woman bowed her head in response.

 

‘What does the qazzaqi do for a living these days?’ asked Mother.

 

The woman began to cry and replied, ‘Bahuji, since the day he returned from your place with the flour, he has been ill. He continually calls out for Bhaiya. All his affection is reserved for Bhaiya. He calls out ‘Bhaiya, Bhaiya’ every now and again and dashes towards the door. I wonder what has gone wrong with him. Bahuji, one day he slipped out of the house without saying a word to me; he hid in a lane and was watching Bhaiya for a long time. When Bhaiya spotted him, he slipped away quietly. He is ashamed to meet with you.

 

‘Didn’t I tell you that Mother?’ I interrupted.

 

‘Do you have anything to eat at home?’

 

‘Yes Bahuji, by your blessings, we are not hard pressed for food. Today he awoke and walked up to the pond. I kept asking him not to go out as he would catch a chill in the wind. But he did not listen to me. His legs tremble with weakness now. He waded into the pond and plucked these lotus seeds for you and asked me to give them to you, Bhaiya. You are very fond of lotus seeds he said. He asked me to enquire after your well-being.’

 

I took the lotus seeds out of her bundle and merrily began to munch them. My mother glared at me but I ignored her. I didn’t have the patience to wait.

 

‘Tell him that we are all well,’ said Mother and I added, ‘Also, tell him that I have sent for him. If he does not come, I will never speak to him again. That’s a promise.’

 

By this time, Babuji had had his lunch and come out. Wiping his hands and his face with a towel he conveyed his message, ‘And tell him that Babuji has restored him to service. He must join as soon as possible or Babuji will be forced to employ someone else.’

 

The woman picked up the cloth and left. Mother called out to her but she did not look back. Perhaps, Mother wanted to give her some wheat flour and pulses.

 

‘Have you really restored him to service?’ asked Mother.

 

‘Obviously! I would not send for him in jest. I wrote the report for restoration to service on the fifth day itself.’

 

‘That is wonderful.’

 

‘This is the only antidote to his ailment.’

 

4

 

When I awoke early the following morning, I saw the qazzaqi walking towards us, supporting himself with a lathi. He had grown very frail and emaciated. He had aged in such a short span of time – as though a verdant green tree had withered and become stump-like. I ran towards him and hugged his waist. He kissed my cheeks and tried to lift me so that he could perch me onto his shoulders but he wasn’t able to do so. Instead, he went down on his fours and I jumped onto his back. In this way the qazzaqi crawled to the Post Office, with me riding piggyback. I could not contain my happiness but the qazzaqi might even have been happier than I was.

 

‘Qazzaqi, your service has been restored. Make sure you are never late again!’

 

The qazzaqi fell at my father’s feet crying uncontrollably.

 

I was not destined to savour the pleasure of the company of both, the qazzaqi and Munnoo at one and the same time. When Munnoo came, the qazzaqi moved out of my life, and when the qazzaqi came back to me, Munnoo slipped out of my hand. I miss Munnoo immensely to this day. Munnoo always ate out of my plate, he never ate anything until I sat down to eat. He was very fond of boiled rice, however, only if it was laced liberally with ghee did he feel sated. He also always slept and woke up with me. He was so particular about hygiene that he always went outside to the field nearby, to relieve himself. He loathed stray dogs and made it impossible for any to enter our house. The moment he set eyes on one, he would chase it out immediately, even if it meant leaving his meal.

 

Having left the qazzaqi at his work in the Post Office, I returned home for my meal; Munnoo too, joined me. Hardly had I eaten two or three mouthfuls when we spotted a large, ferocious-looking, stray dog in the courtyard. Immediately, Munnoo stopped eating and chased it out. Dogs can become meek as mice when they are on unfamiliar ground. The ferocious-looking animal took to his heels the moment he saw Munnoo. Munnoo ought to have returned, his mission having been accomplished – however, this particular dog was the Angel of Munnoo’s death. Not content with merely chasing him out of the compound, Munnoo pursued him into the field nearby. Perhaps, Munnoo did not realise that there, on neutral ground, he could never have the upper hand, he could never get the better of the fierce animal. Munnoo and the ferocious looking dog were now on a level playing field. He had chased so many dogs out of our compound that perhaps he had begun to overestimate his own power. He had also forgotten perhaps, that within the household limits, the owner’s rights too go a long way in providing shelter and security. Hardly had the two animals reached the field when the dog turned around and attacked Munnoo, snapping his neck with his hardy canine jaws. Poor Munnoo was not even able to utter a sigh. I ran out on hearing the commotion made by the neighbours, but it was too late. Munnoo lay dead and the ferocious-looking dog was nowhere to be seen.

 

*

 

1 outlaw

2 Folk songs about separation or lament

 

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First published in the April, 1926 issue of the Hindi monthly Madhuri. In Hindi, it has been included in the collection of Premchand’s work, Mansarovar 5 and in the Urdu collection, PremChalisi.

This translation was done exclusively for a multi-volume project Complete Premchand Stories, edited by M Asaduddin. Reproduced here with the permission of the editor.

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Translator’s Note: The eponymous protagonist in absentia, the Qazzaqi is either a dak-runner or a dak-wala. Formerly, the dak-runner was a person who carried mail by running a part of the total distance that had to be covered before delivering the mail to another runner and a dak-wala’s job was to collect and deliver letters. Premchand does not specify, during the course of the narrative, why he calls his dak-runner/dak-wala a qazzaqi.

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This translation shares the runner up prize for the first Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation.

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Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, who wrote under the pseudonyms Nawab Rai and Premchand, is considered one of the great Indian modern writers. A pioneer of modern Hindi and Urdu social fiction, he wrote nearly 300 stories and novels. Among his best known novels are Sevasadan, Rangmanch, Gaban, Nirmala and Godan. Much of Premchand’s best work is to be found among his 250 or so short stories, collected in Hindi under the title Manasarovar. Three of his novels have been made into films.

Premchand’s literary career started as a freelance writer in Urdu. He rose to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to non-cooperation with the British and gave up a teaching job to devote himself to writing. He is credited with being the father of the modern Urdu short story or afsana. In Hindi, he was the first author to introduce realism in his writings and pioneered the new form, fiction with a social purpose. Literature, according to him, is a powerful means of educating public opinion. Premchand died in 1936.

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Fatima Rizvi is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Modern European Languages at the University of Lucknow, Lucknow. Her areas of interest include postcolonial literature and literature in translation and adaptation. Her research papers  have been published in journals of national and international repute. Her contributions can also be read in collections of critical essays. She translates Urdu and Hindi. She is on the board of the Center for Cultural Texts, Records and Translation of Indian Literatures, a project sponsored bythe Government of Uttar Pradesh under the Center of Excellence scheme. Her doctoral thesis is on emotional patterns in the poetry of the Brontë sisters.