His grandfather, once upon a time, was a man of great wealth. People say that once an elephant paraded at the door where now there is only an old buffalo, which is no more than a skeleton of its old self but which appears to produce a large quantity of milk; because someone or the other from the family keeps hovering around her with a pot. Benimadhavasingh had gifted away more than half of his wealth to lawyers. His present annual income was no more than a thousand rupees. He had two sons.
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His ancestors came from a large Kayastha family, which owned eight to nine bighas of land. When he was 8, his mother died after a long illness. His grandmother, who took the responsibility of raising him, died soon after. His father, who was now posted at Gorakhpur, remarried, but Premchand received little affection from his stepmother. He took the job of selling books for a book wholesaler, thus getting the opportunity to read a lot of books.
It was a farce on a bachelor, who falls in love with a low-caste woman. The match was arranged by his maternal step-grandfather. The girl was from a rich landlord family and was older than Premchand, who found her quarrelsome and not good-looking. He then sought admission at the Central Hindu College , but was unsuccessful because of his poor arithmetic skills. After racking up several debts, in , he once went to a book shop to sell one of his collected books.
The novel was published in a series in the Benares-based Urdu weekly Awaz-e-Khalk from 8 October to February He stayed in Kanpur for around four years, from May to June There he met Munshi Daya Narain Nigam, the editor of the Urdu magazine Zamana, in which he later published several articles and stories. He did not find the weather or the atmosphere conducive for writing.
Plus, he faced domestic trouble due to quarrels between his wife and his step-mother. Premchand angrily scolded his wife, after she unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide by hanging. According to Prakash Chandra Gupta, "while containing seeds of his future greatness in many ways, the novel is still youthful and lacks the discipline which full maturity brings". The collection, which was later banned, contained four stories which sought to inspire the Indians in their struggle for political freedom.
Dhanpat Rai stopped using the name "Nawab Rai" and became Premchand. In , Munshi Premchand started writing in Hindi Hindi and Urdu are considered different registers of a single language Hindustani , with Hindi drawing much of its vocabulary from Sanskrit and Urdu being more influenced by Persian.
By this time, he was already reputed as a fiction writer in Urdu. Gorakhpur Edit A plaque commemorating Munshi Premchand at the hut where he resided in Gorakhpur from to In August , Premchand was transferred to Gorakhpur on a promotion.
By , Premchand had published four novels, of about a hundred pages each. It was well received by the critics, and helped Premchand gain wider recognition. In , Premchand obtained a BA degree from Allahabad.
On 8 February , he attended a meeting in Gorakhpur, where Mahatma Gandhi asked people to resign from government jobs as part of the non-cooperation movement. Premchand, although physically unwell and with two kids and a pregnant wife to support, thought about it for 5 days and decided, with the consent of his wife, to resign from his government job.
Back to Benares Edit After quitting his job, Premchand left Gorakhpur for Benares on 18 March , and decided to focus on his literary career. Till his death in , he faced severe financial difficulties and chronic ill health. In March , Premchand launched a literary-political weekly magazine titled Hans, aimed at inspiring the Indians to mobilise against the British rule. Premchand then took over and edited another magazine called Jagaran, which too ran at a loss.
In , he published another novel titled Karmabhumi. He briefly served as the headmaster of the Kashi Vidyapeeth, a local school. He stayed in Dadar , and wrote the script for the film Mazdoor "The Labourer". The film, directed by Mohan Bhawnani, depicted the poor conditions on the labour class.
Premchand himself did a cameo as the leader of labourers in the film. Some influential businessmen managed to get a stay on its release in Bombay. The film was released in Lahore and Delhi, but was banned again after it inspired the mill workers to stand up against the owners. Meanwhile, Premchand was beginning to dislike the non-literary commercial environment of the Bombay film industry, and wanted to return to Benares. However, he had signed a one-year contract with the production house.
He ultimately left Bombay on 4 April , before the completion of one year. He also planned to publish Hans from there. However, owing to his financial situation and ill-health, he had to hand over Hans to the Indian Literary Counsel and move to Benares.
According to Schulz, "Godan is a well-structured and well-balanced novel which amply fulfills the literary requirements postulated by the Western literary standards.
Siegfried Schulz believes that the reason for this was absence of good translations of his work. Also, unlike Tagore and Iqbal , Premchand never travelled outside India, studied abroad or mingled with the renowned foreign literary figures. His political thoughts were initially influenced by the moderate Indian National Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale , but later, he moved towards the more extremist Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He did not specifically mention the British in some of his stories, because of strong government censorship, but disguised his opposition in settings from the medieval era and the foreign history.
During this period, his works dealt with the social issues such as poverty, zamindari exploitation Premashram, , dowry system Nirmala, , educational reform and political oppression Karmabhumi, As the late scholar David Rubin wrote in The World of Premchand Oxford, , "To Premchand belongs the distinction of creating the genre of the serious short story—and the serious novel as well—in both Hindi and Urdu.
Virtually single-handed he lifted fiction in these languages from a quagmire of aimless romantic chronicles to a high level of realistic narrative comparable to European fiction of the time; and in both languages, he has, in addition, remained an unsurpassed master.
Premchand wrote over three hundred short stories and fourteen novels, many essays and letters, plays and translations.
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