Munshi Premchand’s Iconic & Eternal Heroines

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MISS MALATI, ESSAYED BY SANEA SHEIKH

Ring by Zariin

Blazer is by S&S by Shreeja & Shweta

Sari and blouse by Marg by Soumitra Mondal

Miss Malati is one of the most contemporary characters created by Munshi Premchand. I identified with her when I was a college girl and I deeply appreciate her now.

One of the two daughters of a wealthy father and having studied medicine in London, Malati possesses spirit, courage and determination. In the beginning, the author sets the trap for his readers to label her as a lightheaded flirt by showing her interacting boldly with men, either by teasing them or by making a mockery of their behavior, wearing high heels and by juxtaposing her with a righteous housewife of one of her ardent admirers, Govindi. By doing so, he throws light on our incessant propensity to stereotype people.

Malati has a romanticised view of Philosophers that attracts her to Mr. Mehta, a highly learned and philanthropic person. Perhaps to gain proximity with Mr. Mehta, Malati gets involved in working with the impoverished villagers and her path crosses with that of the Hori and his family.

She finds fulfillment in serving the poor and credits Mr. Mehta to turn her interest towards service when she was getting immersed in pursuit of mindless luxury. She consults poor patients without any charge and is kind with them but is unable to forgo her interest in clothing, cosmetics and fine dressing “to let go of colour-powder was more tough for her than her internal, intrinsic changes”.

In her interactions with poor village women, she tries to understand their deep sense of sacrifice. Though she finds herself appreciating these women and feels embarrassed about her own excessive lifestyle, she also realises that by erasing their individuality, these women were doing disservice towards the future generations, “agreed, that men are cruel but they are the sons of these women. Why do they not educate them to respect women? Perhaps because these women have lost their sense of self worth and identity. No, it would not do to erase yourself. For the welfare of society, the women will have to fight for their personal rights.”

Another aspect of her personality comes into light when Mr. Mehta proposes marriage to her and professes himself to be a jealous lover who, if she ever falls in love with another man, would not hesitate to kill her and himself. Here Malati rejects this, up until now, much sought after proposal as she feels that “love is above the pettiness of doubt. It is not a thing of body but of the soul. There is no place of doubt in love and violence is a result of doubt. It requires surrender.”

She clearly states that she is serving the poor not because she is selfless rather because she puts her own joys first. She sings to please her own soul and not because it is helping the listeners. When, a much-chastened Mehta, proposes marriage again, she flatly refuses, “by setting up a small house hold, we will just imprison our souls and forfeit all chances of merging with the infinite. Rare are the humans who, with heavy chains of domestic responsibility, are able to tread the path of progress. Though I agree that for an absolute growth, family and sacrifice is important, but I don’t feel I possess the strength to walk this path when I am confronted with maternal love as, I’m convinced, it will shrink my world. Mehta, I refuse to pull you downwards. The world needs selfless people like you today, along with yours make my life relevant as well.”

The reader watches intently as Mehta touches Malati’s feet in deep reverence for an evolved nurturer who is committed to progress and growth. They remain friends and enablers to each other’s ambitions.

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Munshi Premchand’s Iconic & Eternal Heroines

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Godaan (The Gift of a Cow), published in 1936, was Munshi Premchand’s very last literary offering. In this intricately woven story, he presents a cross section of our society at a time when the nation was battling subjugation at various levels. Though the story is set in a village and revolves around the life of a poor peasant – Hori, we are also introduced to the rich industrialists, the intelligentsia, professional women, the youth and the urban house wives.
 
This novel, like all of Premchand’s other works, bestows on the reader a wealth of emotional experience that may never be encountered in a cocooned, routine life. After reading and re reading this book, I resurface more empathetic towards my fellow beings who live on the margins, with whom my physical path may never cross but I can feel their compulsions, small aspirations, their delicate joys and the immense importance of their infrequent smile. The situation is tragic with these characters still living in deep pathos even after 80 years of the book been penned. An independent nation continues to persistently and heartlessly pilfer from these people a life of dignity.
 
One among these amazing people was Miss Malati.

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Munshi Premchand’s Iconic & Eternal Heroines

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PRELUDE
Women were perhaps the barometers that Munshi Premchand used to show the sensitivity and humanity index of our society. As it is, hundred years back or in present times, gender based struggles indicate the maturity and tolerance levels of our people.
 
Premchand, in his own life, contended with women that comprised various shades of the rainbow. His young widowed mother, his child bride of a turbulent marriage that ended in separation and his eventual marriage with a child widow with whom he shared deep camaraderie must have afforded him this comprehension of his heroines. His Marxist leanings enthused in him a passion for equality for all and his women protagonists became a medium to showcase the deep bias and dichotomy of thought prevailing in our system.
Continue reading →

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Vinit Bhatt Photography

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A desolate beach was the mute and, I’m sure, amused spectator of this shoot; surreal in its beauty and calm in its ambience. The PSD team had spent the night at a resort there in the hope to shoot at the wee hours of the early morning. The team comprised the usual suspects and a few new members who had been supporters in spirit, up until then. The night at the shady, smelly (if Ghatkopar station is missing its public urinal, well, it is at this beach), desolate resort had started testing our endurance. We were convinced that we were on the real life set of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie. The owner of the resort made our blood curdle. Later I got to know that 5 full grown men, including our star photographer Vinit, were so spooked that they had huddled together and slept in one bed! No body used the bathroom as the presence of a dead body there was a real possibility.
After thousand collective prayers were chanted, the first sun rays arrived and we started hair and make up! We realised that for Marriette and Krithika, a parallel profession of an acrobat is a possibility as they managed to balance themselves on rickety chairs while maintaining a zen like steady posture for their makeup. Megha, skilfully and really, miraculously, managed the turban, jewellery, winged eyeliner line and and blusher with the alacrity of a saucer spinner. Continue reading →

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Vinit Bhatt Photography

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“Now then, Pooh,” said Christopher Robin, “where’s your boat?”
“I ought to say,” explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, “that it isn’t just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it’s a Boat, and sometimes it’s more of an Accident. It all depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“On whether I’m on the top of it or underneath it.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

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