Young Chandrahasan has come all the way to Banaras from Kerala to meet Premchand. After much knocking about he finally reaches the writer’s house. He makes the appropriate noises to announce his presence but there is no response. So he goes to the nearest door and, a little nervously, peeps into the room: a man with a long bushy moustache is sitting at a small man looks so ordinary that the young visitor is sure that this must be the great writer’s clerk.
He steps forward and says, “I want to see Munshi Premchand.” Premchand looks up, a trifle bemused, puts down his pen and, breaking into a peal of laughter, says, “Of course…but won’t you sit down first!”
Nashad, a young Urdu poet, goes to see Premchand for the first time, in Lucknow. He knows roughly the location of the house but he is not quite sure. So he asks someone on the street, a rather shabby-looking man, wearing only a vest and a not-too-clean dhoti, “Could you please direct me to the house of Munshi Premchand?”
He moves ahead, with the young poet following. They soon reach the house. Then the two go up the staircase and arriving at the first floor they go into an almost bare room. The man asks Nashad to wait for a while and goes into the inner part of the house. He comes out soon, wearing a kurta over his vest.
“Now you are meeting Munshi Premchand,” he says laughing mischievously.
April 1934. A Hindi writer’s conference is held in Delhi. Premchand has been nominated Chairman of the fiction section. He is now at the height of his fame but he makes no special demands on the organizers. In the words of Jainendara Kumar, the eminent Hindi novelist, “He came and stayed like everyone else-getting a camp-bed in the dormitory along with scores of others.” It looks like the general ward of a hospital but Premchand has no complaints. It is best like this. At mealtimes he goes to the canteen and asks for a meal. The volunteer on duty asks for the meal ticket.
Without another word, Premchand takes his place in the queue, and buys the ticket from the window.
Now the scene is Lahore and the year 1935. The distinguished Urdu playwright Imtiaz Ali Taj has asked him over to tea. “Very well, I will be there. But I have so much to do before that.” However, when he arrives at the poet’s house at the end of a hectic day roaming the streets of Lahore, in this crushed, drab dhoti and coarse-linen kurta, he finds more than a hundred cars there, one better than the other. There were judges, barristers, doctors and professors. The entire elite of the city had been invited and it look people, who did not know the man Premchand well, some time to get over the shock that this funny, disheveled man, who looked like a simple villager, was the person for whom some of the most important people of the city has been waiting!
There are many such legends and they all speak of only one thing—the utter simplicity of the man. There was nothing false about him: he was as he was. If there was anything he really hated, it was affectation.
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