Since I was a kid I have been a big fan of Premchand, specially because of the way he connects his story to the soul and core of a village lifestyle or “dehaat”. May be he tries to convey his own struggle through his stories that he faced all through his lifetime until his death.
This one of his short stories named “Poos ki Raat” (January night) is a story of a tenant farmer named Halku and his plight against zameendari system(landlordship) prevalent in colonial
. The settings are that of any small village of north India in and around U.P. of that time. India
Halku’s fields are the centerline of this plot, being both, his only source of income as well as cause of all his problems. Basically he had to choose between a blanket which got along with it the insult by the landlord for not paying the lagaan (tax) or cold and chilly january nights in the field to guard it upholding his honour and pride. He always had an option of chucking the job of farming and being a paid labour, but an Indian with any pride wouldn’t do so in those times. He upheld the same honour and pride by chucking the insults and choosing cold chilly nights in ‘his fields’.
Most of us have a romantic image of a field ready for a harvest. But here when he lies down over his ‘khaat’ (cot) with just an old shawl over him, brings out a completely opposite image of what we conceived it to be. Then too he wasn’t devasted and was still affectionate towards his dog, Jabra, the dog who like him left behind all the warmth of home and followed him to protect ‘its field’. The field establishes the connection between a dog and its master in a wonderful way. As the writer describes Halku sleeping under the shelter of cane leaves he also meant to show the significance those crops held. They were the shelter of his life, though with leakage everywhere.
The act of making a fire to keep a check on cold waves in an open field creates a wonderful picture in our mind. Here it is the only refuge for Halku against the cold waves. Even his own fields had turned against him in the darkness of night and transformed into scary and dangerous bushes. When the nilgai were destroying his field, he knew it, but couldn’t gather the will to get up and save it. It seemed that it was because of the physical inability that the cold weather had caused to him but more of it was because of the mental effect that the fields have had over his life. It was like loving someone. We hold on to the relationship as long as possible, even though if we know its devastating our life. But the moment we decide to quit it we just don’t bother about it any more or how bad the relationship becomes. We just ‘let it happen’ and take its course. And if we are enthusiastic enough towards life we take it as a new beginning and tackle the future with the learnings from past. That’s what Halku did. And as we say in
‘jo hota hai sab ache ke lie hi hota hai’. India