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A winter's night

Picture of Munshi Premchand This is only a feeble translation of a story by Munshi Premchand. The objective is merely to exhort readers to read the original or better translations. This story depicts the poverty of farmers. The farmers work hard, yet they receive hardly any income from their produce. Halku is a tenant farmer - he grows crops on the land belonging to a landlord. The landlord comes to collect his dues. Halku has only three rupees which is in the custody of his wife. Munni, his wife, refuses to hand over the money because she wants Halku to buy a blanket with that money; Munni knows about the hardships that her husband has to suffer during the cold winter nights while guarding the crops against intruders and animals. Munni wants Halku to give up farming because it scarcely helped in making ends meet; instead, she wants Halku to work as a labourer so that he could be assured of regular wages. It is a cold winter's night, and Halku is out in the field with just an old shawl to protect himself against the biting cold. Apart from depicting the poverty of the farmer, the story also depicts the friendship between man and dog. Jabra is unclean and his body stinks, yet Halku finds the dog to be the most endearing companion. Disregarding the stench, Halku picks up the dog and presses it to his own body; the warmth provided by the dog's body is very comforting! Halku enters a mango orchard near his field. He gathers up the dry leaves and lights a bonfire. The master and dog warm themselves by the fire. The faithful and dutiful dog, however, becomes aware of grazing animals destroying their crops. He leaves the warmth, and darts out into the cold to chase away the animals. But it is so chilly that Halku is unwilling to leave the warmth of the bonfire. He pretends that he is only imagining things, and that Jabra is barking his head off for nothing. But, finally, Halku cannot deceive himself any longer; he knows for certain that grazing animals are destroying his crops. He must get up and chase them away. Halku does make an effort to leave the warmth but the chill forces him to return back to the bonfire, and he soon falls asleep. He is woken up in the morning by his wife. Munni is sad because the crops have been destroyed. But Halku is happy! The reason: he won't have to spend the cold nights in the field anymore because there were now no crops to guard!

(This story is being republished with a summary)

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Interview letters

Funny picture of dog wearing hat Those were the days of the snail mail, and those were also the days of unemployment (I am referring to my own state of unemployment). Having just finished college, I was trying hard to find myself a job. But the going was tough; no one was willing to employ me. It was a set daily routine. After breakfast every morning, my favourite pastime was to pick up the local newspaper and scan through the job vacancy columns. Some days I would be lucky and there would be an advertisement for a job that fitted my qualifications but, of course, the experience would be lacking. But that was no deterrent. I would pick up a pen and paper, write an application, and send it on its way by availing the services of good old India Post. Fortunately, envelopes were quite cheap in those days, and this expense was within my means.

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Candle hour!

Candles: Telling time using candles It was lucky that I purchased two candles. Mother had asked me to buy some tea-leaves from the grocer. At the grocer, the candles caught my eyes and I purchased two of them although I had no need for them. The candles were of the same length but of different thickness. The grocer told me that the fat one would burn for five hours while the slender one would burn for four hours. That evening there was a power failure and the lights went off. I had a test on the next day. It was, therefore, indeed lucky that I had bought the candles. I lit both the candles and resumed my studies. After few hours the power supply was restored, and I put out the candles. Upon checking the lengths of the burned candles, I found that the fat candle was now four times the length of the slender one. So, can you help me determine how long the candles had burned?

(This puzzle had been carried before and is being republished)

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu