April 2015








Artifice

(This is a feeble translation of 'Kaushal' a story by Munshi Premchand. The story is about a woman who yearns for a necklace. The husband, however, refuses to buy her one citing one reason or the other but never the real reason - he has no money. The husband, of course, can work a little harder and if he does so he can easily buy a necklace for his wife. But work and the husband don't go together. Does the woman get her necklace?)

For a long time Pandit Balakram Shashtri's wife Maya craved for a necklace. She had pleaded with Panditji on several occasions to buy her one, but he always waffled and skillfully changed the conversation to other subjects. Panditji never admitted he did not have the money to buy a necklace - that would have hurt his pride; instead, he took recourse to a philosophical discourse on the uselessness of possessing a necklace.

It is not worthwhile to own jewellery, he would say. For one, you do not get genuine and pure material these days, and, then, the goldsmith uses gold worth only half the price that he charges from you. The biggest disadvantage is the scourge of burglars; to keep jewellery in the house is inviting thieves. It is foolish to risk such a big threat for the momentary pleasure of wearing a necklace.

Poor Maya had not studied philosophy; Panditji's reasoning would leave her speechless. But her yearning for the necklace would intensify whenever she saw her neighbours. There was no one else to whom she could divulge her heartache. If only Panditji worked a little harder he could easily buy her a necklace. But he was lazy; most of his time was spent on his meals and sleep. He was willing to listen to his wife's rants, but could not cut down on his sleep.

One day when Panditji returned home from school, he saw a sparkling necklace adorning Maya's neck. The sparkle of the necklace caused his face to shine in surprise. He had never seen his wife look so beautiful. "Whose necklace is this?" he asked.

"It belongs to our neighbour," Maya said. "Today, when I went to her house, she showed me the necklace. I liked it very much and borrowed it from her for a while to show you. Buy me a necklace just like this one."

"It is not good to borrow things from the neighbours. What if it gets stolen? We will have to buy her a new one, and, then, imagine the loss of face we will have to suffer."

"I want a necklace just like this one. It weighs twenty tolas."

"Why are you so stubborn?"

"When everyone has a necklace, why should I not wear one?"

"If everyone jumps into a well, will you follow them? The necklace will cost 600 rupees to make. Just ponder over this: after five years the value of your necklace will be reduced to 300 rupees whereas if the same amount is saved at even a meagre interest rate, it will grow to 1000 rupees in five years! Why do you want to bear such a huge loss for the mere pleasure of wearing a necklace? Return this necklace, have your meals and, then, lie down for a peaceful sleep," Panditji said and left.

On the same night, Maya woke up all of a sudden in great agitation. "Thieves, thieves; there are thieves in the house," she screamed. "They are dragging me."

"Where? Where are the thieves?" Panditji woke up in a flurry of arms and legs. "Run, run away," he advised Maya.

"The thief has entered my room; I saw his shadow," Maya said.

This agitated Panditji further. "Get a lantern, fetch my stick," he said.

"I am so scared, I cannot move," Maya told him.

The uproar brought the neighbours running to Panditji's home. "What happened Panditji? Have thieves dug a tunnel into your house?" they asked from outside.

"No, they entered after removing tiles from the roof," Maya told them. "I was awakened by a sound and I saw a thief bending over me. Oh no! He has taken away the necklace. I had fallen asleep while wearing it; the scoundrel removed it from my neck. Oh my!"

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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

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