(This is a poor translation of a story by Munshi Premchand. The objective is merely to exhort readers to read the original or better translations. It is a simple story but speaks volumes about the inherent goodness in every human being. A handful of activists have gathered near a toddy shop to request drunkards to abstain from drinking since the habit causes destruction of their homes. The shop owner decides to offer free drinks to his clients in order to foil the efforts of the activists. A volunteer tries to stop Maiku from entering the shop. An infuriated Maiku slaps the man and enters. But does he drink? Please read the story)

When Quadir and Maiku reached the toddy shop they found gathered there a large number of Congress volunteers with flags in their hands. Hordes of curious spectators stood on either side of the shop watching the spectacle. It was evening, an hour of the day when respectable people avoided that particular lane and only drunkards were to be seen. Small groups of alcoholics came and left at will. A few sex workers were usually to be seen near the shop's door soliciting clients. The presence of the huge crowd today surprised Maiku. "What a crowd! It seems there are 200 to 300 people here!"

Quadir smiled and said, "Are you scared of the crowd? It will disperse within no time; not one person will remain. These people have come to watch the fun; they have not come to be caned by the police."

Maiku looked around suspiciously and said, "There are police constables sitting here; the shop owner had assured the police would stay away."

Quadir: Yes buddy, the police will not intervene; why are you scared? Police intervenes only in those situations where money or women are involved. They don't take notice of trivial issues like the present one. In fact, the police are here to protect the owner; they receive hundreds of rupees from the owner every year; if they don't come to his aid now then when will they come to his assistance?

Maiku: That's fine; we will get to drink on the house today. But I have heard there are some rich people among the volunteers, it would be awful if they cause trouble for us.

Quadir: Hey, no one is going to cause us any trouble; why are you frightened to death?

The Congress volunteers don't resort to violence; they don't hit back even if they are beaten to death. Otherwise, on that day, ten or twelve securitymen wouldn't have dared to confront a crowd of 10,000 people. Four volunteers had been beaten up but they never raised a hand in defence. Their leader was a saintly person who had directed them to bear any assault without a murmur; don't fight back, was his order.

Thus conversing Quadir and Maiku reached the door of the toddy shop. A volunteer approached them with folded hands and said, "Brothers, your religion prohibits drinking alcohol."

Maiku answered him with a slap. The smack was so hard that the volunteer felt blood rushing to his eyes; it seemed as though he would fall. Another volunteer rushed to his help and steadied him. The smack left a bloody imprint of five fingers on the cheek.

Despite suffering the slap, the volunteer stood his ground. "Will you move now or do you want some more?" Maiku asked him.

"Well, if it pleases you, here is my face," the volunteer said humbly, "you may hit me as much as you want, but please don't go inside". He then sat between the door and Maiku.

Maiku scanned the man's face; the mark of the fingers was still visible. Maiku had been involved in several squabbles in the past and had freely wielded his lathi on the heads of his foes then. But, today, he was overcome by remorse; the mark of the five fingers pricked his heart like five thorns.

Quadir, who was standing by the side of a security-man smoking a cigarette, yelled out, "What are you waiting for? Give him one more."

"Move aside, let me enter the shop," Maiku told the volunteer.

"You may enter by treading over my body," the volunteer said.

"I say, move aside; I am not going inside to drink toddy, but I have some other business."

The words were uttered with such sincerity that the volunteer rose and allowed Maiku to pass. Maiku looked at the man and grinned. The volunteer folded his hands once again and said, "Please don't fall back on your promise."

A guard remarked, "Even ghosts run away when kicked; just one slap has brought the man to his senses!"

"The kid will remember the slap all through his life. It is not an easy matter to endure Maiku's slap," Quadir said.

Guard: Today thrash them so severely that they shouldn't dare to come back again.

Quadir: If god wills, they won't come here again. But they are indeed fearless, going around without the least thought of their safety.

When Maiku entered the shop, the owner welcomed him. "Come, brother Maiku! Why did you hold back after slapping the man only once? What effect is one slap likely to produce on these people? They are accustomed to such treatment; you may beat them black and blue but they don't improve! Today tear off the limbs from their bodies, then they will never dare to come this way again."


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