Even the strongest people have to fall to their knees before their own conscience. There is inherent goodness in every human being; goodness is hardwired in us.

This is a poor translation of "Maiku", a story by Munshi Premchand. The objective is merely to exhort readers to read the original story or better translations. It is a simple story, but speaks volumes about the inherent goodness in every human being. Maiku enjoys his daily drink. The story mentions that Maiku had freely wielded his lathi in the past; so, the reader realizes that Maiku is not your gentle character but a ruffian - a ruffian from whom one cannot expect sympathies. So, Maiku is a hard-drinking tough guy.

Maiku accompanies his friend, Quadir, to their favourite toddy joint. The owner had forewarned that anti-liqour activists would be protesting before the shop on that particular day. But he had offered to provide free drinks so as to foil the attempts of the activists to prevent his patrons from entering the shop.

When Maiku and Quadir arrive at the shop they find that activists have gathered there and are requesting drunkards to abstain from drinking since the habit causes destruction of their homes. An activist pleads with Maiku not to enter the shop. An infuriated Maiku slaps the man. Despite suffering the slap, the man continues to politely plead with Maiku and even sits in front of the door to prevent Maiku from entering.

Maiku promises that he will not drink, but he must enter the shop for some other reason. The activist allows him to enter. Did Maiku experience a change of heart? If so, why did he have to enter the shop? Or, was the lure of a free drink too much to forego?

When Quadir and Maiku arrived at the toddy shop, they saw Congress volunteers standing outside with flags in their hands. Hordes of curious spectators stood on either side of the shop watching the spectacle. It was that time in the evening when respectable people avoided that particular lane; 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, "The shop owner had assured the police will not interfere, but I can see police constables sitting here."

Quadir: Yes buddy, the police will not interfere; why are you scared? Police interfere only in situations where money or women are involved. They don't take notice of trivial issues like this. The police are here to protect the owner. They receive hundreds of rupees from him every year; if they don't protect him now, then when will they do so?

Maiku: That's fine; we will get to drink on the house today. But I have heard there are some wealthy people among the volunteers; it would be bad 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 activists don't take to violence; they don't hit back even if they are beaten to death. Their leader is a saintly person who has told them to bear any assault without a murmur and never hit back. Otherwise, would it have been possible for just ten or twelve securitymen to control a crowd of 10,000 activists who took out a procession the other day? Four activists fell after being beaten up, but not one of them raised a hand in defence!

Quadir and Maiku came up to the door of the toddy shop. An activist approached them with folded hands and said, "Brothers, your religion prohibits you from drinking alcohol."

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

Despite suffering the slap, the volunteer stood his ground. He did not budge.

"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 activist.

"You may enter by treading over my body," the voluntteer 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 smiled. The activist 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: Thrash them so severely today that they shouldn't dare to come back again.

Quadir: If God wills, they won't come here again. But they are fearless, going around without the least thought of their own 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! Tear off the limbs from their bodies, then they will never dare to come this way again."


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