A Mother's Heart

This is a poor translation of "Mata ka Hriday" by Munshi Premchand. The aim is to exhort readers to read the original or better translations. This story is about a mother's heart which is a deep ocean of love. The story is clearly set in the pre-Independence era. Atmanand is a boy who is loved not only by his mother but by everyone. Well, actually not by everyone; the government hates him. The reason: Atmanand is a nationalist! He is a thorn in the flesh of the government. The government wants to confine him to restrict his activities. The police falsely implicates him in a case; false evidence and witnesses are presented before the court and Atmanand is sentenced to eight years imprisonment. Those were the days when native Indian officers served under English superiors. The police officer who arrested Atmanand is a native Indian. Atmanand's mother Madhavi resolves to take revenge on the police officer. With a view to fulfill this objective, Madhavi manages to secure employment in the officer's household and is entrusted the task of caring for the officer's child. The child becomes very fond of Madhavi, and Madhavi finds herself reciprocating that love instead of hating the child. During the course of her employment, Madhavi also comes to understand the compulsions of native officers serving under a colonial regime. Madhavi feels pity for the officer. The child falls sick and recovers mainly owing to Madhavi's nursing. The parents are very grateful and propose that Madhavi accept the child as her own. Even as the parents are discussing this proposal with Madhavi, the child lies dead in its cradle. The parents are distressed. But it is Madhavi who suffers the greatest agony; an agony much more unendurable than the one she had experienced when the prison gates had swallowed her own son. Madhavi had come to make the officer weep but she was leaving the house, weeping herself.

Wherever Madhavi looked she saw darkness. There was no one to help her; she could see no ray of hope. Steeped in poverty and all alone in the world, tears were her only companion; she could only weep, and there was no one to wipe away even the tears. Her husband had died 22 years ago. There was no property in the house. She had reared her child and raised him with much difficulty; the son had been snatched away from her today. And, who had snatched him away? If it had been death, she could and would have endured it; no one can hold a grudge against death. It wasn't death. The torture was inflicted upon her by selfish people. In her helpless condition, Madhavi, from time to time, felt a sudden overwhelming impulse to take revenge on her tormentors. To kill or be killed - both situations would be extenuating.

Such a beautiful and promising boy! The boy was the living image of her dead husband; he was her only crutch; the wealth of her entire life! The same son was today in jail undergoing all kinds of hardships. What was his crime? Nothing! Everyone in the neighbourhood loved him; his teachers at school were fond of him; friends and strangers alike took to him at once. She never had to hear complaints about him. Other mothers praised her for rearing her child so well. Such a gentle, charitable and compassionate boy! He would rather stay hungry than turn anyone from the door with rude words. Can such a boy be confined in jail? His only crime was that he told of the sufferings of his brethren to whosoever was willing to listen, and was always ready to rush to the assistance of the sufferers. Is that a crime? Is it a crime to help others? Is it a crime to offer shelter to the guest?

The boy's name was Atmanand. Unfortunately, he had all those virtues which merited the jail gates to be opened for him. He was bold, straight-forward, courageous, nationalist, unselfish and dutiful. These are the very characteristics required of a person to be sent to jail. For those living in freedom, these virtues assure a place in heaven; but for those living in bondage, they open the gates to hell. Atmanand was a thorn in the flesh of the government owing to his work, his speeches and his political writings. The police were always alert of his activities. A terrible dacoity in the district provided police an excuse to search Atmanand's house. The police seized certain letters and written articles, which they claimed had incited the crime. Around 20 boys were rounded up, and Atmanand was held to be their chief. In those days of unemployment and poverty what could have been cheaper than the human soul! Witnesses and evidence were gathered without much difficulty. The trial lasted for a month; it was a farce. All the accused were held guilty and convicted. The harshest punishment was meted upon Atmanand; he was sentenced to eight years rigorous imprisonment. During the trial, Madhavi attended the court every day; she would sit in a corner and watch the proceedings. Till then she had had not the faintest idea as to how weak and cruel a human being was or how low he could fall. When the sentence was passed, Atmanand came up to her, touched her feet, and was immediately whisked away by the constables. Madhavi fainted and dropped down in the court room. A few good people helped her into a "tonga" and reached her home. From the moment she regained consciousness, she could feel a thorn piercing her heart. In her extreme grief she could set sight on only one objective: revenge!

Until then, Madhavi's life had been centered upon her son; but, now, she resolved that revenge will be her only objective. She had nothing to hope for in this life; life would be meaningful only if she could avenge the torment inflicted upon her. Bagchi, the beast in human shape, had made her shed tears of blood; Madhavi resolved she would make the man weep in the same manner. A woman's heart is tender, but only under harmonious conditions. When oppressed, the anger of a woman is no less than that of a man; the only difference is that under such conditions the oppressed man takes recourse to weapons to take revenge whereas a woman employs tact.

The night was long and damp, but Madhavi did not show any inclination to rise. Her sorrows were forgotten because all she could now think of was revenge! It was the thought of revenge that possessed her, and she could think of nothing else. The one question which Madhavi constantly turned over in her mind was how to take revenge. She had never stepped out of her home; she had spent the 22 years of her widowhood in the house. "But, now, I will leave this house; if, need be, I will beg, I will become a wanderer, I will lie, and I will do all the wrong things," she resolved. The world does not appreciate good people; even god seems to have turned away his face in despair. That is why such atrocities are committed, and the sinners remain unpunished. I will punish him with my own hands.


Some useful links for
your career:

  • 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