Spattered by a Car

(This is only a feeble translation of "Motor ke Chhinte" by Munshi Premchand. The objective is to urge readers to read the original story or better translations. We have included a summary of the story on the last page.)

Early in the morning, after bathing and saying my prayers, I applied sandalwood paste mark on my forehead, donned my yellow robe, slipped my feet into the wooden sandals, tucked an almanac under my arm, picked up a thick stick that was guaranteed to break the skull of any enemy, and set out to keep an appointment at a client's house. He wanted to consult me on an auspicious day for a wedding; the consultation promised to make me richer by at least one silver rupee. And, then, there would be the breakfast. My breakfast is no ordinary breakfast; the clerks think twice before inviting me - their breakfast for a whole month is a one-time meal for me! In this regard, I must say that merchants and money-lenders are very generous; they feed you so well, and with such an open heart that it is sheer bliss! I accept invitations to meals only after gauging the generosity of the clients. I lose my appetite if someone invites me to a meal, but serves me food wearing a mournful look on his face. I cannot digest such a meal. A proper host is one who keeps insisting, "Here, shashtriji, have one more sweet" and I have to say unwillingly, "No, thanks. I have had enough."

It had rained heavily the night before and there were puddles of water on the road. As I was walking, immersed in my thoughts, a car whizzed past through the puddles. I felt a few drops of water on my face, and looking down at my dhoti saw that it was splattered with muddy water. My clothes were dirty, my body was filthy, and I had suffered a financial loss. If only I could catch hold of the driver now, I would have given him a piece of my mind. I felt depressed. It was impossible to visit the client's house in this state, and I had come almost a mile away from my own home. Adding insult to injury were the passers-by who clapped their hands in glee at my sight. Such a misfortune had never befallen me before! What was to be done? The wife was sure to make some caustic remarks if I returned home in this state.

I quickly decided on a plan of action. I gathered ten to twelve pebbles from the road and lay in wait for another car to pass by. I was seething in rage. Hardly had ten minutes passed when I saw another car approaching. Well, well, it looked like the same car; the driver must be returning after picking up his master from the railway station. When the car came nearer, I let one of the pebbles fly; I had applied all the force at my disposal to achieve a perfect throw. The pebble whizzed past and did its duty - the sahib's hat came off his head and now lay on the road. The car slowed down. I let another pebble fly. It shattered the window glass; a splinter hit the sahib on the face and he began to bleed. The car stopped and the sahib came towards me with clenched fists, "You pig, I will hand you over to the police." The instant these words came out of his mouth I threw down the almanac and the stick on the road and catching the sahib by the waist, executed such a skillful maneuver that he fell down in the puddle. I quickly seized this opportunity. Sitting on his chest I delivered at least 25 blows in quick succession which left him dazed. Meanwhile, his wife alighted from the car. She wore high-heeled sandals, lipstick, and a silk saree. She had powdered her face and had applied mascara to her eyelashes. She came up to me and began jabbing me with her umbrella. I stopped paying attention to the sahib and reached for my stick. "Madam, you had better not interfere in matters of men; I will feel very sorry if you get hurt," I told her.

Now it was the sahib's turn to seize the opportunity. Finding my attention diverted he got up and aimed a kick at my knee. It hurt! Taken aback by the sudden attack, I picked up my stick and hit the sahib hard on his leg; he dropped like a felled tree. The memsahib brandished her umbrella and made for me. I calmly snatched the umbrella and flung it aside. The chauffeur had remained in the car all this while; he alighted now and charged at me with a cane. I hit him with my stick and he returned to the car. Quite a crowd had gathered around us to watch the fun. The sahib, still lying on the ground, said, "Rascal, I will have you arrested."

I picked up my stick once again intending to whack the sahib on the head. He folded his hands submissively and said, "No, no. Don't hit me. I will not go to the police. Forgive me."

"Don't you ever talk of handing me over to the police, else I will crack your skull," I told him. "At most, I will be jailed for six months, but I will make sure you mend your ways. You splash muddy water over people while driving your car; your pride has made you so blind that you ignore the pedestrians."

An onlooker said, "You did the right thing, sir; these car owners purposely splash muddy water over others just for fun and, then, laugh at the discomfiture of their victims. You have done the right thing by teaching a lesson to one of them."


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