The Salt Inspector

(This is only a poor translation into English of 'Namak ka Daroga', a short story by Munshi Premchand. The objective is to urge readers to read the original story or a better translation. We have included a summary of the story on the last page.)

When the Government created a new salt department and imposed a ban on the sale of the God-given commodity, people started selling salt secretively. Sellers devised several devious methods to avoid getting caught — some of them bribed the officials while others used cunning. The salt department officials raked in money and prospered. The job of a patwari — land-records officer — was regarded as the most respectful job, but, now, even patwaris longed to get transferred to this department. Even lawyers and advocates aspired to become salt inspectors.

These were the days when people regarded English education as only a means to propagate Christian views. Persian was the language in vogue. People with knowledge of Persian — who had grown up reading stories and poems about love and beauty in Persian as students — were selected to high positions. Munshi Vanshidhar had also finished reading the love story of Zulaikha. He regarded the Persian love stories of Laila and Majnu and Farhad and Shirin as more important than the battles of Nala and Neela and the discovery of America. With these views in mind, he set out in search of employment.

Munshi Vanshidhar's father had vast knowledge of the world. He advised, "Son! You can see the terrible state we are in. We are struggling under the burden of debts. There are girls in the family who are fast reaching marriageable ages. I am like a tree on a ledge, which can collapse anytime. You are the head of the family now.

"Do not look for high job positions; they are like the tombs of the saints. Instead, set your eyes on the offerings made at the tomb. Seek a job that can fetch you an extra income over your salary. A monthly salary is like a full moon; it shines in full brilliance for only one day and, then, starts waning and, finally, disappears altogether. An extra income is like an ever-flowing stream, which quenches the thirst forever.

"The monthly salary, paid by human beings, never grows. Extra income is offered by God, so it always grows. You are a wise person; what more can I say to you? While searching for jobs, you must use your wisdom.

"Observe people, understand their requirements, seek opportunities, and, then, decide what you must do. You can gain by being uncompromising with people in need, but it is difficult to get your way with someone who has no need. Keep my words in mind always; these are the things I have learned through a lifetime of experience."

After this advice, the father gave his blessings. Vanshidhar was an obedient son. He listened to every word of his father and stepped out of the house. Patience was his only friend in this vast world; knowledge and intelligence were his guides; self-confidence was his aide. His stars were lucky, and he soon got himself a job as an inspector in the Salt Department. The salary was good, and there were many ways to earn extra income. When the old Munshi learned the news, he felt very proud. The creditors became amiable, hopes for a better tomorrow bloomed, and thorns pricked the hearts of the neighbours.

It was a winter night. The constables and guards of the Salt Department were tight with alcohol. Munshi Vanshidhar had arrived here not more than six months ago but had already impressed the officers by his efficiency and good conduct. The officers trusted him. The Yamuna River flowed about a mile to the east from the Salt Department's office. Long rows of boats formed a bridge over the river. The inspector had bolted the door and was sound asleep. A great noise woke him. Instead of the babbling sound of the river, he heard the sound of carriages and shouts of the boatmen. He sat up at once, wondering why carriages should be crossing the river at this late hour. Something must be the matter, his logical mind reasoned. He put on his uniform, slipped his revolver into the pocket, and reached the bridge, riding a horse. He saw a long column of carriages crossing the river. He asked angrily to whom the vehicles belonged.

For a while, everything was quiet; no one answered the question. The men whispered something amongst themselves, and, eventually, the person in the front said, "The vehicles belong to Pandit Alopideen."

"Who is Pandit Alopideen?"

"Pandit Alopideen from Dataaganj."

Munshi Vanshidhar was startled. Pandit Alopideen was the most prominent landowner in the region. He dealt in lakhs of rupees; there was hardly anybody in the neighbourhood who was not his debtor. He had a flourishing business and was cunningly clever. British officers, who came to hunt in the forests around the area, usually stayed as his guests; he extended this hospitality throughout the year.

Munshiji asked where the vehicles were going.

"Kanpur," was the reply.

But when he asked to know what the vehicles were carrying, no one replied; there was complete silence.

The inspector's suspicions grew stronger. He waited for a while for an answer, but when none was forthcoming, he bellowed, "Are you dumb? I am asking you what these vehicles are carrying."

There was still no reply. The inspector urged his horse to move nearer to a vehicle. There were sacks inside. The inspector dug his fingers into one of the sacks. His suspicions were confirmed; it contained salt.


Share this:

Facebook Email Whatsapp LinkedIn

Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission -
  • IIT-Kharagpur -
  • Indian Statistical Institute -
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras -
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad -
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission -
  • IIT Bombay -
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad -
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi -
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training -
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) -
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi -
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai -