This is one of my favorite short stories ever, and rightfully one of Munshi Premchand’s greatest hits. Enjoyed translating it much more than I hoped to. I apologize if I’ve offended anyone by attempting to replicate a masterpiece, but this one’s from 1933 and I can’t think of a better writing exercise than this!
After 30 days of Ramzan, Eid was finally here. What a captivating, what a beautiful effect it had. The trees were unusually greener, the fields were unusually brighter, the sky was unusually sunny. Look at the sun today! How beautiful, how pretty. As if its wishing the world Eid Mubarak.
The village is so tensed today. Everyone’s preparing for Eid. Someone doesn’t have a button for their kurta, they are running to their neighbours house for some thread and needle. Someone’s shoes got tight, they are running to the oil shop to lubricate it. Let’s just all bathe our buffalos quickly! It’ll be afternoon by the time we return from the Eidgah! A three-kilometre walking distance, followed by meeting hundreds of people, it’ll be impossible to return in the afternoon.
The boys are the happiest! Someone has kept a fast till noon, some not even that. But, they were entitled to their share of happiness about going to Eidgah. The fasts were for the grown-ups, for them it was Eid.
They were waiting for it for a long time, now it has come. And now that it has come, they were feeling restless about people not hurrying up to go to Eidgah. What do they care about the problems of domesticity? Whether or not there is milk and sugar for sevaiyaan (vermicelli porridge), what do they care, they know that they will eat the sevaiyaan. What do they care about why their father was running to Choudhary Kayam Ali’s place like a mad man! What do they know that if only Choudhary would change his glasses, he’ll be able to go on his Eid pilgrim. They had the wealth of Kuber in their pockets. Again and again, they would take out their treasure and keep it back after getting their dose of happiness. Mahmoud counts his, one, two… 10… 12, he has 12 rupees. Mohsin had one, two, three… 10… 12… he has 15 rupees. They will just buy unlimited things out of this unlimited wealth – toys, sweets, flute, ball – and god only knew what else.
And the happiest was Hamid. He was just five years old – poor and frail, whose father was killed by the plague last year and his mom – god only knows why – died by slowly turning yellower as the days went by. Nobody knew what the disease was. Even if she spoke about it, was there anyone to listen? Whatever would go through her heart, she would keep it in there and when she couldn’t take it anymore.. she left this world. Now, Hamid sleeps in her grandmother Ameena’s lap and is just as happy as everyone else. His grandfather had gone to earn some money. He’d bring back bags of it. Grandmum had gone to Allah Miyan’s place to get some really cool stuff, that’s why Hamid is happy. Hope is a great thing, and a child’s hope! Their dreams can make a mountain out of a molehill. Hamid doesn’t have any shoes, his head had an old looking cap, whose cloth had become black with dirt – but he is happy. Now, his grandfather will bring money and grandmother will bring gifts – then he will find contentment in his heart. Then he will see how Mohsin, Noore and Sammi find that much money!
Poor Ameena was sitting alone in her room and crying. Today was Eid, her house didn’t have a single morsel of food! If Aabid would be here, then would Eid come and go like this? She was harrowing in that pit of darkness and disappointment. Who had called for this bloody Eid?
(…to be continued.)