Premchand Life at Gorakhpur and Return from Kanpur

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Premchand Life at Gorakhpur and Return from Kanpur

Becoming Premchand

What people think in their heart gets out, no matter how much they try to hide it.

Premchand (Dhanpat Rai) was transferred to Mahoba in 1909, and later posted to Hamirpur as the Deputy-Sub Inspector of Schools. Around this time, his Soz-e-Watan was noticed by the British Government officials, who banned it as a seditious work. The British collector of the Hamirpur District ordered a raid on Premchand’s house, where around five hundred copies of Soz-e-Watan were burnt. Subsequently, Dhanpat Rai had to change his pseudonym from “Nawab Rai” to “Premchand”.

It was about this time that the identity of the person writing under the name of “Premchand” was revealed to the readers of Urdu journal Zamana as:
“Are the readers of Zamana aware of the fact that ‘Premchand’ is only a pen-name, adopted by our old and esteemed friend Dhanpat Rai, B.A., because of certain special reasons.”

“Old readers of the journal would perhaps remember that its earliest issues carried interesting and absorbing literary pieces by him. We have no hesitation in revealing now that ‘Navab Rai’ and ‘Premchand’ are the two names of one and the same person—Dhanpat Rai. The only difference is that while ‘Navab Rai’ had not graduated,’ ‘Premchand’ has taken his B.A. degree from the Allahabad University. ‘Navab Rai’ was a school teacher, but ‘Premchand’ kicked that job during the non-cooperation movement and, after serving several national institutions, is now engaged in serving national literature as his wholetime occupation.”

Premchand started writing in Hindi, in 1914 (Hindi and Urdu are considered different registers of a single language Hindustani, with Hindi drawing much of its vocabulary from Sanskrit and Urdu being more influenced by Persian). By this time, he was already reputed as a fiction writer in Urdu.

His first Hindi story Saut was published in the magazine Saraswati in December 1915, and his first short story collection Sapta Saroj was published in June 1917.

Life at Gorakhpur

Parents are one’s companions in life but not partakers of one’s karma.

Premchand was transferred to Gorakhpur in August 1916 on a promotion. He became the Assistant Master at the Normal High School, Gorakhpur.

He developed a friendship with the bookseller Buddhi Lal at Gorakhpur who allowed him to borrow novels for reading as a friendly gesture. Premchand was voracious reader of classics in other languages, and translated several of these works in Hindi.

Premchand had published four novels by 1919, of about a hundred pages each. Premchand’s first major novel Seva Sadan was published in Hindi in 1919. The novel was originally written in Urdu under the title Bazaar-e-Husn, but was published in Hindi first by a Calcutta-based publisher, who offered Premchand ₹ 450 for his work. The Urdu Publisher of Lahore published the novel later in 1924, paying Premchand ₹ 250.

The novel tells the story of an unhappy housewife, who first becomes a courtesan, and then manages an orphanage for the young daughters of the courtesans. It was well received by the critics, and helped Premchand gain wider recognition.

Premchand obtained a BA degree from Allahabad in 1919. He had been promoted to Deputy Inspector of Schools by 1921.

He attended a meeting at Gorakhpur on 8 February 1921, where Mahatma Gandhi asked people to resign from government jobs as part of the non-cooperation movement.

Premchand, although physically unwell and with two kids and a pregnant wife to support, thought about it for five days and decided, with the consent of his wife, to resign from his government job.

Kanpur Return

People are so selfish. Those you help are the ones who turn against you.

After resigning from his job, Premchand left Gorakhpur for Benares on 18 March 1921, and decided to focus on his literary career. Till his death in 1936, he faced severe financial difficulties and chronic ill health.

He established a printing press in 1923, and publishing house in Benares, christened Saraswati Press. The year 1924 saw the publication of Premchand’s Rangabhumi, which has a blind beggar called Surdas as its tragic hero. In Rangabhumi, Premchand comes across as a superb social chronicler, and it shows a marked progress in Premchand’s writing style. It was in Nirmala (1925) and Pratigya (1927) that Premchand found his way to a balanced, realistic level that surpasses his earlier works and manages to hold his readers in tutelage.

Nirmala, a novel dealing with the dowry system in India, was first serialised in the magazine Chand between November 1925 and November 1926, before being published as a novel. Pratigya (The Vow) dealt with the subject of widow remarriage.

Premchand’s novel Gabon (Embezzlement), focusing on the middle class’ greed, was published in 1928. In March 1930, Premchand launched a literary-political weekly magazine titled Hans, aimed at inspiring the Indians to mobilise against the British rule. Hans, noted for its politically provocative views, failed to make a profit. Premchand then took over and edited another magazine called Jagaran, which too ran at a loss.

Premchand moved to Kanpur as a teacher in the Marwari College, in 1931, but had to leave because of difference with the college administration. He then returned to Benares, and became the editor of the Maryada magazine. He published another novel titled Karmabhumi in 1932. He also briefly served as the headmaster of the Kashi Vidyapeeth, a local school. After the school’s closure, he became the editor of the magazine Madhuri in Lucknow.

In the year 1934-35, Premchand tried his luck in Bollywood also as a scriptwriter.