Feminist or chauvinist?
Premchand was a very prominent Indian writer, and yet for most of us when we think about him the only thing that comes to mind is the Hindi textbooks from school. Few of us actually understand the depth behind his stories, what important role it played, and how it is relevant, even in today’s time.
Today is Premchand’s death anniversary, pretty morbid for me to be writing about him, huh? But what can I do he must be turning in his grave for the lack of appreciation and knowledge, the youth today has about his writings.
Munshi Premchand was the first progressive and active writer in India who independently and boldly raised the women issues in a highly orthodox society without caring for the consequences. He was of the firm view that women are the central pillar of Indian society on which the whole structure of Indian society is standing. Premchand knew it very well that the difference between man and woman is more cultural than natural and while the man enjoys both, the woman lives the life of a prisoner.
These days, there are a lot of people who proclaim to be a feminist. But they do not know what it actually means, Premchand, on the other hand, called himself a chauvinist but was actually a supporter of women’s rights. He did not talk about women getting a huge standard in life, but all he wanted was for women to get the respect they deserve, the respect they had but lost over the centuries.
Munshi Premchand’s attempted to raise the standard of women to what they deserve and what they used to have. Premchand was way ahead of his time in the fight for feminism. Premchand didn’t have any utopian expectations but wrote of the hard realities in an inspirational way.
Despite Premchand’s writings, the upliftment of women in that time was intricately woven to the social evils of the time such as ‘dowry, child marriage, bigamy, prostitution, illiteracy, and a woman’s lack of rights to Inherit property’.
Was Premchand a Feminist or chauvinist? Premchand was a Feminist, but he never called himself that. On the contrary, he once wrote to one of his friends- that he was all for ‘masculinism’ in literature and did not appreciate feminism, maybe in any form. And it was this masculine approach that attracted so many readers and made his writing legendary. This gives off a very contradictory vibe to him, which is oddly relatable. His writing was that of a conformist, in the sense that the stories were more idealist than a revolutionary or a radical- that is the ideal womanhood are ones of self-effacement, sacrifice, and self-abnegation, which I feel was sufficient at that time. His greater concerns were of social evils like dowry and Sati.
Premchand had one of the best writing styles ever and that he had a profound knowledge of the problems faced by both the Indian women and the Indian society at the time. The best thing I have come to like about Premchand is how his stories do not offer any revolutionary program for the uplift of Indian women. He wants to restore to them their traditional respectability, which has been lost due to various historical and socioeconomic factors, rather than advocate a path of total war or revolution. Through this, we can call Premchand in todays terms a ‘Liberal Feminist’.
His writing created a real and penetrating impact on society at that time. A feat very few authors have managed to do.
Premchand has written many stories like Thakur Ka Kaun. Few stories got more popular and became quite well know. But the fact is, that almost all of Premchand’s stories revolve around the same topic and is to empower women by showing them in real world facing real issues. Premchand wrote ‘Bade Ghar Ki Beti’ in that time, and even now it is somewhat relevant and connected with tags like ‘#AccheGharKeLog or #AccheGharKiLadkiya’.
He not only was ahead of his time in the talk on feminism but he also gave other valuable life lessons like “To be successful in life what you need is education, not literacy and degrees.”
So today, lets take a minute to appreciate this legendary author, not because our Hindi teacher tells us to but because we acknowledge and thank him for contributing so greatly to our culture, literature and women empowerment.
Shipra is a travel enthusiast & an aspiring journalist. She loves to look at the world through her camera lenses & vsco filters. She is really passionate about writing.