Munshi Premchand's legacy 'Untraceable' in Varanasi
He is an immortal writer whose writings live on in millions of hearts across the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his radio broadcast 'Mann Ki Baat', even mentioned that Munshi Premchand's stories have touched him deeply.
Referring to "Nasha", Modi said, "On reading it, I recalled my youth when poverty was widespread. It tells us that we should beware of bad company. 'Eidgah' also touched me deeply."
The bond between the writer and the Prime Minister, ironically, reaches Varanasi as well. Premchand was born in Lamhi, a village in the Prime Minister's parliamentary constituency here.
However, for one who is known as among the most celebrated writers of the country, Munshi Premchand's legacy is almost untraceable.
In July, the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation disconnected the power supply at Premchand's ancestral home during his 139th birth anniversary over alleged non-payment of dues.
Durga Prasad Srivastava, a Lamhi resident and an active organiser of the Lamhi Mahotsav since 2011, said that the power supply to the house was disconnected for almost a week.
"We made preparations for the celebration of the late master story teller's 139th birthday on July 31 amid the candle light and lanterns. It was only when the media raised the issue that the power supply resumed," he said.
Varanasi District Magistrate Surendra Singh, however, denied that the power supply to the legendry writer's ancestral home was ever disconnected. "The power line was snapped due to 'carelessness' of some labourers engaged in the painting of the two-room house of the late writer," he said.
There are two houses in the village linked to Munshi Premchand – one is his ancestral house and another is a museum named after him.
"The museum is managed by the state's Culture Department, the house is a private property, which has not been visited by even the distant kin of the legendary writer," said Singh.
The Varanasi administration, after seeing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interest in Munshi Premchand, has been trying to locate his family.
"There are no papers to ascertain the ownership of the house and no one has ever visited the place. The local people also have no clue about the whereabouts of his family," said an official of the Varanasi administration.
Premchand had two sons, Amrit Rai and Sripat Rai, who lived in Allahabad and a daughter Kamla. The sons, according to sources, never returned to Lamhi.
"Munshi Premchand's life has been full of irony. His original name was Dhanpat Rai Srivastava but he was always bereft of money. People here say that his family life was also disturbed and that could be one reason why no one has claimed his legacy till now," said Srivastava.
The Varanasi Development Authority, however, has undertaken the repairing and painting of the building.
The renovation of the writer's ancestral house began in 2015 when a Hindi teacher from Bengaluru, Vinay Kumar Yadav, met the then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and asked him to preserve the memory of Premchand.
Writers and literateurs now want that the government should create a befitting memorial for Munshi Premchand in Lamhi.
"Munshi Premchand's house should be converted into a museum. There should be a library of his works and a research centre for Hindi scholars. Munshi Premchand's works are as relevant today as they were in the early 1990s when he lived," said noted Hindi writer Vandana Misra.
She said that the memorial should be such that it becomes a tourist attraction for literature lovers.
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