First published in 1928, this poignant novel by Premchand is a classic text of the woman as victim.
Young and vulnerable, Nirmala is married off to an elderly widower by her mother who cannot afford to pay a dowry for her. A forbidden relationship between the young bride and one of her three stepsons seems inevitable. But her jealous husband perceives the possibility of such a relationship long before Nirmala and her stepson do, and the two are tragically separated. As the young man dies in a renunciatory illness, Nirmala is agonized by her culpability in his death and further crises in the family.
Exploring sensitive, even dangerous terrain, it communicates a sense of tragedy rather than moral disapproval. When published, the novel was perceived as a progressive indictment of a corrupt patriarchal society. Decades later, the tale remains relevant to the lives of many Indian women.
Alok Rai's skilful translation, with a Foreword, a detailed Afterword and a Glossary, enables a new generation of readers to have an insight into the prehistory of 'feminist'thinking in India. The Afterword takes note of the special context of the novel, placing the melodrama in perspective and analyzing its powerful working.