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Nineteenth-century prose

Chandrakāntā by Devaki Nandan Khatri (selection from the novel) Urdu
Premsāgar by Lallulal (selection)
Literary criticism by Bhartendu Harishchandra, “Hindī bhāshā” and “Urdū kā syāpā”

Twentieth-century prose

“Sadgati” by Premchand
“Dudh kā dām” by Premchand Urdu
“Urdū, Hindī, aur Hindūstānī” by Premchand Urdu
“Malbe kā mālik” by Mohan Rakesh
“Tanāv” by Rajendra Yadav
“Dillī mẽ ek maut” by Kamleshwar
“Paccīs caukā deṛh sau” by Omprakash Valmiki
Apne-apne pinjare by Mohandas Naimishray Urdu
“Lājwantī” by Rajinder Singh Bedi Urdu


Two Braj Bhasha poets:
  • Kabir Urdu
  • Rahim Urdu
Selections from Braj works: The Chayavad movement, with
  • Selection from the critical essay “Kalpnā ke kānan kī rānī” in Chāyāvād by Namwar Singh
  • “Vishva chavi” by Sumitranand Pant
  • Nīrajā by Mahadevi Varma (selection)
Old Avadhi texts: selections from
  • the Rāmcaritmānas of Tulsīdās
  • the Madhumālatī of Manjhan

“Paccīs caukā deṛh sau”
by Omprakash Valmiki

Post-Independence short-story writing opened the way for Dalits (formerly known as “untouchables” or “Harijans”) to write stories from their perspective. Omprakash Valmiki (b. 1950) is one of the most famous Dalit litterateurs and, in contrast to earlier short story writers, portrays the life of Dalits with an authentically Dalit voice. For example, although Premchand, the doyen of the Hindi short story in the early twentieth century, had written about many downtrodden characters, some Dalits felt that his portrayal of them was from an upper-caste perspective. Indeed, one of his most famous stories, “Kafan” (The Shroud), paints an unflattering if not, it seems to me, intentionally insulting picture of Dalits. The two destitute laborers who are the main characters go on a spending spree with the money they had begged in order to buy a shroud for the recently deceased wife of one of them.

“Paccīs caukā deṛh sau” means “twenty times five is a hundred and fifty,” a mathematical impossibility that has had grave consequences in the narrator's life. We meet the narrator as he is returning from the city to his native village. His pocket is full of money he has earned, which he hopes to give to his long-suffering parents. On the bus ride, he notices the conductor mistreating uneducated villagers and comes to realize his own strange position: he is someone who has succeeded and so can pass for upper-caste even though he is a Dalit. When he arrives at his parents' house, he is adamant about teaching his father to count. Years before, as a boy, the narrator had insisted in front of his grade-school class that twenty times five is a hundred and fifty because his father (who could not count that high) had told him that was true. Why? Because the local headman had told his father that he owed that much interest on a loan and the headman would never lie. Or would he? Besides being an engaging story, “Paccīs caukā deṛh sau” offers a detailed sociological account of the life of India's oppressed, especially their own internalized sense of being less worthy than people with higher social standing.

Valmiki is best known for Joothan, his autobiographical account of growing up as a Dalit. It has recently been translated into English by Arun Prabha Mukherjee.

-Arthur Dudney

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PDF availableThe Hindi text of the story is available as a PDF with pages corresponding to the page numbers below.

If the Hindi words below appear as boxes or nonsense, please see the introduction page for help.


p. 78

तनख्वाह- f. wages
अभाव - m. the basic meaning is lack, thus poverty
अंधकार- m. darkness
असंख्य- adj. countless
कंटीला- adj. prickly, thorny
हथेली - f. palm of hand
रग-रग - f. "every blood vessel"
वर्तमान - m. the present time
रस्साकसी- f. tug of war
छलना- to deceive, defraud
खाई- f. a ditch
पाटना - to fill up, fill in
सांत्वना- f. consolation
पीड़ा- f. pain, suffering
यात्री- m. a traveler, passenger
ग्रामीण- m. a villager
वजूद - m. body
दहाड़ना - to roar, thunder

p. 79

ग्रामीण = (adj.) rustic, having to do with a village; (m.) villager
ग्राम =(m.) village
गिड़गिड़ाना = to whine, be tearful
मरियल = half-dead, inert, feeble
उतरना = to come down, descend; make an appearance (NB this is the most common/precise verb in Hindi to describe the action of getting down from a bus or train or other conveyance)
छवि =(f.) charm, grace, beauty; brilliance, lustre
पोर =(f.) joint (of the body, of a sugar cane)
पोर-पोर =(adv.) every joint, every inch, entirely
चटखना =to crack, crackle, break with a crack, split, burst
जिस्म =(m.) [A.] body
आरी = [A.] usually this means "naked, helpless" but actually here the meaning is different: a small saw
तोंदियल = a variant of "pot-bellied," from तोंद, f. belly
तोंदीला = pot-bellied
तोंदी = [f.] navel
फाड़ना = to tear, split
छटपटाना =to flounder; to be agitated, restless
भव्यता = (f.) splendor, magnificence
भव्य = splendid, magnificent
इज़ाफ़ा = (m.) [A.] increase
बनैला = forest-dwelling, wild
बन = (m.) forest
सुअर = (m.) a cook
जंगली = of a forest (i.e. wild)
भीड़ = (f.) crowd; great quantity
घुसना = to enter forcibly, penetrate
सहम = (m.) fear [P.]
सहमना = to feel fear
निरपेक्श = not looking for, not desiring; indifferent, impartial
गुम = [P.] lost
दया = (m.) compassion, sympathy
दयनीयता = (f.) a pitiable state
उबरना = (x से) to be saved, delivered [from x]
स्मृति = (f.) memory
दस्तक = (f.) knock (like at the door)
दाख़िल = [A.] entering, arriving (as in being admitted to school)
बस्ती = (f.) settlement, makeshift settlement of homeless people
भरती = (f.) filling, stuffing; cargo (here with कराना in the sense of to have enrolled)
डग = (f.) step, stride
मैला = dirty, foul; defiled, faded
पट्टा = (m.) strap, belt
x-दार = having x
नीकरनुमा = apparently means "looking ragged" (Not in any of dictionaries we consulted. नुमा is Persian for "showing" or "looking like.")
कच्छा = (m.) tight loincloth
पहनना = to wear
खींचना = to drag, pull
बरामदा =(m.) verandah [P. bar-aamadan - to come forth]
पल भर में = (in the space of) just a moment
ठिठकना = to stop suddenly, stand still
झांकना = to peep, peek
उकड़ूं = squatting with feet flat on the ground
ऊंघना = to feel drowsy, sleepy; doze
ढ़ूंढ़ना = to look for, search, find out
मुड़ना = to turn, be turned
अन्य = other, different
जातक = (m.) newborn child
सरण = dialect for "शरण," f. protection/shelter/refuge (श is replaced by स in many Hindi dialects)
अच्छर = (m.) letter, syllable (dialect for the more Sanskritized अक्षर)
बाण This as well as the following word are dialect for बन जाएगा, "will become." (Also watch out for the other dialect expressions like थारी, which means तुम्हारी and म्हारी, which means हमारी, etc.)
सुधरना = to be set right, corrected, improved
मुद्रा = (f.) seal, stamp; coin, currency; facial expression
झुकना = to be bent down; droop; bend
टोंटा - cigarette butt
उछालना = to throw/toss up, treat with disrespect
उछलना = to spring up, leap up
झलकना = to shine, glitter, gleam
हिचकोला = हचकोला - (m.) jolt, shock
हचकोला खाना = to be jolted, suffer shocks
रेंगना = to creep, crawl
यात्री = (NB - masc) traveller, pilgrim
धुआं = (m.) smoke
उगलना = to spit out, vomit
दुश्- = दुर- - prefix, meaning bad
दुश्चिंता = bad thought

p. 80

सरसराहट = masc. the noise made by a creeping snake, in this case I think the whistling of the wind
स्मृति = fem. memory
कक्षा (f.) a class, as in school or university
भेद्भावा = masc. difference
लगन = f. dedication, devotion
विधारथि = masc. pupil, student, disciple
तमाम सामाजिक् दबवो = complete social pressures (The Persian-derived तमाम means "all.")
गिण्त = counting
शाबासी = dialect for "praise or congratulations"
तैरना = The basic meaning is to swim. Perhaps here "washed over" would be a good translation here.
पड़ाव = masc. a halting place
दोहराना = to double, repeat, or rehearse
आत्मिव्श्वास = m. self-confidence
हरफ़ = a letter of the alphabet
पिछानूं = first person form of recognize, dialect
अच्छर् = m., syllable/letter
भैंस = f. buffalo
सहजता = naturalness, innateness etc [from सहज meaning innate, inborn, natural]
मासुम्यित = innocence
उखड़्ना = to be uprooted

p. 81

रुआँसा - adj. tearful
दुनियादारी - n. f. worldly affairs
म्हतारी - n. f. mother
उम्मीद - n. f. hope
इलाज - n. m. treatment
खर्चा - n. m. expense
चलण-फिरण - v. to walk/to be active
हवेली - n. f. mansion
दुआ - n. f. blessing
थारी - yours (in dialect)
मेहरबान्नी - blessings (used with थारी to mean "your blessings" also dialect form)
लुगाई - n. f. wife
बिरान - adj. lonely
हिसाब - n. m. calculation
कर्ज़ - n. m. debt
हिम्मत - n. m. strength
बखत - n. m. time (dialect)
ब्याज़ - n. m. interest
डेढ़ - one and a half)
इज्जतदार - adj. respectful
जमान्ने - n. m. world (dialect)
बिगार - unpaid labor
हक - n. m. right
गाली - n. f. curse word (dialect)
मंतर - n. m. chant
पहाड़ा - n. m. calculation table
दोहराना - v. to repeat
उत्साहपूर्वक - adj. enthusiastically
टोकना - v. to interrupt, scold
अचानक - adv. suddenly
खामोशी - n. f. silence
उकडूँ - adj. sitting in a squatting position
स्वाभाविक - adj. natural
ढंग - n. m. manner/way

p. 82

होवे- dialect for होता
हत्थे से उखड़ना- v. to be cut loose (perhaps an equivalent English idiom would be to fly off the handle)
खींचना- v. to pull, drag, draw
थप्पड़- m. a slap, blow
गाल- f. the cheek
रसीद करना- (colloq.) v. to strike a blow
तरेरना- v. to glare
चीखना - v. to scream
बि़दवान - dialect for विद्वान -- scholar, intellectual
क्रिया- f. an act, deed
सुसंस्कृत - lit. 'well-refined', cultured, refined
त्यज्य- adj. to be given up or abandoned
मानना- v. to consider, accept (a thought or belief)
कूड़ा-करकट- m. a public rubbish dump
तारीफ़- f. making known, praise
जबान = ज़बान f. tongue, language
चलावा = alt. form of चलाना - v. to cause to move (i.e. making your tongue move = to wag your tongue)
सुबकना - v. to cry quietly
पहाड़ा- m. a multiplication table
घटना f. - a happening, incident, event
उलझन- f. problem
पैदा- adj. and f. produced, to become evident, apparent
क्यूँ - dialect form of क्यों
चौधरी- m. the leader of a community, village headman
बवंडर- m. whirlwind, storm
नर्म- f. soft, easily digestible, mild in views
मासूम- adj. protected, simple, innocent
बालमन- the mind of a child
खरोंच- m. scratching, a scratch
ग्रथि- f. a knot, difficulty
संख्या- f. reckoning, number
चेहरा- m. face
गुस्सैल- adj. quick tempered
स्मृति- f. recollection, memory
दबना- vi. to be pressed down (the transitive is दबाना)
दुगर्म - difficult to traverse
भकटना - v. to stray, wander, err
विचलित - adj. moved, deviated. strayed
उत्तर - m. answer
अड्डा- m. station, as in bus station
अवरोधक - adj. blocking, checking (with गति this is government Hindi for "speed bump)
अचानक - adv. suddenly, unexpectedly
यात्री - m./f. traveller
तंद्रा - f. drowsiness
तन्ख्वाह = तनख़ाह - f. wages, pay
सलामत - adj. and f. safety, safe
किनारा- m. side, edge, margin
बदरंग- adj. discoloured, dull
आईना- f. mirror
बदरू - ugly (derived from Persian)
नाई- m. a barber
मोची- m. leatherworker, shoemaker
दौड़ाई- f. running, scurrying, bustle

p. 83

चहल f. - merriment, bustle
चहल-पहल f. - bustle, activity
इक्का - single, solitary, unique
छोर m. - border edge, side, bank, shore
बस्ती f. - settlement, makeshift settlement of destitute people
चढ़ना - to rise up, mount, climb
लौटना - to return
चिरपरिचित - of very long acquaintance
बिताना - to cause to pass, to spend
गुदगुदाना - to tickle, incite
आत्मीय m./adj. - one's own, relative, special
मन-ही-मन - in the heart, to oneself (unspoken words or thoughts)
कीचड़ m. - mud, mire, ooze
नाली f. - blood vessel, stalk, slender tube [but here some kind of open ditch (probably for sewage) that he had to jump over]
लाँघना - to jump or step over, straddle
मुड़ना - to turn, to be rolled
जोहड़ m. - a small lake or pool
जलकुंभी f. - a type of water weed
किनारा m. - bank, shore, border
आँगन m. - courtyard
चारपाई f. - bed
कसना - to tighten, tie, fasten, bind
लपकना - to spring, leap
सहज - innate, natural, easy, simple
गदगद - inarticulate from emotion, faltering, stammering
थामना - to stop, check, restrain, seize (here: to clutch)
ग्रहण m. - seizing, grasping, seizure
अस्फुट - indistinct, unclear
बुदबुदाना - to bubble (a liquid), to mutter
लाड़ले - i think लड़ला m. - dear, darling
कमाई f. - earnings, the act of earning or acquiring
आँचल m. - the end of a sari
पसारना - to spread out, stretch
समुचा - all, entire, whole
भीगना - to be wet, damp soaked
खिलना - to open, expand, bloom
ऊपरी - upper, outer, external, superficial
तौर m. - manner, way, state, condition
खलबली f. - a particular disturbance
मचना - to be caused, arise (this is a verb commonly used with nouns that mean noise or disturbance)
जिज्ञासा f. - curiosity
वश m. - power
जिज्ञासावश - out of wanting to know, curiosity
गुमसुम - quite still or quiet
धुंध m. - haze, mist, fog, gloom
आशंका f. - fear, apprehension, doubt
झकझोरना - to shake violently
ढेरी f. - a small heap
गिनना - to count, calculate
असहाय - without help or assistance, friendless

p. 84

अवाक् - adj. speechless, taken aback, dumbfounded
साकार - adj. having form or shape, visible
छीनना - to snatch away
मूर्ख - m. a fool
प्रयास करना - to make an effort
अटकना - vi. to be stopped, hindered
उलटना-पलटना - to turn over
यकीन - m. certainty
शंका - f. doubt, misgiving
समाधान - m. a solution, figuring something out
अतीत - m. the past
गुणगान करना - to eulogise
अधाना - to grow tired
चटकना - to be suddenly irritated or angry
रोम - m. hair, thus रोम-रोम = in every fibre of his being
समाना - to fit in to, to take up the available space
वितृष्णा - f. freedom from desire, indifference
पनपना - to be refreshed, revived, to recover
पराजय - m. defeat
छलना - to decieve
गहन - adj. dense, intense
चीकट - n. type of cloth; adj. can also mean dirty/greasy
कोर - f. point, tip
खंडहर - m. sg. or pl. mass of ruins
भुर्भुराना - to crumble
अंतस् - m. depth, base, inner heart, soul
टीस - f. a shooting or throbbing pain
कीड़े पड़ना - worms to appear, infest

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This site last updated by Justin Ben-Hain on 5 November 2013.