As I look back on my school days, I recall the beautiful story by Munshi Premchand – Idgah – that we had in our Hindi text book. We had even enacted a play on the story. At that time, I had read it as any other story and was even a part of the play – without understanding its layers of wisdom.
A few weeks back, I happened to re-visit some of Premchand’s stories and chanced upon Idgah. And this time my eyes welled. I could relate with the emotions. Here was a four-year-old boy, who saw his friends buying sweets and toys for themselves on Eid – as a child he too wanted to. But instead he buys a chimta (a pair of tongs) for his grandmother.
The story begins on the morning of Eid.
Hamid doesn't have new clothes or shoes like other children. His parents have died and he lives with his grandmother. He lives on a hope that someday his parents would return. He has only three paisa as idi for the festival to spend at the fair. He watches his friends spend their pocket money on rides, candies and toys. But he does not buy any such stuff. Instead, Hamid stops by a shop to buy a chimta as he remembers how his grandmother burns her hand while making rotis.
On the way back, his friends ridicule him on buying the chimta but he silences all of them with his intelligent remarks on how his chimta was better than their perishable toys.
The story ends on a touching note when Hamid gifts the chimta to his grandmother. At first she is shocked and annoyed by his stupidity that instead of eating anything or buying any toy at the fair, he has purchased a chimta. But when Hamid tells his granny why he had bought the her the gift she bursts into tears.
The small story had such a big meaning. The four-year-old had compassion and maturity which most adults don't. For him money was not for momentary pleasures.
This time I loved each paragraph, each sentence and each word of Idgah. And I just could not help asking myself: "Why can’t we be like the four-year-old Hamid? The gift that he bought on Eid for three paisa was priceless."