The Shroud

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Prem Chand’s The Shroud (translated from his short story Kafan) is a fine specimen of his realism. It places before us two of the most unappealing characters to be found in fiction: Gheesu and Madhav, a father and the son. They belong to the Chamar community. As the story moves on, the reader is told about their way of life marked by poverty and hunger, and also by their determination to do as little work as possible to get by. They have a predilection to enjoy their idleness at the cost of their personal and social responsibilities. This shows that they are not only uncaring of their own well-being but also of their family members. Budhia, Madhav’s wife is central to the story as seen by the readers through the eyes of Gheesu and Madhav. At the opening of the story, she is in the throes of labour with no help at hand as the men of the house are busy in eating potatoes outside the hut. Though Budhia’s piercing screams startle their hearts, yet they are least bothered for her. When Gheesu asks Madhav to be with Budhia, he answers in an irritated tone: “If she must die, then the sooner she dies the better. What is the good of my going in?” (Chand,64) Ever since Budhia has entered their house, she has established some kind of order in their disordered lives and strives to stroke the bellies of these two shameless wretches. Now the same woman is at their leniency, and they are waiting for her end so that they can have a sound sleep and a life free from all the worries and cares. This reminds me of the Manusmriti that grimly glorifies woman's suffering thereby exhorting a good woman to be heroic or stoic in the face of overwhelming obstacles in marital relationship. For example, in Indian society, a chaste woman is defined as one who surrenders all her needs, even her life at her master/husband's feet. Her sole task is his worship in sleep, in dreams and when she is awake. Manu states that “a wife must remain devoted to her husband. Even though the husband is of bad...
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