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Book Review: Pariksha by Munshi Premchand

Pariksha (Test) is a short story written by Munshi Premchand. It is an ordinary story with a strong moral message. The story is all about selecting an honest and dedicated candidate for the post of Diwan for the state of Devgarh. The current Diwan, Sardar Sujan Singh, who has already served forty years in the service of the king, has now grown old. He is to retire soon. But before that, he has to select the new Diwan as directed by the King.

Following an advertisement in the country’s leading newspaper about the post, hundreds of candidates swarmed the palace. It was stated that for the post of Diwan being graduate was not mandatory, rather the candidate should be well-built, dedicated, and honest. And people with sick stomach were not allowed.

All the candidates were arranged to accommodate in the palace where they would stay for a month under observation. A variety of aspiring candidates poured in since academic restrictions were off. Some candidates were simple, others fashionable, and many sophisticated. Even Pandits and Maulvis had come in to try their luck. They performed their prayers on time and spend rest of the time chanting versus from their respective holy books. Mostly, candidates were early to wake up, took interest in gardening, and behaved decently with the servants, and some who were addicted to smoking didn’t smoke openly. Overall people had put up a fake face – unreal one to claim their right for the post.

Since there were many young candidates, so a game of hockey was arranged. The game turned out a high-spirited one. People played with maximum gusto amid the heat and dust. While going back to the palace the players were crossing the nala (a narrow channel). There was no culvert over that nala. A bullock cart laden with grain sacks was struggling to cross over the upward steep. The man did all possible tricks to help himself but to no avail. The passing-by players already worn out by the game knew the situation but still paid no attention to the man. They had their own reasons to ignore him. However, one young man who had been hurt in the game was limping slightly. Upon seeing the man’s plight, he offered him help. The man on the bullock cart had the same voice like the current Diwan and also resembled a little bit. The young man jokingly asked for the award in return of his help. The bullock cart owner said that he be selected as the new Diwan of the state.

When the month was over, candidates assembled and waited for the result excitedly. The winner was Pandit Jankinath: the man who helped the bullock cart. He was selected on the virtues of being courageous despite being in pain. It was assumed that these kinds of people would never exploit the poor of the state for their personal benefit.


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