Idgah : The Fair Ground

This story is a modified adaptation of the short story “Idgah” by the famous Indian author, Munshi Premachand. Premachand is a seminal figure in both Hindi and Urdu literature of early twentieth century. He is often considered one of the greatest short story writer and novelist born in India. Some of his other famous works are Shatranj ke KhiladiGodaan and Nirmala.

One hundred rupees. That’s all he had in his pocket when he noticed it, tucked away in a corner, far away from all the glitter and glamor the shop was replete with. There was a batman toy set, miniature car models, ship models, airplane models, GI Joe action figures, miniature kitchen and doctor play sets. The shop was brimming with rich and colorful toys; toys that he has waited for so long to buy during the festivities. He had fallen in love with the black action figure of an unnamed masked hero that he saw some 3 months ago in a shop, when he had gone to the city with his mother. It was staring at him from across the table. The best part was, he could buy it outright with the money his mother had given him before he had left the house.

But still, his eyes were transfixed to that rolling pin, sitting in the corner; lonely, obscured and neglected.

They were poor. His father had died in a fire accident that took place in the factory he used to work. The widow pension that his mother subsequently received was not enough to keep them alive forever. This resulted in his mother having to work in the homes of other people, rich people, people who could buy whatever their heart desired at the very instant. They couldn’t do the same. Unless his mother was somehow able to save some money, through sheer luck and ingenuity, they were barely able to make ends meet. Luxury was something people like he and his mother couldn’t afford. They were too busy trying to survive.

But today was Eid. It was the most auspicious day in his religion, and after one month of pious fasting, today was the day of celebration. His mother had continued to save money all year, just so that she could buy him a new dress, and give him some eidi to go out with his friends and buy whatever his heart desired.

The black action figure was calling out to him. There were many other takers for it. His own best friend was considering purchasing it, and other kids in his group were slowly realizing that it was the coolest possible thing they could buy in the shop, and at a price which was an absolute steal. He had to make his decision fast, before the window of opportunity closed down, before someone else took notice.

He went home, fearing the worst and hoping for the best. As soon as he entered the structure constructed entirely of aluminum sheets, plastic and wood, a structure he called home, he was confronted by his mother. She had eagerly waited for her only son to come home from the fair.

“So, did you purchase your new favorite toy?”, she asked with excitement.

“No, I got something better,” he answered hesitatingly. Slowly, he took out the pin from his pocket.

His mother’s face went blank completely devoid of any emotion the moment she saw him take out the rolling pin.

He summoned up all the courage he had left and spoke in an almost broken voice, “I thought it would be better to eat some good chapatis again.” He had prepared himself mentally to suffer the backlash for not purchasing some other fancy toy like all of his friends did. They had already laughed at him all the way from the fair, for purchasing a stupid rolling pin. But he knew that his mother hated eating rice. And since the last pin went missing three months ago, she had not been able to make good chapatis for herself. Since she was saving up for eid, she had no money to buy a new rolling pin, and had to resign herself to eating rice both times.

But he had never given a thought about his mother’s reaction at making such a decision, which was now becoming to look more and more foolish.

She continued to examine the pin for a very long time, then looked at him and spoke softly, “Go wash yourself. I have made you some sevai.”

Her voice and her eyes told him that he had made a very wise decision, probably the best decision of his life.

Notes —

  1. Rupees — The currency of India.
  2. Eid — Eid al-fitr is the most important festival for Muslims all over the world, preceded by the holy month of Ramadan.
  3. Eidi — A gift given to the young by adults on Eid.
  4. Chapati — A staple food for Indians, especially in Northern regions. It is circular and made from wheat. A rolling pin is essential to make a proper chapati. Also known as ‘roti’.
  5. Sevai — A type of dish made from rice vermicelli. An integral part of Eid celebrations, especially in India.

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