Author – Premchand

Munshi Khairat Ali Khan was the inspector of Sanitation and hundreds of sweeper women depended on him. He was good-hearted and well thought

of–not the sort who cut their pay, scolded them or fined them. But he went on regularly rebuking and punishing Alarakkhi. She was not a shirker, nor
saucy or slovenly; she was also not at all bad-looking. During these chilly days she would be out with her broom before it was light and go on
assiduously sweeping the road until nine. But all the same, she would be penalized. Huseni, her husband, would help her with the work too when he
found the chance, but it was in Alarakkhi’s fate that she was going to be fined. For others pay-day was an occasion to celebrate, for Alarakkhi it was
a time to weep. On that day it was as though her heart had broken. Who could tell how much would be deducted! Like students awaiting the results
of their examinations, over and over again she would speculate on the amount of the deduction. Whenever she got so tired that she’d sit down a moment to catch her breath, precisely then the Inspector would arrive riding in his ekka. No  matter how much she’d say, ‘Please, Excellency, I’ll go back to work again,’
he would jot her name down in his book without listening. A few days later the very same thing would happen again. If she bought a few cents worth of candy from the sweets-vendor and started to eat it, just at that moment the Inspector would drop on her from the devil knew where and once more write
her name down in his book. Where could he have been hiding? The minute she began to rest the least bit he was upon her like an evil spirit. If he wrote
her name down on only two days, how much would the penalty be then! God knew. More than eight annas? If only it weren’t a whole rupee! With her
head bowed she’d go to collect her pay and find even more deducted than she’d estimated. Taking her money with trembling hands she’d go home, her
eyes full of tears. There was no one to turn to, no one who’d listen. Today was pay-day again. The past month her unweaned daughter had
suffered from coughing and fever. The weather had been exceptionally cold. Partly because of the cold, partly because of the little girl’s crying she was
kept awake the whole night. Several times she’d come to work late. Khan Sahib had noted down her name, and this time she would be fined half her
pay. It was impossible to say how much might be deducted. Early in the morning she picked up the baby, took her broom and went to the street. But
the naughty creature wouldn’t let herself be put down. Time after time Alarakkhi would threaten her with the arrival of the Inspector. ‘He’s on his
way and he’ll beat me and as for you, he’ll cut off your nose and ears! ‘The child was willing to sacrifice her nose and ears but not to be put down. At
last, when Alarakkhi had failed to get rid of her with threats and coaxing alike, she set her down and left her crying and wailing while she started to
sweep. But the little wretch wouldn’t sit in one place to cry her heart out; she crawled after her mother time and time again, caught her sari, clung to her
legs, then wallowed around on the ground and a moment later sat up to start crying again. ‘Shut up!’ Alarakkhi said, brandishing the broom. ‘If you don’t, I’ll hit you with the broom and that’ll be the end of you. That bastard of an Inspector’s going to show up at any moment.’ She had hardly got the words out of her mouth when inspector Khairat Ali Khan dismounted from his bicycle directly in front of her. She turned pale, her heart began to thump. ‘Oh God, may my head fall off if he heard me! Right in front of me and I didn’t see him. Who could tell he’d come on his  bicycle today? He’s always come in his ekka. ‘The blood froze in her veins,
she stood holding the broom as though paralyzed. Angrily the Inspector said, ‘Why do you drag the kid after you to work!
Why didn’t you leave it at home!’ ‘She’s sick, Excellency’ Alarakkhi said timidly. ‘Who’s at home to leave her
with!’  ‘What’s the matter with her?’ ‘She has a fever, Huzoor.’ ‘And you make her cry by leaving her? Don’t you care if she lives? ‘How can I do my work if I carry her?’ ‘Why don’t you ask for leave!’ ‘If my pay is cut, Huzoor, what will we have to live on?’ ‘Pick her up and take her home. When Huseni comes back send him here to finish the sweeping. She picked up the baby and was about to go when he asked, ‘Why were
you abusing me!’ Alarakkhi felt all her breath knocked out of her. If you’d cut her there wouldn’t have been any blood. Trembling she said, ‘No, Huzoor, may my
head fall off if I was abusing you. And she burst into tears. In the evening Huseni and Alarakkhi went to collect her pay. She was very
downcast. ‘Why so sad?’ Huseni tried to console her. ‘The pay’s going to be cut, so let them cut it. I swear on your life from now on I won’t touch another drop of
booze or toddy.’  ‘I’m afraid I’m fired. Damn my tongue! How could I….’ ‘If you’re fired, then you’re fired, but let Allah be merciful to him. Why go
on crying about it?’ ‘You’ve made me come for nothing. Everyone of those women will laugh at me. ‘If he’s fired you, won’t we ask on what grounds! And who heard you abuse him’ Can there be so much injustice that he can fire anyone he pleases! If I’m not heard I’ll complain to the panchayat, I’ll beat my head on the
headman’s gate–‘  ‘If our people stuck together like that would Khan Sahib ever dare fine us so much” ‘No matter how serious the sickness there’s a medicine for it, silly.’ But Alarakkhi was not set at rest. Dejection covered her face like a cloud. When the Inspector heard her abuse him why didn’t he even scold her? Why
didn’t he ~re her on the spot! She wasn’t able to work it out, he actually seemed kind. She couldn’t manage to understand this mystery. She was
afraid. He had decided to fire her- that must have been why he was so nice. She’d heard that a man about to be hanged is given a fine last meal, they have to give him anything he wants-so surely the Inspector was going to dismiss her. They reached the municipal office building. The pay began to
be distributed. The sweeper women were first. Whoever’s name was called would go running and taking her money call down undeserved blessings on
the Inspector and go away. Alarakkhi’s name was always called after Champa’s. Today she was passed over. After Champa, Jahuran’s name was
called, and she always followed Alarakkhi. In despair she looked at Huseni. The women were watching her and
beginning to whisper. One after another the names were called and Alarakkhi went on looking at the trees across the way.  Suddenly startled, she heard her name. Slowly she stood up and walked ahead with the slow tread of a new bride. The paymaster put the full amount of six rupees in her hand.
 She was stupefied. Surely the paymaster was mistaken! In these three years she had never once got her full pay. And now to get even half would
have been a windfall. She stood there for a second in case the paymaster should ask for the money back. When he asked her, ‘Why are you standing
here now, why don’t you move along!’ she said softly,  ‘But it’s the full amount.’ Puzzled the paymaster looked at her and said, ‘What else do you want–do
you want to get less!’  ‘There’s no penalty deducted?’ ‘No, today there aren’t any deductions. She came away but in her heart she was not content. She was full of remorse for having abused the Inspector. A Lesson in the Holy Life Guru Mantra Domestic squabbles and a dearth of invitations led Pandit Chintamani to consider renouncing the world and when he vowed to become a wandering
ascetic his best friend, Pandit Moteram Shastri, gave him this advice. ‘Friend, I’ve been intimately acquainted with a good many first-class
mahatmas. Now, when they arrive at some well-to-do citizen’s door they don’t fall in a heap and hold out their hands and call down hypocritical
blessings such as “God keep you in body and soul, may you always be happy.” Such is the way of beggars. As soon as a holy man reaches the door
he lets out his war-cry in a regular yell so that everybody inside the house is astonished and comes running to see what’s happened. I know two or three
of these slogans–you can use any you like. Gudri Baba used to say, “If anybody dies five will die!” When they heard this battle-cry people would
fall right at his feet. Siddh Bhagat had a fine slogan: “Eat, drink and be merry but watch out for the holy man’s stick.” Nanga Baba would say, “Give
to me, feed me, let me drink, let me sleep. “Just remember, your prestige depends a good deal on your slogan. What else can I tell you! Don’t forget,
you and I have been friends for a long time, we’ve enjoyed the same free dinners hundreds of times. Whenever we were at the same banquet we used
to compete to eat up one dish more than the other. I’m going to miss you! May God give you a happy life. Chintamani wasn’t pleased with any of the
slogans. He said, ‘Think up some special cry for me. ‘All right–how’s this one: “If you don’t give to me I’ll run you into the
ground.”‘ ‘Yes, I like that one, but if you’ll allow me, I’ll shorten it.’ ‘Go right ahead.’ ‘Then how about this: “Give or I’ll run you into the ground.”‘ Moteram
leaped up. ‘By the Lord above, that’s absolutely unique! Devotion has illuminated you. Splendid! Now try it out just once and we’ll see how you do
it.’ Chintamani stuck his fingers in his ears and yelled with all his might. ‘Give or I’ll run you into the ground! ‘The noise was so thunderous that even
Moteram was startled. The bats flew out of the trees in dismay and dogs began to bark. Moteram said, ‘Friend, your cry was like the roar of a lion. Now your
slogan has been decided, I have a few other things to tell you, so pay attention. The language of holy men is quite different from our ordinary way
of speaking. We say “Sir,” for example, to some people, and just “you” to others. But the holy man says “thou” to everybody, important or
insignificant, rich or poor, old or young; however, go on treating old people with respect. Also remember never to talk plain Hindi. Otherwise the secret
will be out that you’re an ordinary Brahman and not a real holy man. Make your language fancy. To say, for example, “My good woman, give me
something to eat” is not the style of the holy man. A genuine mahatma will say it like this: “Woman, spread a feast before me, and you will be waking in
the paths of righteousness.  ‘Friend: Chintamani said, ‘how can I praise you enough? You’ve helped me
beyond measure. Having given this advice, Moteram took his leave. Chintamani set out and what should he see right away but a crowd of holy men sitting in front of a bhang and hashish shop smoking hashish. When they saw Chintamani one of the holy men pronounced his slogan: ‘Move along, move along, Otherwise, I’ll prove you wrong. Another holy man proclaimed: ‘Fee fi fo fum We holy men have finally come, From now on only fun. While these syllables were still echoing in the skies a third mahatma roared out: ‘Here and there down and up Hurry up and fill my cup.’ Chintamani could not restrain himself. He burst
out with ‘Give or I’ll run you into the ground!’ As soon as they heard this the holy men greeted him. The bowl of the hookah was refilled at once and the task of lighting it was assigned to Pandit Chintamani. He thought, if I don’t accept the pipe my secret will be out. Nervously he took it. Now anyone who has never smoked hashish can try and try without being able to make the pipe draw. Closing his eyes Chintamani inhaled with all his might. The pipe fell from his hands, his eyes popped, he foamed at the mouth but not the least bit of smoke came from his lips nor was there any sign that the pipe was kindled. This lack of know-how
was quite enough to ruin his· standing in the society of holy men. A couple of them advanced angrily and roughly catching him by the hands, pulled him
up. ‘A curse on you: one said, and another, ‘Aren’t you ashamed of pretendingto be a mahatma!’Humiliated, Panditji went and sat down near a sweets shop and the holymen, striking tambourines, began to sing this hymn: ‘Illusion is the world, beloved, the world is an illusion.Both sin and holiness are lies-there’s the philosophical solution. The world is all illusion.A curse on those who forbid us bhang and hashish, Krishna, lover, all the world’s illusion.