Spoiler Free Review
Godan is considered to be one of Hindi’s most famous and revered novel which was Munshi Premchand’s final and best work. I have wanted to read this book for over ten years now and it feels great to have finally read it. I read the book and heard the audiobook simultaneously which made the experience all the more better and wholesome. I began to read this book to be a part of Project India where I am reading one book from each state in India.I loved it so much that I believe each person should read this atleast once and hence put this up for the world to read in Project Cross Borders where I aim to read atleast one book from each member nation of the United Nations.
Godan is a book that sent me through an emotional rollercoaster. This is a book that is so true to the story, that if at the end there were a line, “Based on a true story” I wouldn’t be surprised. The raw emotion that was induced by this book makes it really hard to write this review, as there’s so much going on which I am incapable of putting into words. And that is where the beauty and dexterity of Munshi Premchand are visible. Through this book, he has evoked emotions that couldn’t be explained or spoken out. He doesn’t tell what is to be felt, and yet you feel every emotion that you are capable of.
The story has a whole lot of characters with each having their own essence, imperfections dabbling in the ironies of what they believe in and what they do. The protagonist, Hori who is a simple farmer who has a dream of owning a cow which is considered sacred in India and is a sign of virtue and respect in the society. Hori is a simple man and people take advantage of him. He is a person who succumbs to his traditions, superstitions and valueswith a pressure cooker of a wife Dhaniya who flares up at anything that she doesn’t like but has a soft heart! The book features the stories of his three children Gobar, Rupa and Sona who each has their own story arcs. It is a story of aspirations that go unfulfilled and leave the poor to always stay poor.
The story talks about the injustice of the society that has created a world where the elite ensure the poor don’t get to rise and yet always strive for their betterment while not demonising the rich for they have their own virtues and place in the working of the world to make it a better place. The story talks about how people move to urban areas to find a better lifestyle and what happens there. #whathappensinthecitystaysinthecity apparently. It is a wonder how the society and peoples own superstitions and unfair traditions leave them bereft of growth even when the rich offer a helping hand. It is also fascinating to see the stark differences between the elite and the poor when they face adversity where the elite get to stand up again while the poor are pushed back into poverty and are enslaved by situations not under their control.
These deep rooted thoughts come up to the surface through the beauty of the language used by Premchand. Such eloquent writing, with the right amount of descriptions and describing his philosophies through amazing analogies was just poetic. The experience of reading and listening to the audiobook helped accentuate the overall experience of the book by making you the silent spectator in the background throughout the story. But just like Cooper w-hose screams from behind the cupboard in the fifth dimension went unheard to little Brand, I tried so hard to reach out to the characters to laugh with them and offer my shoulder, I just could not. And that is how beautiful the book was written!
What I really love about the book is the depth in the story and the aftertaste of realising that things haven’t changed much in the Indian rural setting even today! The poor remain poor and the rich grow rich. The last few pages where the title is justified is something that left me in tears and I needed to take a small break from reading to assimilate what happened. No, the book isn’t depressing as I make it sound, the book is about life and everything in it, with great mountains and valleys, days and nights, love and adultery, riches and wealth, growth and failures. The book is the whole package.
I would recommend this book to everyone and it is such a great book that I have selected this to be the book from India in the Project Cross Borders where I aim to read atleast one book from each country.
For the people who understand Hindi, I would suggest them to pick up the audiobook while those fluent in reading Hindi should try reading and listening for the best experience! And for the rest of the world, the book is available in English as “The Gift of A Cow” translated by Gordon C Roadamel! This is one book that has to be read by anyone and without doubt, I would rate it:
If you liked this, you may like: Hangwoman by K. R. Meera
You could perhaps wish to listen to this song before you go!