Mahfil. v 1, V. 1 ( 1963) p. 27.


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Mahfjl, vol. 1, no. 2 2?

in Lucknow and. concentrates primarily on fiction and poetry. He has published some twenty books - novels, short stories a,nd poetry. He received a Sahitya Akademi award for his novel Bhule-Bisre Chitra, which traces a family through four generations. Varma's strength lies primarily, I think, in his story-telling ability. A sharp sense of irony is evident particularly in his short stories. In general he attempts to portray life, not to judge it, and he has expressed a rather deterministic view of life, that man is the slave of circumstances, and that moral judgements about people are irrelevant unless they consider the particular circumstances, social and psychological, of individuals. As a result, he has generally kept apart from writersy groups which propound specific political or social dogmas^ and has been criticized in some of those groups for inconsistency and an "irreverent" sense of humor.

The following translation from the Hindi is by Gordon Roadarmel»

COWARDICE

"If I were to call you cowardly, you'd be offended. Right?" The old man sitting in the corner spoke hesitatingly. "But after sixty years of experience I've reached the conclusion that we're all cowardly, and that being cowardly is not as great a fault as people think."

We looked towards the old man. His lean, wrinkled face was serene and serious. He was wearing a handwoven shirt and dhoti, and his Gandhi cap lay on the table. His hair, his beard and his mustache were as white as hemp. There was an unusual lustre in his eyes and a firm sweetness in his voice.

We had been sitting in the waiting-yoom, chatting idly. There were four of us - Sub judge Vishvambhar Dayal, Advocate Ramchandra, Professor Premnath and myself. Ramchandra had just said, "If Avadh doesn't make a love-marriage, for fear of society., then he's a cowards" Then the old man, whose presence we'd not even noticed, had spoken up.

Ramchandra turned to the old man. "I didn't understand youe Cowardice is one of the greatest evils - that's a generally acknowledged facto"

"Perhaps you're right," responded the old man cautiously, "Most men will say, without thinking or understanding, that cowardice is a great wrong. But since when have most men had the ability to think and to understand? Remember this - the people who've encountered evildoers will tell you that most of them are brave. I certainly haven't found any evildoers to be cowardly. In fact I'd be willing to say that bravery itself is an evil. It's our cowardice alone that keeps us from doing wrong," The old man laughed loudly and then looked intently at everyone. We were silent. "You must be thinking," he went on, "that what I've said is very amusing. But unfortunately it's the truth. In this world it's the successful man who is an evil-



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