The Currency Has Changed (Sikka Badal Gaya), a short story written by renowned author Krishna Sobti, is set in Jalalpur (now in Pakistan) during the Partition. It starts with the portrayal of Shahni, a widow who is down at the Chenab River to take her ritualistic morning bath. However, she notices that something is amiss – going on to discover that she is no longer wanted in her hometown and that trucks have been arranged to send her off. Her neighbors are concerned, yet determined to see her off – “Shahni, you are alone, you must take something with you. Take some cash. There’s no telling in these times..”. The story ends with Shahni confronting her sense of being uprooted, both physically from her haveli & emotionally from a place which she considered was her home.
In juxtaposing the violence that had arisen during the time of the Partition with the sentiments of gentleness that her neighbors & friends had towards her, Sobti brings to light the complex nature of the human mind. Shahni’s neighbors were tender & wary at the same time, an observation that was often made by people who lived during the Partition. A thought-provoking and heart-wrenching piece, Sobti’s short story reminds the reader to empathize with her protagonist, while at the same time, to understand the emotional conflicts that riddle the people around her.
Considered one of the most refined authors of Hindi Literature, Krishna Sobti impressed her audiences with her lucid writing style, artfully sketched out characters & the profound nature of her narratives. Born in 1925 in Gujarat (now in Pakistan), she published one of her first short stories ‘Sikka Badal Gaya’ in 1948, soon after experiencing #Partition. She went on to write multiple important literary works, including Zindaginama, for which she won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980. Known for sprinkling her Hindi texts with Urdu & Punjabi, her writing is acclaimed for being idiomatic & accessible, a fact which made her popular with a vast audience.
Audio Courtesy: Jaya Berged (@berged.theatre) is an independent theatre-maker based in Melbourne, Australia.
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