Premchand’s amazing genius was brought home to me afresh in Kashmir recently.I was there for Bookaroo, the children’s litfest and was privileged to see a most heart-warming performance of Idgaah done by a mixed group of children from an orphanage and from DPS Srinagar.They were all in the age band of about 10-15 years and under the sensitive and experienced direction of Mr Javed Hakim, they acted out the story as a play. I was able to sit in on some of the rehearsals and I was truly impressed to see that the nudging and pushing would stop and they would get into character immediately upon Mr Hakim’s call. Hamid, the young hero was played by a slightly built boy and the grandmother’s role was being essayed by a burly older boy. He would double over into a most convincing stoop and did her shuffle and quaver to perfection.The story effortlessly transported itself to a mohalla in Srinagar and the 15-20 boys slipped in and out of their roles as Hamid’s friends and the hawkers in the Id fair. There is something so universal and touching about the story of Hamid’s journey and his buying the tongs for his grandmother that by the time the grandmother exclaimed , “Chumt!” which is Kashmiri for chimta (tongs), I didn’t realize that I had been watching Idgaah in Kashmiri! And of course, gooseflesh knows no language.Salaam Premchand!