Mohan Rakesh was one of the pioneers of the Nayi Kahani (modern story) literary movement of Hindi literature in the 1950s. It didn’t start out as a movement but their efforts to break away from literary traditions, especially with the short story form, to convey the restlessness and reality of the newly-independent India broke new ground. Like the first story, this one is also about a custodian of sorts, though a self-appointed one. In post-Partition Amritsar, Punjab (India), some men have just returned from Lahore, Pakistan. Rakesh takes us, wide-angle, through the changes in the streets and its people before zooming in with a particular old returnee. Ganni has come to see the house he’d left behind with a family that’s no longer there. He’s not the eponymous custodian to whom the story’s point-of-view eventually shifts in a stark, chilling manner. The ending leaves us restless and unfulfilled, which is exactly the effect the writer wanted here.
Available to read online here. Also available in a different translation in The Greatest Hindi Stories Ever Told, Aleph, 2020