“A Ten Day Fast” is a satire writing written by the famous Hindi writer, humourist and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, Mr. Harishankar Parsai. It has been translated from Hindi to English by C.M. Naim and has been published in Inspector Matadeen on Moon, Katha, New Delhi, 2003. Satire is a way of highlighting the negative points, deficiency, and disadvantages of people, society, and conditions in a humourist way by the use of irony and other literary devices so that the actual victim is not affected.
A Ten Day Fast Summary:
The story “A Ten Day Fast” exposes the loopholes of Indian democracy that how one person threatening of self-immolation can seal the fate of millions in the country. It is a satire on Indian democracy itself, the law, the state, the judiciary and the so-called public opinion which brings inefficiency in the working of democracy.
The story is not written in a direct, straightforward style but instead follows the day-by-day describing method. It is set after twenty years of Independence when all the clever political tactics were standard in the country like fasts, threats of self-immolation, etc.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: The story starts with direct blows on the working of democracy and says that nothing worked those days which included the parliament, judges, and bureaucracy. The main protagonist of the story, Bannu, is listening to all this but remains silent. The person who is acting as the first person in the story (probably the author) is suggesting Bannu to keep an indefinite fast for Radhika Babu’s wife, Savitri.
Bannu is after Savitri from last 16 years but has always failed to get her love. He even tried to drag her away but was severely beaten. He always failed to get her away from her husband as Savitri even hates the sight of his face.
Bannu first doubts the idea of keeping a fast for a woman and considers it immoral but when he is given the example of Baba Sankidas’s fast which got the long-hair-never-shampoo law passed and the example of Cow Protection Movement, Bannu agrees to go on a fast.
He visits Baba Sankidas who is considered the master of his art and under whom four other people were also fasting. He sees that Bannu is afraid of self-immolation and threats like fasts, but still, he somehow encourages him to keep it.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: On 11th January, the indefinite fast of Bannu starts and a holy environment is created around him. Incense sticks are burned and a group is shown singing “Sabko Sanmati de Bhagwan”. Baba Sankidas has distributed the declaration of principles and has written that Savitri is Bannu’s other half and his soul is crying for her in it. Even Savitri also comes to stop him, but Baba Sankidas tells her that she’s just an issue and in such situations, no one listens to the issue. One example of this is the Cow Protection Movement as the cows were also not asked before launching such a movement.
Raged Savitri says that she spits on Bannu’s face and leaves the tent in a fury. Bannu gets sad on this but the Baba again consoles him.
Important Events of Day 1
- Declaration of Principles.
- Savitri’s coming to the tent.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: This is the third day of Bannu’s fast and he has already started to feel hungry. He asks about the arrival of Jayaprakash Narayan who is a mediator but Baba replies him that he only comes on the 5th-6th day. Baba further tells him that the Vinoba has also made some comments on the issue and some of the journalists visited them that day.
Instead of telling media the shameful aim of Bannu’s fast directly, Baba turns their attention towards saving Bannu’s life instead of questioning his ways. He says that Bannu’s actions will also show other men the right way to win the woman they love.
Important Events of Day 3
- The coming of the journalists and Baba’s reply.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: Bannu has turned weak and is thinking to break his fast but again there is Baba Sankidas to convince him. Somehow Baba gets a statement published in the daily newspaper with the help of Swami Rasanand. The statement is again full of lies and states that Bannu was a sage in his previous life. His name was Rishi Vanamanus and Savitri was his wife. It would be a sin to let Savitri live with an ordinary man like Radhika Babu in their that incarnation as Savitri has always married Bannu in their previous lives.
This time Baba Sankidas’s trick works and people come to support Bannu. The slogans of “Victory to dharma” and “May the sinner soon perish” are heard and prayers are said in several temples.
Important Events of Day 4
- Swami Rasanand printing a false statement.
- Inclusion of Dharma.
- People supporting Bannu.
Public opinion is crystallised on the 5th day. People have thrown rocks at Radhika Babu’s house and Bannu has gained more sympathy. Even eleven married women also visit Bannu and worship him. Bannu is delighted on their visit. The newspapers are all full of Bannu’s news and their appeal has reached the Prime Minister’s house. It is the 5th day of Bannu’s fast, therefore, Jayaprakash Narayan arrives and at first scolds Bannu. He says that Bannu does not need him to save his life, he just needs to eat but as being a religious man, Jayaprakash Narayan agrees to help Bannu when Baba Sankidas tells him that it is Bannu’s soul that has cried. Baba Sankidas also scolds Bannu for looking so pathetic as then the media would have offered him some oranges.
Important Events of Day 5
- Rocks were thrown at Radhika Babu’s house.
- Eleven women worshipping Bannu.
- The arrival of Jayaprakash Narayan.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: Jayaprakash Narayan also fails and the PM wants Bannu to break his fast first before discussing the matter. Baba Sankidas is still not disappointed and performs another trick. He includes Bannu’s deteriorating health into the newspaper, saying that much acetone was found in his urine and the topic of caste discrimination is also touched.
Baba Sankidas gets another statement published in the newspaper including that Bannu is a Brahmin whereas Radhika Prasad is a Kayasth. As the head of Brahmin Sabha was also participating in the elections, he could have helped Bannu in his fast.
A Rakhi request comes to Bannu from Radhika Babu’s side but he rejects the offer.
Important Events of Day 6
- Jayaprakash failing in his mission.
- Bannu’s deteriorating health
- Inclusion of caste
- Savitri wanting to tie a Rakhi on Bannu’s wrist.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: The head of Brahmin Sabha sees Radhika Babu as a challenge to Brahmins and threatens to take action. Baba Sankidas hires local goondas to throw rocks at Kayasth homes, and then later at Brahmin homes. Baba thinks that if they can get a curfew or section 144 of the Indian Penal Code imposed then it would be much help to Bannu.
Important Events of Day 7
- Hiring of local goondas
A Ten Day Fast Summary: As decided, stones were thrown into Brahmin and Kayasth houses. Groups of different castes were seen fighting due to which section 144, which restricts public assembly imposes. The representatives of Bannu visits PM where he says that their request would require a change in marriage laws which the Bannu’s representatives wanted to be done immediately or to issue an ordinance. The PM again asks them to tell Bannu to break his fast but the representatives refuse.
At night, some rocks are thrown at the police station and the slogan “Save the Life” is heard.
Important Events of Day 8
- Rocks were thrown at the Kayasth and Brahmin houses.
- Bannu’s representatives meeting the PM.
- Rocks were thrown at the police station.
Bannu has become weak and is thinking he’s going to die. He thinks that they all have trapped him. Baba fears that this will expose them all. Therefore he tells him that if he reports anything, the public will lynch him.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: A whole bus is burned on 20th, Bannu has become weak but Baba Sankidas is still issuing statements on his behalf. All India Sadhu Sabha has encouraged their demand and Brahmin Sabha threatens that if Bannu’s demands are not met then 10 brahmins will immolate themselves. Savitri tries to commit suicide but is saved. The situation gets serious and reaches the Secretary Generals of United Nations. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia has also issued a comment.
Important Events of Day 10
- The burning of the bus.
- The threat of Brahmins to immolate themselves.
- The situation reaching international levels.
- Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia’s comment.
A Ten Day Fast Summary: Bannu’s demand in principle has been accepted and he has finally broken his fast with Baba Sankidas offering him a glass of orange juice. The head of Brahmin Sabha has made a deal with Bannu and he is going to lead the next general elections from his party. Bannu has been awarded money and there are people who worship him. The only words that Bannu has to say are, “What happened was God’s wish. I was merely his medium.“
A Ten Day Fast Summary: Question and Answers
Q: Why do you think that media agencies cooperate with people like Bannu? Is there any specific reason? If yes, then state the reason.
A: In Indian humourist Harishankar Parsai’s story “A Ten Day Fast,” the main protagonist goes on an indefinite fast for an immoral reason and media is shown supporting him. Usually, it is uncommon for anyone to help Bannu for such a reason but the media agencies cooperate with such people because they are always in search of a sensational issue which they can promote like a threat to human existence. People like Bannu and their actions help media in entertaining people and winning more rates for their agencies, that’s why it is obviously beneficial for them to cooperate with people like Bannu.
Q: Bannu’s fast includes a living issue, which is Savitri who is the wife of another person but Bannu still wants to marry her. From trying to spit on his face, tying a Rakhi to committing suicide, does any of the actions of the issue really matter for Bannu? And do they matter in such other Dharnas?
Although in Harishankar Parsai’s story “A Ten Day Fast,” the fast is shown as a satire on Indian democracy where Bannu’s lust and Baba’s tricks make it impossible for Savitri’s actions to matter, in real life fasts, the situation is also not different. Once the public opinion sets and media get involved, the voices of the doer are heard, and the voice of the issue is always ignored. In few situations, the issue also get his deserved support but only when he has some economic and social support to provide backup.
Q: Discuss the importance of fast and dharnas in Indian history. Do you think that today’s fast are different? If they are, then tell they are different in what aspects.
A: In Indian history, fast and dharnas have been used for several purposes. They were considered as religious acts and were a way to achieve the means of poor and weak people. Fasts have helped very much in the liberation of our country but they were also kept for a strong reason and were non-violent. Mahatma Gandhi and other National leaders have used the means of fasts to achieve their goals and perspectives.
In today’s world, fasts have become more violent and serve more as the means of entertainment. They are done by politicians only and mainly result in riots in the country. Although no matter how long the person bears hunger the media only focuses on entertainment whereas the life of the individual who keeps fast is neglected.