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A Short Story Teller: Manto

Sadat Hasan Manto

The literature of the subcontinent is rather not popular because it lies in the global south of the world. If this place had been Europe, its history might have been taken by people seriously. However, there are few writers who have done a good job in explaining this region’s social and political turmoil with the respect to the gruesome partition of the subcontinent in 1947. Sadat Hasan Manto was one of such writers who scribbled about this region’s history with pain, agony and frustration having found himself the witness of the partition.

It has been said that Manto was not just a writer, he was a political, social and cultural commentator. It is therefore a series of movies, films and stories written over him by different genres of people. His stories are famous for commenting on the general outlook of the society. One of his quotes is specifically famous about his short stories where he said that his stories are not unbearable, but what is unbearable is the society and its rampant class-based discriminatory culture. He said this comment for the fact that he wanted society to be pointed out that what he writes is perhaps an outcome of the cultural mix of the society. As a human, he is capable of thinking but his stories are not random. In other words, he wanted to refer to his stories as a literary work grounded in the context of the socio-political time of the subcontinent in 1947. It is these aforementioned reasons Manto is still relevant in the world today because he chose his topics for the short stories inspired by the existing time.

Secondly, Manto is an incredibly witty person for he did not fear to point out the ills present in his society in which he is living. He wrote about the culture of India, about women, and the way the Indian society behaved with prostitutes as if they are not humans. In one of his story ‘Thanda Ghost’ he told a story of a Sikh man namely Ishwar Singh who tried to sex with a death body of a Muslim girl. Can you imagine a man who could have tried to sex with a death girl/woman? Can you imagine the cruel side of Ishwar Singh toward Muslims? In fact it is not an easy thing to speculate, let alone performing it. However, this event occurred at a time when Muslims were shifting to Pakistan, and Hindu to India. Amid this world-biggest migration, these cruel crimes were committed out of hate: communal hatred. This short heart wrenching story reflects Manto’s abilities to not just portray the crime as it was committed but also his skills to bring those crimes into the speculation of the modern world. Indeed, all literature related to partition was mainly written by Manto. And he is famous for it.

Moreover, by nature, he was a nonconformist type of person. He did not like to flow in the direction of the wind, instead he wanted to go against it so that he could fly higher and be able to see his society from the heights to write more effectively. This dissent in him is rather expressed in the story of ‘1919 Ki Bat’. Pointedly, in this story he wrote about a family who was loyal to the British crown yet met with a fate of unfortunate ending. Thalia Kanjar was a dandy boy and only brother of the Shamshad and Almas. Although he knew that both of his sisters work as prostitutes to the British officers, he did not care. What he cared for was his lands, loyalty to his people in a way a nationalist does. He even gave his life with bare hands while chanting slogans of freedom from the British. Here in this story the writer has shown us that not only a shameless brother of the prostitutes was loyal to the independence movement of the subcontinent from British but also he was ready to give his life for this goal. Eventually, when the sisters of Thalia Kanjar knew that british were the people not worthy of the trust, they also asked them to go away when they were forced to sing and dance right after her brother was killed by the hands of the British. How could a sister dance when sand on the grave of her brother was not dried up. The oppression associated with the partition of the subcontinent was so big that it was unimaginably true. Perhaps, writers like Manto could have the ability to feel and write such strong stories and because of which he is famous and alive forever in the world of partition literature.

Then, there is another short story by the name ‘Toba Tek Singh’. It is in fact one of the best stories by him where he did not only tell about the confusion of identity crisis in India before and after partition, but also told of the pain, agony and wretchedness faced by a common man. The main character of this novel was Toba Tek Singh who was represented as a prisoner in one of the jails of Pakistan. When governments of the both countries after the partition of the 1947 agreed to exchange the Hindu and Muslim prisoners too, after mass migration happened. Toba was also exchanged with Muslim prisoners coming from India. At the middle of all this exchanging of prisoners, Toba out of confusion asked many (friends) in his jail where is Toba tek singh, which is also a name of his native village? Where is it now? Is it in Pakistan or India now? Although he was a mad person in a prison, yet was literally shocked, uprooted in the sense that he was convinced about the invincibility of the partition. Neither he wants to go to Pakistan nor to India, he just want to see his birth place: Toba Tek Singh. When he was exchanged by force with Pakistani Muslim prisoners coming from India, he ran away calling out I want to go Toba Tek Singh and died at a place between the border of Pakistan and India which was an area not claimed by both countries. This story classically reflects the nature of the division and the way partition impacted the people of the subcontinent.

Last but not the least, partition was a tragic story of the subcontinent. It brought with it arson, killing and rape to the people of India at the behest of the stupid politician from both side of the aisle. It was a cruel and inhuman decision by the politicians of India under their false notions of political ambitions of creating two countries out of India. Politics of the partition is a deep wound, which is festering by the day, as India and Pakistan are still consumed in this hatred and killing each other indiscriminately at the border. It is therefore one can be convinced to say that hatred is detrimental to the common men and women, as is reflected by the stories of the MANTO.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

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Syed Muddasar Shah Bukhari from Peshawar on November 20, 2020:

It's nice to know about a great writer from our country. Thank you very much.