Manto: The Legend

Saadat Hasan Manto

            Saadat Hassan Manto is considered one of the great short story writers of the world and righly so. It takes a long for a reader to come out of the magic of the short story of Manto, once he/she reads it. Manto’s characters speak of the language of this world and these characters are taken from this world. He hasn’t exaggerated things in his short stories. May be some escapist critics doesnot like his stories full of barren truth, but still Manto’s popularity is rising day by day. From stage to Film, Manto has crossed all barriers and reached every forum. The characters of Manto’s short stories have come alive on stage and in Movies also. Manto was a rebellious writer. He made his own way, very distinct form his contemporaries. It was different in the sense that he chose to write on those characters of society,of which we don’t care a little. He gave voice to those characters of which we don’t want to care, but which we exploit on daily basis in one way or the other. To limit Manto’s art or characters only to that of courtesans is a grave injustice to Manto and his art, infact Manto has written brilliant stories on partition and communal clashes. There were also court cases filed against Manto on his depiction of naked truth of the society and his “obcene language” used in his short stories, but he didn’t care for this and without any avarice for the award, he continued to write the way and in the style, which  made him famous and bringing the crude realities of society before the readers in a realistic and thought provoking way. Manto wrote on wide range of topics. He wrote on man-woman relations, impact of communal clashes on human psyche, on those women characters which we had and still have demaned and spurned.

The stories written by Manto on partition and communal clashes can be compared with best stories of the world literature. Manto has brought out the pain of communal clashes and partition with rare artistic depth. He has successfully tried to bring out the different shades of human psych in his stories. Manto has brought out pain of hundreds of victims of communal clashes, in his stories. His tone is quite bitter in telling these sordid tales of dying humanity. Manto hates this hypocritic society, where brother has become enemy of his brother and is always ready to kill his brothers in the name of religion, caste, colour, land etc.

The famous stories of Manto written on partition are “Cold Meat”, “ Open It” , “ Mozel” , “ That Girl”, “Harnam Kaur” , “ Read Kalma” etc. “Open It”(Khol Do) is a famous story of Manto on partition. When people migrate from one place to another, one train from Amritsar reaches Mughalpura. Durng the journey many people get killed and injured. There is also one old man named Sirajuddin, also travelling in this train with his daughter Sakina. But when Sirajuddin reaches the station he finds his daughter Sakina missing, upon which he loses his senses. He is unable to understand, where his daughter went. Sirajuddin tries hard to find his daughter but to no avail and eventually asks the volunteers to find his daughter. These volunteers find her daughter but she becomes the victim of their lust and beastliness. Here Manto has shown how during communal clashes, humanity is lost and how a human turns into beast. The short story has a tragic end.

“”The doctor turned towards the girl and took her pulse. Then he said, “Open the window.”

The girl on the stretcher stirred a little.

She moved her hand painfully towards the cord holding up her salwar.

Slowly, she pulled her salwar down.

Her old father shouted with joy, “She is alive. My daughter is alive.”

The doctor broke into a cold sweat.””

After reading these line not only doctor breaks into a cold sweat but that of whole humanity. In the same way humanity broke into cold sweat in Muzaffar Nagar, Gujrat and Kunan Poshpora of Kashmir, when whole humanity was murdered there, when beasts were on prowl to assault the women and killed hundreds of muslims, women children, young and old.

“Toba Tek Singh”, “ Cold Meat”(Thanda Gosht), and “Dog of Teetwal”(Teetwal Ka Kutta) are famous stories of Manto on partition. Manto was a sincere and wrote with condour. He did not like hypocrisy. He possessed affectionate heart and had deep sympathy with the oppressed. Manto in his letters has brought forth his emotions and feelings with sincerity and in these letters we come to know the different shades of the personality of Manto. He confesses to his shortcomings and other mistakes candidly, but doesn’t shy away from criticizing his friends and others openly. From internal matters of Pakistan to some critical comments on literarure especially on short story, Manto’s letters are rich source of information.

Manto saw his neighbours and nears and dears fall apart due to partition. He had himself to feel the brunt of this partition.

“ I was born at that place, which is in India now. My mother is buried there. My father is buried there. ……My first child is also buried there, but that is not my nation now.”

In one letter to Nehru, Manto states:

“In politics I can mention your name with pride because you know well the art of contradicting yourself…..Between us Pundit brothers, do this: call me back to India. First I will help myself to shaljam shabdeg at your place and then take over the responsibility for Kashmiri affairs. The Bakhshis and the rest of them deserve to be sacked right away. Cheats of the first order. For no reason you have given them such high status. Is that because this suits you? But why at all … ? I know you are a politician, which I am not. But that does not mean I don’t understand anything.”

Manto is truly considered one of the greatest short story writer of the world. Not only he is greatest short story writer, but is also considered the great sketch writer, dramatist, essay writer and his letters also hold great importance. One movie on Manto and his stories has been released in Pakistan directed by Sarmad Khoosat and another movie on Manto is being made in India, directed by famous actress and director Nandita Das. Today’s writers, who go crazy after state sponsored awards and write for these only, by avoiding the harsh realities of world have to learn a lot from Manto, his art, language, narration, realism and boldness.




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