Saadat Hasan Manto

 Saadat Hasan Manto

“In today’s world of uncertainty, violence, and fear where political correctness has made us spineless story of India and Pakistan keeps us engaged. They are like old lovers quarrelling and loving. Whatever the level of hatred, in moments of peace India-Pakistan have shared a many things; memories, music, dramas, and culture. We have fought wars and then also talked about unifying our cricket teams. This ceaseless love-hate relationship gathers a many thoughts. At the present moment in history it then becomes important for us to see our story tellers as social theorists. Saadat Hasan Manto was one such writer.” (Written by Sana Khan, Manto Lives | Published on: May 12, 2017)

Saadat Hasan Manto is one of the most well-known and controversial Urdu writer of the twentieth century. He left us with a stupendous literary output and he and his literary work is very much relevant even today. Along with being an Urdu writer, he was also a film and radio scriptwriter and a journalist. His published works includes twenty-two collections of short stories, one novel, five collections of radio plays, three collections of essays and two collections of personal sketches. On August 14, 2012, the government of Pakistan posthumously honoured him with the title ‘Nishan-I-Imtiaz’.

About his writings, Manto said, “If you cannot bear these stories then the society is unbearable. Who am I to remove the clothes of this society, which itself is naked. I don’t even try to cover it, because it is not my job, that’s the job of dressmakers.” His provocative stories got him into trouble both in India and Pakistan. Manto was charged six times in India and Pakistan for his writings. Manto’s stories focused on the murky terrains of humanity and how the societal norms tramples down humanity.

Saadat Hasan Manto was born in May 11, 1912, in British India in the small Punjab village called Samrala. He was a Kashmiri and he was born into a family of Sunni Muslims. Not much is known about his youth but this much is known that his family was in law and his father was a judge.

Though a disinterested student from the beginning and a college dropout, Manto had a sharp mind and had a knack for writing and at the urging of one of his friend and mentor Abdul Bari Alig, Manto started reading French and Russian authors. The writings of these authors inspired him to translate Victor Hugo’s “The Last day of a Condemned Man” into Urdu. Over the years, he translated many famous Russian and French books into Urdu.

His writing career began in 1934, when he started working for a small news publication. He studied Writing and Literature at Aligarh Muslim University, there he met several important figures. He became friends with an Urdu writer, Ali Sardar Jafri. In his college, he wrote short stories and even published one of his works, Inqlaab Pasand.

In India, it was in 1940’s that Manto gained prominence as a writer. Between 1941 and 1943, he wrote all genres of stories and also produced four volumes of radio plays. By 1945, he had written and published his famous most controversial short stories Dhuan, Kaali Shalwar and Bu, which later became part of his collected twenty-two short stories volumes.

In India each of these publications were charged with obscenity. Manto said, “If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth.” The interference of literary society and the government on his works only proved to Manto that the society was reluctant to talk about the underlying issues such as religious and political strife that plagued the country. The Partition of India and obscenity charges forced Manto to leave India and relocate to Lahore, Pakistan.

In Lahore, he met several important literary personalities who were also his colleagues. They often gathered at the Pak Tea House and discussed about literature, society and politics. From 1950–1955, Manto wrote extensively, he wrote innumerable short stories, personal essays, plays and screenplays. While living in Pakistan he was accused three more times for obscenity by the Pakistani government. His provocative works which mostly revolved around sex, lust, drug addiction and political corruption garnered lot of negative attention from the Pakistani government.

Manto died in Lahore at the age of 42 on January 18, 1955. He died of Cirrhosis of the liver which was caused by Alcoholism.

Read Books of Sadat Hussain Manto

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