11 September 2014

Manto, the great Raconteur

I read this article a few days back in the daily newspaper. Couldn't help but quote it here. Manto has so many kahani-kissa in his personal life that make for more interesting read than his short stories too.

- describing the squalid chawl in which he lived in Bombay, Manto writes, "the place was do full of bed bugs that they fell from the roof like rain."

- On his working conditions, Mr Nazir hired him for a salary of forty rupees a month. After he discovered that Manto was sleeping in the office, he began cutting two rupees from his salary towards rent per month. When he got him another job alongside, as a munshi  at the Imperial Studios, on a salary of forty rupees, Mr Nazir cut his salary from Musawwar by half to twenty rupees

- In Pakistan, Manto was surprised to find himself praise over the annual Iqbal Day. Surprising because he had no love for the Islamic state. But Iqbal and he had some similarities, both were persecuted and became heroes after their death. Iqbal for his heresies ( he wrote a complaint against God, a great poem called Shikwa) and Manto for rejecting conventionalism - he says in his epitaph -  "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, here lies Saddat Hassan Manto and with him lie buried all the secrets of the art of storytelling in his breast. Weighed done by the earth he wonders still: Who is the greatest writer, God or he?"

And here is Manto at his best...
- Manto in his piece God is gracious in Pakistan, "But now, praise God! We can find neither poet nor musician. Allah help us, their music was the most debased thing. Are humans meant to sing? Sitting with their tampuras and wailing away. And singing what? Ever since Pakistan has been cleansed of poets, the very air around us has become pure and unpolluted. Pictures of naked women and statues of them sculpted on those days. Mr Artist, sir! How well you have reproduced the female form... These breasts... Lord have mercy, what did I just say. Please excuse me while I wash my mouth."

- So why does Manto write? "The most important reason is that I'm addicted to writing, just as I am to drinking. When I don't write I feel as if I am unclothed, like I haven't had a bath. Like I haven't had my first drink." 
Manto this alcohol fuelled you but it also burnt you... It gives you and it takes from you... Alas Manto and his life and his words make him the greatest racanteur ever born! 


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