A Marwari Muslim dancer lived next to me and he told me hundreds of stories about Mammad Bhai, including how he was worth a 100,000 rupees. One time this man got cholera, and when Mammad Bhai found out, he called all the doctors of Arab Alley into his room and said, ‘Look, if anything happens to Ashiq Husain, I’m going to kill every one of you.’ In a reverential manner, Ashiq Husain told me, ‘Manto Sahib, Mammad Bhai is an angel! An angel! When he threatened the doctors, they shook in fear. They looked after me so well that I was better in two days!’
In the dives of Arab Alley, I heard more stories about Mammad Bhai. One young man – an aspiring martial artist and so probably one of Mammad Bhai’s apprentices – told me Mammad Bhai kept a dagger tucked in his waistband that was so sharp he could shave with it. He kept it without a scabbard, the knife’s cold metal presses against his belly, and the blade was so sharp that if he bent just a little wrong he would become old news fast.
You can imagine how each day my desire to meet him only increased. I don’t remember what exactly he looked like, but after so many years I can still recall anticipating that he must be enormous, the kind of man Hercules bicycles would use as a model in their advertising.
To know if Manto met Mammad Bhai or not and the rest of the story, we invite you to join us at “Manto & His Mumbai”: Our tribute to Saadat Hasan Manto and his Bombay stories:
Date: Friday, 7th June
Time: 6 to 9pm
Venue: Neel Restaurant at Tote on the Turf
The evening at Neel Restaurant will commence with a performance in a seamless blend of Urdu and English readings by the Urduwallahs based on Manto’s works themed around Bombay, which will be followed by a Manto-themed tasting menu from the Neel Restaurant kitchen, which will blend in Manto’s vibrant background and personality with the inherent Mumbai palate and flavours. Tickets at INR 2000/- per head.
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The evening is sponsored by Nasir Gold and Riviers Palms by Mannas Developers and our Media partners Mid-day & Inquilab.