Fahash – indecent/ obscene/ scurrility
Manto ki tehreeron mein fahashi par muqaddmah chala.
Translation: There was a law suit on the obscene lines written by Manto.
Tehreer –lines written
Muqaddmah –law suit
Three stories written by Manto which were claimed ‘obscene’ are listed below.
In “Boo,” (English title –Smell/Odour), the story for which Manto was tried in the courts for obscenity, tells us about the wedding night of a well-to-do bridegroom and the daughter of a rich family. The bride is smothered in gold and expensive French perfumes, and at this moment the bridegroom remembers a poor Ghatan, a working-class Marathi woman whose soiled blouse and the flesh underneath exuded the scent of rain-soaked earth. For Manto, the sexual act was co-mingled with the elements, with water and earth and the wind. The story exposes how gold, brocades and all the riches we aspire for, suffocate the beauty and sanctity of desire and union, which was meant by nature to be like the “scent of rain-soaked earth”.
“Thanda Gosht,” (English title- Cold Flesh), tells the story of a marauder in the midst of communal slaughter, plunder and rape. In an already plundered, empty house, he comes across an unconscious young woman of the targeted community and tries to rape her, only to realise that she is dead. The recognition that he was trying to rape the corpse of a woman so horrifies him that it renders him impotent forever. The real human and social denotations of communal bloodshed and violence with all its horror, its violation of decency and outrage of human values becomes glaringly manifest in the last few lines of this unforgettable story. Since the protagonist was shown as a Sikh, beside obscenity, Manto was also accused of ridiculing the honour of Muslims.“Do we have no sense of honour that we let Sikhs violate the corpses of our women?” his prosecutors said, realising little what lust for bloodshed and rape of other communities lurked behind these apparently morally outraged accusations.
The short story is titled “Khol do” (English title – Open it). Hardly four sides long…it narrates an episode in the life of a father Sirajuddin in search of his only daughter Sakina at a time when British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan.
Most of Manto’s short stories are available in English.
- Urduwallahs celebrate One hundred years of Saadat Has Manto.