The Manto Mania continues and as we turn the leaf over to discover a new story we are greeted with another ingenious stroke of the master – Saadat Hasan Manto.
We have established by now that Manto primarily wrote short stories. He attempted a novel, which did not receive as much accolade as his short stories. But Manto wrote stories not only of a couple of pages but also of a couple of lines. Imagine the craftsmanship to explain an idea in one line.
These stories that encompass a line or a paragraph are called Siyah Hashiye, which means Black borders. It is believed that when bad or morose news was published in the newspaper much like today, it was bordered with a black outline. Manto’s Siyah Hashiyes gives you a similar twitch in the stomach that you feel when you hear of a death or an accident of a dear one. His pen pierces through your heart like a prick of a needle leaving no bruise, just an urgent rush of pain.
The Siyah Hashiye stories written by Manto are related to the India and Pakistan Partition period. Listed below are 5 stories translated in English to give you a flavor of Manto’s brilliance.
“ What an ungrateful nation! After all the trouble I went to, slaughtering fifty pigs in this mosque and what happens? Not one bloody customer! And now do you know, on the other side there are people queuing outside every temple to buy beef ?”
The first incident took place in front of the small hotel in the street corner. A sentry was immediately put on duty there.
The second incident happened the next evening, not too far from the local general store. The sentry was moved to the site of the new occurrence.
The third incident took place at midnight just in front of the laundry.
The sentry was ordered to stand guard at the murder spot. “ Can you post me where the next incident is going to take place sir?” he asked.
Commenting on his suicide a friend of his said, ‘ What a fool! I kept arguing with him that if his beard had been forcibly shaven off and his long hair been scissored, it did not mean he was no longer a sikh. “ Massage your face and head with yogurt everyday”, I advised him, “and by the benediction of the guru, your hair will grow back in one year and nobody will ever tell the difference.” ’
The two friends finally picked out a girl from the dozen or so they had been shown. She cost fort two rupees and they brought her to their place.
One of them spent the night with her. “ What is your name?” he asked
When she told him, he was taken aback. “But we were told you are the other religion.”
“They lied,” she replied
“The bastards cheated us!” he screamed, “ selling us a girl who is one of us. I want my money refunded
INVITATION TO ACTION
When the neighbourhood was set on fire, everything burnt down with the exception of one shop and its sign. It said, “ All building and construction materials sold here.”
- Urduwallahs celebrate One hundred years of Saadat Hasan Manto.