When one thinks of Partition, many of the images and characters which come to mind are from Urdu short stories written in the same period. The exchange of lunatics and asylum residents who are more sane and rational than the world outside in Manto’s ‘Toba Tek Singh’; the driving lust of a man who pays with his life when he cannot distinguish the cold flesh of a dead girl in ‘Thanda Gosht’; Sakina who can understand the words ‘open up’ only in a single, horrifying sense in ‘Khol Do’, and the abducted and recovered Lajwanti in Rajinder Singh Bedi’s story of the same name who cannot rehabilitate as her husband puts her on a high moral pedestal.
The human predicament behind what Faiz termed in his memorable phrase which was much quoted, “the night-bitten morning” (shab-gazeeda sehar) was being spelled out. No wonder that a special sub-category called fasadat ke afsanay became the subject of heavy discussion. Still a relatively younger genre, the Urdu short story had reached a precocious puberty with the sweeping winds of realism, social awareness and Progressive influences. Leading practitioners the likes of Saadat Hasan Manto and Krishan Chander responded to the great human predicament that was emerging. It was in the hands of some of the most important writers of the day that the Urdu short story reached a new critical awareness as well as superb mastery of the form. Interestingly, Ismat Chughtai did not engage with this theme except for a play which is uncharacteristic of her work and Rajinder Singh Bedi wrote only a single story, even though it was a memorable one. Good stories around this theme were written by Upendranath Ashk (‘Table Land’), Hayatullah Ansari (‘Shukr Guzar Aankhen’), Aziz Ahmed (‘Kali Raat’), Jamila Hashmi (‘Ban-bas’) and Ashfaq Ahmed whose best piece of writing was the inimitable ‘Gadaria’. As writers Manto and Chander were poles apart; wearing his heart on his sleeve, Chander wrote soulful stories with a great humanistic concern and quickly became the darling of the Progressive circles. On the other hand, Manto avoided sentimentality like the plague. He was unflinching in pointing out brutality and remained cynical. Manto was ridiculed and vilified by Sajjad Zaheer, Ali Sardar Jafri and some of the other Progressives. However, it is Manto who proved to be more enduring and it is his stories which are widely read today so much so that it is Manto who has become the troubled face of the Partition.
Excerpts from an article by Asif Farrukhi, sourced from: http://www.dawn.com/news/1199008/essay-the-many-stories-of-partition