By Ridham Gambhir
” If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth. ”
– Saadat Hasan Manto
Ironically, the man whose stories were labeled as obscene, soon became the face of postage stamp which read, Saadat Hasan Manto (1922-1955) Man of Letters. Not just that, Manto was posthumously awarded Nishan-i-Imtiaz award for his distinguished service to Pakistan.
The man was famous for his short stories; stories which would send a chill down your spine and petrify you to numbness. His prominent anecdotes dealt with the violence associated with the partition of India and Pakistan. The violence he talked of wasn’t the bloodshed of soldiers or the gory killings.
For instance, one of his eminent stories, Khol Do (Open It) describes the agony of a father who lost his daughter during the humdrum of the horrendous partition. He asks some of his own men to find her and when these people do, they prefer not telling the father about it. Later in the story when he finds his daughter in a hospital, the doctor enters the room simultaneously and asks him to open the window ( Khidki Khol Do) and to the utter horror of the doctor, the “body” moves slowly and slides down her lowers and spreads her legs. The father is ecstatic to find his daughter “alive” while the doctor is out of words after seeing this.
The girl was raped to such an extent that the simple words, Khol Do prompted her to spread her legs. This despicable scene exposes the rampant barbarity at the time of partition. Be it Muslim or Hindu, their bestiality spared none. In another narrative, Esher Singh, a Hindu plunders a house and abducts a girl in order to “try her”. The man in his sexual fury overlooks the fact that the woman whom he is trying to get into is dead. All this while when he was asserting his masculinity on her, she laid there like a thanda gosht (Cold meat)
Manto, through his stories alluded to the ghastly reality of partition wherein Hindu and Muslims were tantamount when it came to savagery and sadism. These men would neither spare humans nor animals. The agony of the latter is best exemplified in Dog of Tetwal where Indian and Muslim soldiers kill a poor dog simply because they doubt his “nationality”.
Through Manto’s tales, one encounters a vivid image of the inhuman ferocity of men in the pre-independent India. In a struggle to oust the Britishers, people had misplaced their anger and directed it towards innocents. The nerve-racking stories exposed the naked truths; truths about the psychology of people in such gruesome times which was not acceptable to many, hence he was charged with obscenity.