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This article was originally submitted by Beenish Saeed
Scandalous or Seemly?
Saadat Hassan Manto – the most controversial name to go down the annals of history. His topics were distinguished and his ideas were well-beyond his time, a time of bloodshed and British Raj.
His writings were not only straight-forward but they hit you with a different intensity. Moreover, Saadat Hassan Manto presents his ideas as a bitter pill to each and every one of us. He questioned whether the deaths, approximately, 200,000 were all for a reason or in vain – a dispute that would last ages, long after colonial rule ends.
“Literature and film, in my opinion, are like saloons where bottles have no labels. I want to taste each one myself and figure out which is what. If I’m denied this by labelling, then my entertainment is considerably lessened.” – Saadat Hassan Manto
If today, we look at our society, we all can see what this gem of a writer predicted a long time ago; corruption and underqualified leaders who make unsubstantial promises just for the cost of one vote.
Nowadays, religious extremism has settled deep into our veins and nobody is being loquacious on such issues. Instead, they are being treated as taboos, even in the 21st century. Silent majority thinks that these topics spread chagrin in our society and should not be considered revealing, despite them all happening under the rug.
Manto’s directness causes the reader to contemplate and fall down the spiral of ultimate honesty. His unapologetic and unnerving way of writing still brings the spark in people’s eyes when they get to know of this modern writer whose ideas outlived him; to this day, they resonate in the minds of those who believe that one is entitled to their own opinion; despite being put to obscenity by the British, this daring and prophetic writer did not stop these beads of wisdom reaching people on either side of the border.
Manto was born to a Kashmiri family in Ludhiana in 1912, he studied the work of Western writers like Oscar Wilde and especially from Abdul Bari, a scholar from Aligarh University, India. He spoke about harsh truths that no one raised their voices.
He presented a clear-cut dissection of this dystopian society that has double-faced people lurking in every establishment.
We can easily call Manto “Ghalib of the 20th century” because of his addiction to alcohol that eventually leads to his demise, and also his writings include feelings that are arduous to understand on the surface; but only if we dive deeper then can we only relish the reality that this writer was presenting to each and every one of us. He never presented a fabricated narrative because he never wanted to reiterate the fact that this guild is perfect or is functioning without any flaws.
Manto’s story of Toba Tek Singh presents a never seen before picture of the sub-continent after the partition; shockingly, Manto was himself against the idea of partition just because of sectorial divisions purely based on religious differences. However, some may argue that Muslims may have never been able to survive due to the ongoing violence against them; for example, the Congress Ministries, Vidya Mandir Scheme and Wardha Scheme.
Nobody would expect a simple screenwriter from Bombay to illustrate such profound subjects that individuals would not be willing to present their point of view on.
Manto’s life was definitely not facile, he drank heavily; and using the small amount of money he made from writing columns in newspapers which he then used to buy distilled whiskey. He doused his emotions in alcohol because he was adamant on not presenting his vulnerable side to the people; he remained steadfast, in spite of financial strains and mental health complications.
His books like Thanda Gosht shed light on questions; that were unanswered for the longest times, even if they faced immense backlash from the population.
Saadat Hassan Manto – a name that will be cherished till the end of time; a writer that stood like stone despite the extensive amount of criticism he faced from the general population.
His words of wisdom will remain in the annals of history until the end of time. Some writers are born in the wrong period in which people do not value their opinions but he was unrepentant; because he had a firm belief in what he thought was right.
Today, on 11th May 2020, we celebrate the 108th birthday; of an eternal writer who had ideas and capacities that persisted beyond the limitations of time.