In search of Manto: Did Manto portray his helplessness through Toba Tek Singh

Manto, a celebrated literary figure now, had been one of the most controversial writers of his times for no reason.
In search of Manto: Did Manto portray his helplessness through Toba Tek Singh
Saadat Hasan Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto had been a literary figure who was way ahead of his time(literature however is always relevant, but it's the maturity of the society whether it dares to accept the challenges or not). Manto, though was a writer, playwright, and author but is best known for his short stories which made him ageless even decades after his death.

Manto was actually a Kashmiri known as Punjabi whose heart always stayed in Bombay(present-day Mumbai). Manto was put in the charge of obscenity sic times for his artworks, thrice in British India in 1947(‘Dhuan’, ‘Bu’ and ‘Kali Shalwar’) while the remaining he faced in Pakistan(‘Khol Do’, ‘Thanda Gosht’ and ‘Upar Neeche Darmiyaan’) after his migration to the newly formed Pakistan. Years after his death, Manto, when Manto’s idea and his writing both had found their space, both the nation claimed the artist of their own. Manto upon the charges of obscenity used to say “I am not a pornographer but a story writer".

Manto faced the charge of obscenity for six times in his carrer
Manto faced the charge of obscenity for six times in his carrer

However, art has always been way beyond the borders, and so has been Manto, he was a writer whose roots belonged to Kashmir but was better known as Punjabi, however, it was Bombay that stole his heart even in his last times. Manto’s writings were in Urdu and thus many times even one tries to claim Manto on religious grounds too, however, hesitates to accept the blunt message carried by his artworks.

Migration to Pakistan
Manto was never satisfied with the idea of breaking the country into two and strongly opposed the partition. Initially, Manto, being a resident of India chose to stay in India, however, went to Pakistan when the stories of the atrocities of partition and riots rose increasingly. It is believed, that Manto was highly disappointed when one of his close associates Shyam, an actor of the time spoke to him that he felt he might kill Manto after listening to the stories of Muslims killing Hindus and Sikhs.

Saadat Hasan Manto
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Manto upon this confession, in the midst of occasional communal riots in Mumbai itself, left his beloved city and decided to migrate to Pakistan, for the rest of his life and left for it by ship.

Manto however was never happy with his decision and always missed his heart there. Many of his writings included a setback of the partition and depicted the pain one suffered during the mishap. Also, it’d become almost impossible for Manto to write freely in the Pakistani regime as he repeatedly faced the charges of obscenity since he migrated there. The Pakistani court after a long hearing fined Manto and also issued a warning that he would be prisoned for years if he would continue to write such pieces and thus preventing the writer to write his novel and cutting edge short stories.
Pankaj Kapoor as Toba Tek Singh
Pankaj Kapoor as Toba Tek Singh
Manto and Toba Tek Singh
Devastated by the partition, heartbroken Manto fell into pieces upon facing the charges of obscenity. It is believed that ‘Toba Tek Singh’ which has been one of the most popular and heart-touching works of the legend, secretly described the battle which the writer was battling mentally. The story holds yet another setback of partition, where the authorities of the two-nation agreed upon a decision of mentally disabled people too. In the story, Manto narrates the story of the character of a Sikh man, who’d been closely observing the news of partition. The poor insane man hasn't slept for years and had been standing for years as a result which has brought immense swelling to his legs.

The man upon receiving the news of the partition asks everyone regarding Toba Tek Singh, as to where his native place(as per him)went upon partition. As the story reaches to end, the poor man amid the quest to go back to Toba Tek Singh, yells out loudly and falls into a no-man’s land area between the two nations.

How the story relates to Manto
Manto had been adversely affected by the pain of partition as he’d left his beloved city, Bombay, also the charges of obscenity disturbed him mentally. The yearning of the poor man for Toba Tek Singh apparently describes Manto’s love for Bombay while his death indicates the battle that the writer faced after the partition. The death also symbolizes that Manto has been an artist, far away from any identity.
A still from the Movie Manto
A still from the Movie Manto
Well, on the occasion of the Birth Anniversary of the legend, here is one quote said by the legend, depicting the reality of society “If you cannot bear these stories then the society is unbearable. Who am I to remove the clothes of this society, which itself is naked. I don't even try to cover it, because it is not my job, that's the job of dressmakers.”

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