Reading Manto

Published May 16, 2012

Dawn.com presents four readings of the works of Saadat Hasan Manto.

In the first video, Asma Mundrawala, reads ‘Sahai’ a short story about a Muslim man who decides to move to Pakistan after a shocking revelation from his Hindu friend.

According to some sources, this story was based on Manto’s own personal conversation with Shyam, a good friend of Manto's from his Bombay days.

It is often said about Manto that although he lived till 1955, his slow death began in 1947. The partition shook up Manto, and some of his best short stories are based around that time period.

Mahvash Faruqi reads ‘Khol Do’ (Open it); a short story about a desperate man's attempts to find his daughter Sakina, who he loses in the chaotic mass exodus during Partition.

It is in the last paragraph of the story that Manto really captures the layers of pain, and horror that were experienced by many people during the Partition.

In the next reading, Sheema Kermani, reads Manto’s controversial story ‘Bu’ (Odour) in English as translated by Manto’s nephew Hamid Jalal.

Here Manto intimately recounts the thoughts of a young man Randhir and his sexual encounter with a Ghatan girl. It is for writing ‘Bu’ that Manto faced a trial for obscenity in the 1940s.

Finally, a retort in Manto’s own words: Khalid Ahmed reads an article on Manto’s reaction to the censorship and banning of his work.

After his stories and language were labeled as vulgar and obscene in Lahore, Manto wrote:

“If you would like to be enlightened on our society and the times we live in, then read my work. However, if you are unable to stand to read my work, it means that it is our times and society today that you cannot stand."

- Video by Sara Faruqi and Nadir Siddiqui/Dawn.com

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