In India, we don’t have any dearth of writers commemorating the trauma of Partition. However, there are very few writers, who could actually present us with a naturalistic portrayal without romanticizing the idea of Partition. One such writer was Saadat Hasan Manto.
A famed radio and film scriptwriter as well as a journalist, Manto’s convincing portrayal of the situations and characters led him to become one of the best writers of undivided India ever. In fact, although hailing from Lahore, he is as much a famous personality in India as he is a treasured person in India. In this list, we shall learn about some of his most famous and endearing short stories ever.
7. Tithwal ka Kutta
Tithwal ka Kutta is a mockery on the futility of war and how it turns regular humans into suspicious beasts. It personifies the killings and sacrifice of lives through the death of a dog, which belongs to none of the warring sides. He keeps shuffling between the two enemy camps and a simple placard around his neck arouses the suspicion of both the sides. Named Jhun Jhun, the Pakistani side thinks his name carries a secret message and when he tries to return to the Indian borders, he is brutally murdered.
What made Manto different from his contemporary writers is that instead of showing the out-and-out brutalities associated with life, he fixated his attention on the more implicit and underlying trauma associated with the same. Much ahead of its time, the short story is a saga which ravishes the existing notion of marriage and love. Presented with rich imageries and ideas, this story is indeed a must read!
5. Toba Tek Singh
Named after a district of Punjab, this short story, one of the best by Manto, is a satirical take on the effects of partition on the common people. That partition was simply a political massacre that ravished the lives of millions was never told in any more poignant way instilled with a dose of humor. The last line of the story where the inmate of mental asylum makes the no-man’s land as his divine abode is indeed much thought provoking and undoubtedly one of the best endings in Indian English Literature.
4. Thanda Gosht
Yet another haunting saga from the era of Partition, this short story elaborated how this man-made massacre turnedcommon men into heinous scavengers. The story revolves around a Sikh man who, in his last breath, accepts to his wife his instances of raping a murdered Muslim girl—hence, the name of the story, Thanda Gosht or Cold Flesh. If you’re yet to read this short story, do read it once. You’ll be shocked to read about the extent to which Partition created monsters out of jolly good people.
3. Kaali Shalwar
If you want to read anything of life in metros in the modern times, read this short story that revolves around a small-town prostitute Sultana and her disillusionment in Bombay, a city which inspires people to dream. It is a heartrending saga of identities, disillusionment, relationships and sheer nothingness, and is indeed one of the best reads ever. Read it now, if you’re yet to. A Hindi film by Fareeda Mehta was also released with the same name in 2002.
2. The Assignment
The notion behind each and every religion is the spread of love towards everyone. But thanks to the political evils and wraths, people, in the name of religions, have been incessantly going against their own religion. It is one of such instances that Manto etches in this short story. It is a brilliant saga of love and lust, hatred, meaningless violence and cruelty—all done in the name of religion. One of his darkest stories ever, The Assignmentpresents to us a wretched paradox of religious hatred and sentiments. Again, we’ll ask you to read this story to know more.
1. Khol Do
As always, we have saved the best for the last. Our favorite among the lot and one of Manto’s best short stories ever, Khol Do is yet another poignant saga of the wrath of partition towards common and simple people. It is a story of a girl who loses the sight of her father during the partition and ends up being raped and gang raped again and again by the people of her own religion. That partition provoked inhuman approaches and evoked the eagerness of satiating one’s basest pleasure irrespective of any religious sentiments has been rendered beautifully through this short story. A must read if you haven’t yet.