Saadat Hassan Manto was ahead of his times. During his life time, his books were considered vulgar and obscene, but the brutal honesty with which his words captured incidents was undeniable. His story-telling, then and now has remained unparalleled. He takes you on an uncomfortable emotional roller coaster with these timeless tales.
If you don’t want to read them all, here are 8 that you MUST read:
1. Thanda Gosht
Eesher Singh enters the room with a dagger in his hand as Kalwant Kaur, his wife, gets up from the bed and sees her love lost in his thoughts. He looks as though he had been sick for days. She hasn’t seen him for weeks and asks him where he has been. He replies, “I don’t know”. She accuses him of infidelity but he refuses to answer because his answer to where he has been was much more disturbing.
2. Khol Do
Sirajuddin wakes up, he’s not sure how long he has been unconscious. He’s trying to make sense of all the confusion around him. Why were there so many dead bodies around him? Then he remembers “Sakina”, his daughter, he must find her. He calls out for her but to no avail. He sits down trying to remember how he lost her, he suddenly sees a nightmarish vision of his wife with her entrails hanging out. How her last words to him were to take care of ‘Sakina’. He does find Sakina but he would have been happier if he hadn’t.
3. Toba Tek Singh
After partition, it was decided that just like the Muslim prisoners in India were sent to Pakistan and the Sikh and hindu prisoners were sent to India, the same thing was done with the lunatics in the asylum. This exchange caused quite a commotion with many of the lunatics on both side except one; Bishen Singh, who owned a land in Toba Tek Singh. He was also known as Toba Tek Singh and wished to go back to his land. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear to anyone where Toba Tek Singh was.
4. A wet afternoon
Masood is taking two recently slaughtered sheep to the butchers shop and he can’t explain the pleasure he gets by touching the raw meat. His body experienced a strange feeling which he found to be still throbbing. He can’t help thinking about the raw meat and the strange pleasure he got from touching it even when he gets home to his mother and sister. He proceeds to tell his family what he was feeling and then is forced to massage his sisters back. When he does, he gets that strange feeling again…
5. The assignment
A retired judge, Mian Abdul Hai, along with his young son and daughter are Muslims living in a Hindu locality. There were riots taking place everyday and things were getting worse with each passing day. Mian Abdul Hai suffered a stroke during these strikes and became bed ridden. He looked up to his two children to care for him, but being the only Muslims living there it was impossible for them to get help from anyone. The streets were filled with violence. One night, there is a knock on the door and the children are not sure whether they should answer it or not.
6. Ten rupees
Sarita is a young girl, just 15-years-old. Her mother is looking for her because some rich men have come to take her away. Sadly, Sarita is a prostitute and her mother is her pimp. Sarita is out playing with her friends when her mom grabs her and tells her to go with Kishori to the men. Sarita enjoys the car rides; she loves the wind in her face. As she gets in to the car with Kishori, she see’s that instead of one man there are three men sitting in the car. She is pushed in between two men sitting in the back. The driver asks whether she will put up a fuss to which Kishori replies, “Sir, please trust me”.
Trilochan, a Sikh man has fallen in love with a Jewish girl named Mozelle. She is extremely rude to him and keeps trying to anger him by making fun of his religion and telling him he should cut his hair and shave his beard. One day, she tells him she will marry him if he cuts his hair and shaves his beard which he does. She kisses him and tells him they will be married the next day. The next day she does not show up and Trilochan is told that she has gone on a trip with her ‘friends’. Months pass by and Trilochan falls in love with another Sikh girl from a good home. He has gotten over Mozelle and has moved on. Until he sees her again.
8. Dog of Tithwal
During a war between Pakistan and India, a dog travelled to the Indian camp. The Indians took care of the dog and named it Jhun Jhun, an Indian dog. That is until one day the dog goes missing. The Indians then think that the dog is a Pakistani dog and Pakistani soldiers are playing mind games with them. They rename the dog Shun Shun and send it back to the Pakistani camp. The Pakistani’s, seeing the dog, start firing in the air and the Indians start firing back. The poor dog is stuck between two warring nations and is confused about which way to go.