Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Studied in Govt. College, Lahore, Punjab University,Peshawar University & Zagreb University(Croatia). Started writing when in 7th class. Wrote prose & poetry,Have published writings in almost every Pakistani Urdu & English magazine and newspaper,held important positions in many literary and professional organizations. worked as a teacher, research scientist and industrial management professional, In the words of Arthur Miller I have always felt as being temporary. That is why there was no significant achievement.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Dr Afzal Mirza
Saadat Hasan Manto died in Lahore in January1955 at a relatively young age of forty two years. Originally hailing from Amritsar he had shifted to Bombay in early 1940s where he was in great demand as story and dialogue writer for Indian movies. As now Bombay was even during pre-partition days the major film center of India. Before moving there Manto had a short stint at Delhi where he worked for All India Radio writing features and dramas. Famous humor writer A.S.Bokhari (Patras) was the director general of broadcasting and he had attracted a sizeable number of writers to Delhi. They included Krishan Chandar, Opindar Nath Ashk,Rajindar Singh Bedi and many other well known writers of the period. Manto’s fame traveled to Bombay where he was offered by the owner of weekly film magazine ‘Musawwar’ to work as its editor. There he made lot of friends in the film industry and was hired by Bombay Talkies to write stories and dialogues for its productions. By the time Pakistan became a reality Manto was nicely settled in Bombay enjoying a life of comfort and effluence—a rare thing for a writer. A few months before the independence he sent his family to Lahore believing that when things would settle down he would recall them. But the things never settled. The large scale carnage that followed independence continued unabated and even a relatively peaceful Bombay known as the melting pot of the religions was also affected. He became restless there and wanted to join his family and in early 1948 against the advice of his friends shifted to Lahore. Thence began a period of great stress and struggle for Manto because the whole country was in the grip of turmoil.
Manto’s nephew Hamid Jalal who was a reputed media man himself got his family settled in a flat in Lakshami Mansion located in the center of Lahore in the vicinity of the Mall. So Manto on arrival in Lahore joined his family comprising his wife Safia and two daughters. His wife Safia was a remarkable lady. She was already well known in the literary circles because she had been mentioned in many of Manto stories. A typical Kashmiri woman Safia was fare complexioned like Manto himself and wore glasses on her sharp nose. In Lahore’s literary circles she soon became a known figure because she would escort her husband in most of his meetings and functions. She would bravely face embarrassments that her husband used to cause by his blunt statements sometime in high spirits. We first time saw the couple at the meeting of Majlis-e-Iqbal of Government College Lahore where Manto was invited to read an article.. GC of those days had a number of important writers among its teaching staff and students. Among the teachers one could name Sufi Tabassum, Safdar Mir, Ashfaq Ali Khan, Dr Ajmal, Dr Sadiq, Dr Nazir Ahmad and G.M.Asar . While among the students one could count Ashfaq Ahmad, Muzaffar Ali Syed, Shahzad Ahmad, Akhtar Ahsan, Javed Shahin and many other budding writers. As a tradition Majlis used to hold its meetings in the college staff room. But on that occasion the staff room fell short of space because a large number of students came to listen to Manto. Many of them therefore watched from the corridors.
Manto accompanied by his wife was ushered in the room by G.M.Asar who taught Urdu in the college and was Manto’s neighbor in Lakshmi mansion flats. Hailing from Madras he wrote beautiful English. It was said that Asar was a boozing partner of Manto as well. Manto had a glowing Kashmiri complexion and wore light brown shirwani on silk kurta –pajama and had a Salim Shahi sandal in his feet. He had a crop of thick brown hair on his head and a pair of brown eyes darted out of the lenses of his thick-rimmed glasses perched on his slightly slanting nose. He sat down on a sofa flanked by Safia and Prof Asar. Lutfulmannan Sahir was the secretary of the Majlis who made a short introductory speech inviting Manto to read his essay entitled “How I write a short story.” The essay was later on included in one of his books of articles. Manto had his unique style of writing simple prose and would read it slowly giving pauses at appropriate places. That evening he mesmerized his audience with his personality and his reading style. He began by saying that “ I do not write a story rather a story writes me.” He talked of the three aspects of the process of writing a story. Firstly what sort of environment he requires to write a story. He said that he didn’t need any specific environment because he could keep on writing while his children played around and sometime even disturbed him. “But before writing a story my condition is like a hen who wants to lay an egg.” He said he was quite particular about the type of paper and fountain pens for writing. He always wrote on smooth papers with expensive pens. “I write 786 on the top of the page and then start writing and then it goes on and on.” In Delhi and Bombay Manto used to write with an Urdu type writer machine that he had purchased in Delhi but in Lahore since he did not have such a type writer he used to write with a pen. Then came the question how did he conceive the ideas for his short stories. Manto said that he derived his concepts from different sources. “Every morning I go through the newspaper to find whether there is any news that could trigger some idea,” he said. In his day to day dealings he observed the people and would sometime come across a man or a woman who could become the character of his story. Many years later travelogue writer Mustansar Husain Tarar whose family also came to live in one of the flats in Lakshami Mansion wrote in his autobiographical novel Raakh how Manto tried to’ blackmail’ his hero to tell him the details of his love affair to weave a story around that character.
In the question-answer session that followed the article many questions were asked about the charge of obscenity leveled on his writings and he strongly defended himself even getting very blunt sometime. A questioner asked him whether after reading his own story it had ever occurred to him that he had transgressed certain limits. ”No.” he retorted. “If I had felt like that I wouldn’t have defended it in many courts of the country.” To the question why doesn’t he write a novel Manto replied that he did not possess the concentration which is required to write a novel. After conceiving a character it was difficult for him to hold him on for more than the time required to write a short story. “I can’t keep him with me for more than that but for a novel sometimes it takes years to hold him on,” he told the audience. After the meeting Manto was encircled by the students for his autographs and he was so happy to oblige them. The meeting took place sometimes in 1951. Then he was in his late thirties. He had arrived in Pakistan only three years earlier but the four years that followed were so stressful for him that in a couple of years one could feel that he was not the same Manto we saw in the Government College. During that period he wrote indiscriminately almost an article a day. One could see that it was affecting his health and quality of work adversely. The problem was compounded by his consumption of cheap liquors. One could see him now with withered cheeks, pale complexion, graying disheveled hair and a faltered gait. It seemed that he was driving fast towards his end which came on a cold day of January 1955—fifty years ago. Indubitably he was the greatest Urdu short story writer of the last century.(End)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
]switch to consciousness 2012
[/url] - some truth about 2012

4:28 PM  
Blogger Hiren said...

Sallam Dr Afzal Mirza

I am researching on Manto and this article has been very informative.

It would be a great help, if you could provide us with more information on Manto.

Ali Muhammad Ali

11:46 AM  

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