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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

lakshmi mansion lahore - saadat hasan manto - dr afzal mirza

a careless proof read by News...i am positive the heading should be Lakshmi Mansion

Lakshmi mention

Manto had her worst days in Lahore but it was here that he created some of his everlasting masterpieces

By Dr Afzal Mirza

Saadat Hasan Manto arrived in Lahore sometime in early 1948. In Bombay his friends had tried to stop him from migrating to Pakistan because he was quite popular as a film writer and was making reasonably good money. Among his friends there were top actors and directors of that age -- many of them being Hindus -- who were trying to prevail upon him to forget about migrating. They thought that he would be unhappy in Pakistan because the film industry of Lahore stood badly disrupted with the departure of Hindu film-makers and studio owners. But the law and order situation in post-partition India was such that almost every Muslim felt insecure there. That was the reason that Manto had already sent his family to Lahore and was keen to join them.

Incidentally his friends were right. Lahore turned out to be totally different from Bombay. Lahore was in a state of turmoil due to the influx of hundreds and thousands of refugees in a state of destitution. Those who had survived after wading through the rivers of fire and blood were clamouring for food and shelter.

Manto had at least one consolation. His nephew Hamid Jalal had already settled his family in a flat next to his own in Lakshmi Mansions near The Mall. The complex was centrally located. From there every place of importance was at a stone's throw. These flats were occupied by families of some of the people who were destined to become important in the intellectual and academic fields. Manto's next door neighbour was his nephew Hamid Jalal who later became an important mediaman. In another flat, lived Professor G M Asar who taught Urdu at Government College, Lahore. Hailing from Madras, he wrote and spoke excellent English as well. Then there was Malik Meraj Khalid who was to play an important role in the politics of Pakistan. Writer Mustansar Hussain Tarar's family also lived in one of the flats there after shifting from Gowalmandi. Thus when Manto arrived in Lahore from Bombay he found an intellectual atmosphere around him. His only problem was how to cater for his family. Sadly for him, Lahore of that period did not have many opportunities to offer.

After the writers who had migrated from various Indian cities settled in Lahore, they started their literary activities. Soon Lahore saw a number of newspapers and periodicals appearing. Manto initially wrote for some literary magazines. These were the days when his controversial stories like Khol Do and Thanda Gosht created a furor among the conservatives. People like Choudhry Muhammad Hussain played a role in banning and prosecuting the writer as well as the publishers and editors of the magazines that printed his stories. Among the editors were such amiable literary figures as Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Hajira Masroor and Arif Abdul Matin. Soon the publishers who were more interested in commercial aspects of their ventures, slammed their doors shut to Manto's writings. He, therefore, started contributing stories to the literary supplements of some newspapers. Even this practice could not go on for long. Masood Ashar who was then editing the literary page of daily Ehsan published some of his stories but the conservative owner of the paper soon asked him to refrain from the practice

During those days, Manto also tried his hand at newspaper column writing. he started off with writing under the title Chashm-e-Rozan for daily Maghribi Pakistan on the insistence of his friends of Bombay days Ehsan BA and Murtaza Jillani who were editing that paper. But after a few columns one day the space appeared blank under the column saying that due to his indisposition Manto couldn't write the column. Actually Manto was not indisposed, the owner was not favourably disposed to some of the sentences in the column.

The only paper that published Manto's articles regularly for quite some time was daily Afaq for which he wrote some of his well known sketches. These sketches were later collected in his book Ganjay Farishtay. The sketches include those of famous actors and actresses like Ashok Kumar, Shayam, Nargis, Noor Jehan and Naseem (mother of Saira Bano). He also wrote about some literary figures like Meera Ji, Hashar Kashmiri and Ismat Chughtai. Manto's sketch of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was also first published in Afaq under the title Mera Sahib. It was based on an interview with Haneef Azad, Qauid-e-Azam's driver of Bombay days who after leaving his job as driver became a well known actor. The article included some of the remarks related to the incident when Dina Jinnah to Jiannah's chagrin married Wadia. Later when the sketch was included in the book these lines were omitted.

Manto created a new tell all style of writing sketches. He would mince no words. He wrote whatever he saw. "I have no camera which could wash out the small pox marks from Hashar Kashmiri's face or change the obscene invectives uttered by him in his flowery style," he wrote.

Manto once tried to present the sketch of Mulana Chiragh Hasan Hasrat in a literary gathering organized in YMCA Hall Lahore to celebrate the Maulana's recovery from heart attack. The sketch entitled Bail Aur Kutta was written in his characteristic style exposing some aspects of Maulana's life. The presiding dignitary stopped him from reading the article and ordered him to leave the rostrum. Manto, however, was in 'high spirits'. He refused to oblige and squatted at the floor and was with difficulty prevailed upon by his wife, Safia, to leave the stage.

Those days Manto was writing indiscriminately in order to provide for his family and be able to drink every evening. For everything he wrote, he would demand cash in advance. In later days, he started writing for magazines like Director. He would go to its office, ask for pen and paper, write his article, collect the remuneration and go away. This Manto was different from the one who arrived in Lahore in 1948.

The Manto we saw in Government College, Lahore, in 1950 had a glowing Kashmiri complexion and a thick crop of long brown hair on his head. He was wearing a light brown gabardine shirwanee with a silken trousers and saleem shahi shoes. He came there to read his article How Do I Write a Story. He was extremely impressive and witty.

But the necessity to earn his livelihood consumed him very fast. In a few years, his complexion became pale and his hair turned grey. We saw him reading his story Toba Tek Singh at YMCA Hall at the annual meeting of Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq. He looked older than his years wearing an overcoat with collars turned up. The big eyes that darted out of the thick-rimmed glasses looked pale and yellow. But he read his story in his usual dramatic style and when he finished reading it there was pin drop silence in the hall and there were tears in everyone's eyes.

In later days, though Manto appeared in the Tea House and other literary functions regularly but he seemed to be in great stress. Earlier, he was known for his witty remarks in literary gatherings. However, in later days he would present his writings in literary meetings but would not tolerate any criticism. He had become extremely touchy and would shout back at his critics. There were days when he was welcome everywhere and literary organisations clamoured for his participation in their meetings. But then came the days when people started avoiding him because he would not hesitate from borrowing from them.

Manto lived in Lahore for seven years. For him those years were full of a continuous struggle for his survival. In return, he gave some of his best writings to the literary world. It was in Lahore that he wrote his masterpieces like Thanda Gosht, Khol Do, Toba Tek Singh, Iss Manjdhar Mein, Mozalle, Babu Gopi Nath etc. Some of his characters became legendary.

But simultaneously he had embarked on a journey of self-destruction. The substandard liquor that he consumed destroyed his liver and in the winter of 1955 he fell a victim to the deadly disease of liver cirrhosis. During all these years in Lahore he waited for the good old days to return, never to find them again.

Saadat Hasan Manto was born on May 11, 1912


Blogger Nasir Durrani said...

Please correct your information. Kindly note that Mr. Mustansar Hussain Tarrar never lived in the flats of Lakshmi Mansion. His house was located at the back side of the building facing Hall Road, while his house faced the back side of Lakshmi Mansion flat. I know this because I had been a born resident of Lakshmi Mansion for 46 year. I am the Grand son of a forgotten legion Shamsul Ullama Allama Tajwar Najibabadi (you can google him to know about him). My grandmother became the resident of Lakshmi Mansion in 1951. I have been told by my grand mother and father and later confirmed by Mr. Qudratullah Shahab in his book Shahab Nama that Manto sb. had a very lonely life during his residence at Lakshmi Mansion. People seldom came to meet him, and because of his loneliness Qudratullah Shahab took him to Jehlum where he was stationed as Deputy Commissioner. I am sorry to say that we had wasted a legion like Manto Sb. when he alive and now to climb the ladder of fame every one who is any one claims (specially the people who were part of free verse movement)their very close acquittance with legendary Manto Sb. Our Friend Mr. Tarrar is one of them.

April 02, 2014 2:44 AM  

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