Literati remember Manto
ISLAMABAD, Jan 30: Sadat Hassan Manto left his readers speechless and probably offended too, through his writings.
On Wednesday night, the same feelings were evoked again when famous literary figures read out portions and excerpts from the literary works of one of the greatest Urdu short story writers.
The English Speaking Union (ESU), a group made up of literary individuals, celebrated Manto Centenary 1912-2012 at Kuch Khaas.
The gathering included literary figures like Agha Nasir, Kishwar Nahid and Naeem Bokhari, who took turns to read selected short stories from the writings of Sadat Hassan Manto.
Celebrating his literary contributions to the literary world, Agha Nasir, who admired the famous prose writer as a realist, said: “It was amazing how he represented the down trodden people in society – the poor, drug pushers and sex workers.”
Poet and writer Kishwar Nahid read out the sharp and witty excerpts from ‘Ganj-e-Farishtay.’ The poet and writer narrated how she (ten years old then) saw Sadat Hassan Manto for the first time when she went to get his autograph, writing on a piece of paper sitting on his knees. The portions she read portrayed the darkness of the human psyche.
“O God – God of all humanity – the merciful – the benevolent – we two sinners ruefully submit to you that Saadat Hassan Manto, son of Ghulam Hassan Manto, a most decent, God-fearing and benevolent man, may please be taken away from this world, since he disdains fragrance and loves stinking garbage. He does not open his eyes in the haloed light but grovels in total darkness…,” read out Vice President of the ESU Parveen Malik from Manto’s writings of two imaginary people in 1952.
While another writer, Haris Khalique, read out his thoughts on Manto and described him as a man of deep compassion for humanity and a chronicler of human suffering.
President ESU Muzaffar Bokhari read out the most famous portions from Manto’s writings, Letters to Uncle Sam, which Manto said he could not send because he did not have the money for postage.
As described by the reader, these letters were opportunities for Sadat Hassan Manto to comment on the strangeness of his new country, Pakistan, as well as on the surreal aspects of American life as discerned from magazines and newspapers.
In his letters, Manto happily described his poverty in contrasts to the image of fabulous American wealth.
But in some ways, Manto argued, the two countries may not be that far apart after all. The letters were as irreverent in their treatment of “Uncle Sam” as they were of life in Pakistan.
While the event touched on various aspects of Manto’s writing, speakers also reflected on the chaos that prevailed during and after partition in 1947.