Wednesday, March 12, 2014





“Mein Chaltaa Phirtaa Bombay Huun ”

So said Manto in 1951.Yes he was like Mumbai on wheels for the Newly Born country known as Pakistan wherein the New Society possibly failed to understand him properly inspite of the fact that he kept crying loudly and truthfully. Living far away from his Bombay, Manto never forgot this city of temptations and hope .Mumbai comes directly or indirectly in his post partition stories and essays. It also features in some letters that he addressed to Uncle Sam ( United States Government ). About this city he once wrote as under ..
“You can be happy here on two pennies a day or on ten thousand rupees a day, if you wish. You can also spend your life here as the unhappiest man in the world. You can do what you want. No one will find fault with you. Nor will anyone subject you to moralizing. You alone will have to accomplish the most difficult of tasks and you alone will have to make the most difficult decision of your life. You may live on the footpath or in a magnificent palace.”

Manto Moved to Mumbai in 1935 and finally left for Lahore in January 1948.He spent a period of more than 12 years of his life except a brief period of 2 years (1940 and 1941 ) in between when he joined AIR New Delhi . As a young boy of 23 or 24 years, he joined Nazir Ludhianavi’s Newspaper "Mussawir " and simultaneously kept writing stories and radio plays . Nazir had contacts in film world and he introduced Manto to some Film production companies. Soon he became a sought after story writer by leading Production Houses . He also wrote screenplays and dialogues . Some movies that he successfully wrote included 'Apni Nagarya' , Kisan Kanya, Chal Chal Re Nawjawan ,Begum ,Naukar( 1945),Aaath din ( 1946) , Shikari ( 1946) and 'Mirza Ghalib'. Mirza Ghalib was released after he shifted to Pakistan and was a great success. He also worked for Babu Rao Patel’s popular film journal FILM INDIA .

In Mumbai , Manto’s life was not dictated by what is known as “ Light ! Camera !and Action ! ” only . He saw a world of unbelievable range  behind the glamour of these words. He made scores of friends in this city ; some intimate and reliable while others just to pass time. His friends in both these categories included Ashok kumar , Pran ,Shyam , Noor Jahan ,Sitara . Nargis , Kuldeep Kaur ( Actress who was also known as KK ), rafiq gaznavi , Raja Mehdi Ali Khan , Nawaab lashmiri , Neena , Babu Rao Patel ,Rajinder Singh Bedi , Krishen Chander , Sardar Jafri ,Begum Para , Padma Devi , Devika Rani , S Mukherjee ,Ismat Chugtai,Deewan Singh Maftoon, Shobana Samarth ,Gyan Mukerjee ,P N Arora , Ardeshir Irani and many more .Anybody who was somebody in the film world became directly or indirectly familiar to him . This was perhaps the happiest period of his life. He drank , gambled , wrote and moved carefree in this city. He also felt the life throb in the red light district of Forres Road, the chawls of Nagpara, the Cigarette Beedi sellers ,the Paanwallas , Taxi drivers, Washermen, Fisherwomen ,Parsi landladies , Irani Restaurants ,Jewish hotel keepers, unknown writers , Unknown editors of unknown Urdu Newspapers ,Hangers on , Brokers of all sorts ,Strugglers , exploiters , Communists ,Baniyas , Seths and scores of people from all segments and areas of the country . He brought them home  truthfully as Characters of his stories.

Manto  described  his life in Bombay to his friend and well known urdu poet Ahmed Nadeem Kasmi in some letters that he wrote to him . I quote ..

“ I have a very bad habit of buying books and wasting money on other avoidable things . If you come and stay with me , I believe I shall stop all this wasteful expenditure . I have hundreds of bad habits that are not known to you at the moment .If you come and live with me , I shall be a naked man .But then you have to live in the sun and shade of my life. May be you get no food to eat but for sure you shall get books to read .

My life is like a wall.I keep removing its plaster in bits and pieces by scrubbing my nails over it. At times i feel like removing the entire plaster so as to make the inside bricks visible. Quite often i feel like demolishing the entire wall to enable me to build a new structure over it.”

This city also gave him his dedicated and loving wife Safia whom he married in was an arranged marriage to his liking as safiya too was from a kashmiri family of lahore .Safia's father , Khwaja Qamaruddin was an efficient officer in Police who had been deputed to Zanzibar , Africa during British rule. He had moved his family to Mumbai from Lahore. Manto's real elder sister Iqbal too stayed at Mahim, a suburb area during those days . His mother( Died in 1940 ) too had shifted to Mumbai to live with his sister .

With Pakistan in existence, Mumbai’s peaceful atmosphere got severely communalized . Safiya left for lahore taking her three daughters along . Manto felt lonely but believed that things would normalize shortly. He joined Shahid Latif and Ashok Kumar in reviving Bombay Talkies. The company signed Ismat Chugtai as story writer for a new movie.Hurt with this decision , Manto kept silent . He did not report for work but spent his time in sleeping and drinking . And then one day he decided to pack up and go to Lahore via Karachi travelling by ship from mumbai . His friend actor Shyam tried hard to stop him but he did not agree . Shyam came to see him off .
“ Pakistan Zindabad ” said shyam.
Manto replied “ Hindustan Zindabad ”

Manto arrived in Lahore on 8th January 1948. He saw an atmosphere of suffocation and bullying around him. The tragedy of partition had wounded his soul. He was deeply touched and moved by the suffering and  plight of women On both sides of the border  unleashed by religious frenzy  during partition turmoil . He wrote an article “Mehboos Aurtein”. I quote from the article

“The responsibility of the condition they find themselves in now lies squarely upon the wrangling within the political arena and the religious frenzy of which we find no parallel in the past history of mankind. If nothing else, at least we should protect these women and cover them as our own sins. If nothing is done immediately then these women’s plight is going to turn into a huge calamity. Hundreds, nay, thousands of brothels are ready to welcome them in their cavernous mouths. Even the thought should make us tremble.”

In Lahore , he started feeling choked and dashed three letters to Ismat Chugtai seeking her help for moving back to Mumbai.

Some time before his death he wrote a series of letters to UNCLE SAM ( American Government ) . In one such letter dated 21st Feb, 1954 , Manto indirectly praised Mumbai’s  Film Industry . I quote

“ Your film producers  are taking keen interest in Bombay's Film Industry . We can not tolerate this .I have heard that when Gregory Peck Visited India ,he lavishly  praised Suraiya's beauty  and got himself photographed with her .I have also heard that a film producer or director put his arm around Nargis's neck  and kissed her .This is too much . Have all actresses in our Pakistan died ?  We have Gulshan Ara .It may be a separate story that her face is as black as a Tawa ( Hot plate for making Chapatis ). May be when some people look at her they utter that an Ara ( Saw ) has rubbed on Gulshan ( Glower garden ). But she is also an actress . She has worked as a Heroine in  films and  she too has a Heart  inside her body .We have Sabeeha as well. May be she is a little squint but with a little attention this defect can be set right .
I have heard that you are giving some financial aid to Indian Film Industry .This is not done dear Unle Sam. You start giving aid to every Tom dick and Harry .
Hell with your Gregory Peck . Excuse me , i spoke these words in a fit of anger .Kindly dispatch  your two three actresses to us as our lone actor Santosh Kumar looks sad  . Last time when he went to karachi , he drank about  hundred bottles of Coca cola and saw actress  
*Rita Hayworth one thousand times in his dreams”

Manto’s supportive and caring  Nephew Hamid Jalal  has written that  Manto hallucinated about Bombay even during his last days in the Lahore’s Mayo Hospital. I quote ..

“Most of the time, he imagined himself to be in Bombay, where he spent the happiest period of his life. Every day, I would tell him he was in Lahore, but he found that hard to believe”

I conclude this post on Manto with lines from a Gazal of noted urdu poet Zubair Rizvi

Hai Dhoop kabhi Saaya, Shola  hai kabhi shabanam
Lagtaa hai Mujhe Tums a dil ka to har ek Mausam
Beetay Huve lamhon ki Khushboo hai Mere Ghar mein
Book Rack pe Rakhein hain Yaadon Ke Kayee Album.

 ( Select Translation from Urdu  ,Compilation from other sources and  Text by Autar Mota 12.03.2014. My Thanks to Manto family for uploading this rare photograph on Internet )

* Rita Hayworth( 1918-1987 ) was a famous   American actress and dancer . 

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