Monday, March 14, 2016


     ( Safia and Sadat Hassan Manto in Bombay  )
                                ( Safia )

                    (Manto with his daughters)
                          ( Sisters.. Safia and Zakia)

SAFIA MANTO  ...(1916-1977)

Not much is known and written about Safia, wife of Sadat Hassan Manto .Let me add a little that I happen to know.

Safia belonged to Kashmiri family from Lahore. Her father was an officer in Bombay police during British Raj  .He had been deputed to East Africa for some time  and the family lived in a flat on third floor of 'Jaffar House 'at Mahim , Bombay.

It was Manto's mother who was eager to get him married. She had seen Safia and her family as she also happened to live at  Mahim with Manto's married sister. Manto's brother in law  did not go well with Manto .He had given clear message to his wife that neither should Manto visit their house nor could she go to his house  to see him .

Manto's Nikaah ceremony was solemnised in September 1938.In his letter dated nil september , 1938  ,Manto writes to poet   Ahmed Nadeem Kasmi:

" I have been engaged to a girl from a Kashmiri family of Lahore.we have many things in common .Her father is dead and so is mine. She uses spectacles and so do I .Both of us are born on 11th May. Our names start with S. "

Safia was possibly a matriculate .She was an excellent cook who served Keema Paratha to actor Ashok Kumar as and when he visited Manto's house in Mumbai.Safia had befriended actress Nargis as well. She would also visit actress Naseem Bano's residence along with her husband .  Safia  would also go for shopping with Ashok Kumar's wife.

Safia had literary tastes. In Bombay, she went to many Mushiaras with Manto. Urdu writer Ismat  Chugtai was  also  close to Safia . She proved an excellent housekeeper  who tried  to put some order in the disorderly life that Manto lived .

In her spare time, Safia  read Manto's stories and enjoyed them. She loved films.  That was Safia Manto's Bombay phase of  life. Possibly the only happy period of her married life .

Safia was often the first reader of Manto’s stories and Manto brought many of her ideas into his stories. Manto also published a short story ‘Hameed Aur Hameeda’ in her name.
When Manto died in 1955, their daughters Nighat, Nuzhat, and Nusrat were 5, 7 and 9-years old respectively. Arif ,their only son died as infant. Both ,Safia and Sadat were greatly upset by this tragedy.

After partition riots broke out , Manto had little work. It was Hamid Jalal, his favourite nephew who brought Safia and children to Lahore and put them in a   flat on ground floor in Lakshmi building .Manto arrived months later.

Hamid Jalal also lived on first floor in this building with his family. The building belonged to Lakshmi Insurance co .And Lakshmi insurance company was a venture of the owners of the then Lakshmi commercial Bank Ltd.

Though Safia's brother , Bashir Deen also visited Safia now and then  ,it was her sister Zakia's husband and Manto's favourite nephew Hamid Jalal who supported Safia  all through be it bringing up the children, their education and their  settlement in life. Sister Zakia stood like a rock to support  Safia Manto's family.Her mother also stood firmly behind her .

 While in Pakistan, Manto turned an  alcoholic and did not earn much .He was dragged to courts  for his writings.He also remained sick for long durations. Before his death, he wrote simply  to earn for his daily  drink .


                      ( Manto with his daughter 1949 )

              (  Safia with Farida . Safia is sitting  in  Centre )

Hamid Jalal rose to become a very senior and influential bureaucrat in Pakistan.He was  a man of liberal views and quite  helpful to his relatives in general more specifically to the family of his wife's sister.

Fed up of  living with an alcoholic, many times Safia thought of leaving Manto.It   was  her brother who would console his sister and tell her to leave him aside and focus on children.

Safia was a courageous woman  , devoted wife and a caring  mother who  had no personal or material ambitions.

Alas this great lady saw only pain and suffering. She did not live to see her children getting well settled in life. Safia died  in 1977 when she was barely  61.

(Avtar Mota)                                     
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