Saadat Hasan Manto Biography & Books

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Saadat Hasan Manto

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Saadat Hasan Manto' (May 11, 1912 January 18, 1955) was a South Asian Urdu short story writer, most known for his Urdu short stories , 'Bu' (Odor), 'Khol Do' (Open It), 'Thanda Gosht' (Cold Meat), and his magnum opus, Toba Tek Singh'.

He was also a film and radio scriptwriter, and journalist. In his short life, he published twenty-two collections of short stories, one novel, five collections of radio plays, three collections of essays, two collections of personal sketches.

He was tried for obscenity half-a-dozen times, thrice before and thrice after independence in Pakistan, but never convicted. Some of his works have been translated in other languages.

Saadat Hasan Manto was born in a Kashmiri Muslim family of barristers, on May 11, 1912, in Samrala in the Ludhiana district of the Indian state of Punjab.His father, Ghulam Hasan Manto was a Sub-Judge in Amritsar, while his mother, Sardar Begum, a prior widow, was the second wife to Ghulam Hasan.This never gave the Saadat and his sister Nasira, the requisite place in the Manto clan, and things took a turn for the worse for them, when their father,took an early retirement in 1918.

He received his early education at Muslim High School in Amritsar, but he remained a misfit throughout is school years, rapidly losing motivation in studies, ending up failing twice in matriculation. His only love during those days, was reading English Novels, for which he even stole a book, once from a Book-Stall in Amritsar Railway Station.

In 1931, he finally passed out of school and joined Hindu Sabha College in Amritsar, which was already volatile due the independence movement, soon it reflected in his first story, 'Tamasha', based on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as witnessed by a seven-year old boy.

After, his father passed away in 1932, he sobered up a bit to support his mother, though the big turning point in his life came, when in 1933 at age, he met Abdul Bari Alig, a scholar and polemic writer, in Amritsar, who encouraged to him find his true talents, and read Russian and French authors.

Within a matter of months he produced an Urdu translation of Victor Hugo's 'The Last Days of a Condemned Man', which was published by Urdu Book Stall, Lahore as Sarguzasht-e-Aseer (A Prisoner's Story) [16] and soon joined the editorial staff of 'Masawat', a daily, published from Ludhiana. His 1934 Urdu translation, of Oscar Wilde's Vera, got him due recognition amongst literary circles. Still at the continued encouragement of Abdul Bari, he published a collection of Urdu translation of Russian stories, as 'Russi Afsane'.

This hightened enthusiasm pushed him to pursue graduation at Aligarh Muslim University, where joined in February 1934, and soon, got associated with Indian Progressive Writers' Association (IPWA). It was here that he met, writer Ali Sardar Jafri and found a new spurt in his writing, got his second story, 'Inqlaab Pasand', published in Aligarh magazine in March 1935.

There was no turning back from then on, and his first collection of original short stories in Urdu, 'Atish Pare' (Sparks; also Quarrel-Provokers) was published in 1936, at age 24.

He left Aligarh within a year, initially for Lahore and ultimately for Bombay.

"A writer picks up his pen only when his sensibility is hurt."
-- Manto to a court judge

After 1936, he moved to Bombay, where he stayed for the next few years, editing 'Musawwir', a monthly film magazine, and also started writing scripts and dialogues for Hindi films, including 'Kisan Kanya' (1936) and 'Apni Nagariya' 1939). Soon he was making enough money, though by the time he married Safia on 26th April, 1939, he was once again in dire financial conditions. Despite financial ups and downs he continued writing for films, till he left for Delhi in January 1941.


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 (Urdu: کھول دو Open it) and Thanda Gosht (Urdu: ٹھنڈا گوشت Cold Meat) 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(Bald Angels). The sketches include those of famous actors and actresses like Ashok Kumar, Shayam, Nargis, Noor Jehan and Naseem (mother of Saira Banu). 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 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, writing 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 on 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 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 to Government College, Lahore to read his article How Do I Write a Story.

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.

Simultaneously he had embarked on a journey of self-destruction. The substandard alcohol that he consumed destroyed his liver and in the winter of 1955 he fell victim to liver cirrhosis. During all these years in Lahore he waited for the good old days to return, never to find them again.He was 42 years old at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife Safiyah and three daughters.


On January 18, 2005, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Manto was commemorated on a Pakistani postage stamp.

===Manto collection (Books)===

*Atishparay -1936
*Manto Ke Afsanay-1940
*Dhuan-1941
*Afsane Aur Dramay -1943
*Lazzat-e-Sang-1948
*Siyah Hashiye-1948
*Badshahat Ka Khatimah-1950
*Khali Botlein-1950
*Nimrud Ki Khudai -1950
*Thanda Gosht-1950
*Yazid-1951
*Pardey Ke Peechhey-1953
*Sarak Ke Kinarey- 1953
*Baghair Unwan Ke-1954
*Baghair Ijazit-1955
*Burquey-1955
*Phunduney-1955
*Sarkandon Ke Peechhey-1955
*Shaiytan (Satan)-1955
*Shikari Auratein - 1955
*Ratti, Masha, Tolah-1956
*Kaali Shalwar-1961
*Manto Ki Behtareen Kahanian-1963 [1]
*Tahira Se Tahir-1971

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