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Saadat Hasan Manto's Mumbai

Saadat Hasan Manto (from Wikipedia)
Saadat Hasan Manto (from Wikipedia)
Where did Saadat Hasan Manto, the legendary short-story writer, stay in Mumbai? If one goes through his writings, one can get a fair idea about the place.
 
Today, May 11, is the 100th birth anniversary of Manto, whose stories in Urdu are still considered masterpieces.
 
Manto (May 11, 1912-January 18, 1955) was best known for his short stories, 'Bu' (Odour), 'Khol Do' (Open It), 'Thanda Gosht' (Cold Meat), and his magnum opus, 'Toba Tek Singh'. 
 
Through one of his stories 'A Question of Honour', one can get a fair idea of the places with which he had been associated.
 
A couple of events are being planned in this metropolis to observe his 100th birth anniversary – one by the Press Club, Mumbai and another by Urdu Markaz. 
 
“His contribution to Urdu writing is remarkable,” says Rafique Baghdadi, who is a journalist, film critic, researcher and writer. “We are planning a series of events to commemorate the birth anniversary,” added Zubair Ansari of Urdu Markaz.
 
This correspondent – after a walkaround in Mumbai – managed to locate the building in which he had started, the places about which he had written and also the place where he often used to eat. Most of the places mentioned in the writings of Manto are in what is now between the stretch between Grant Road-Nagpada-Byculla area.
 
ADELPHI CHAMBERS:
 
In the biographical profile of Nur Jehan, he writes: “....I think I arrived in Bombay on 7 August 1940 and my first meeting with Shaukat (Syed Shaukat Hasan Rizvi) took place on 17 Adelphi Chambers, Clare Road, which served both as office and his residence...”
 
ARAB GALLI:
 
In A Question of Honour, he writes: “....Another street in the are was called Arab Gulli, with 20 to 25 Arabs living there, all apparently in the pearl trade. Others were Punjabis and Rampurias. It was in Arab Galli that I had rented a room, which was so dark that the light has to be kept on at all times. The monthly rent was exactly nine rupees, eight annas....”
 
The Arab Galli about which Manto has written about.
The Arab Galli about which Manto has written about.
ABOUT MANTO
 
Manto was a writer, 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, and two collections of personal sketches. 
 
Manto was tried for obscenity half-a-dozen times, thrice before 1947 (before Partition) and thrice after 1947 in Pakistan, but never convicted. 
 
The film studios of those time recognised his gift for story writing and he worked on several film scripts of Keechad, Apni Nagariya, Begum, Naukar, Chal Chal Re Naujawaan, Kisaan Kanya, Ghamandi, Beli, Mujhe Paapi Kaho, Doosri Kothi, Shikaar, Aath Din, Aagosh, Mirza Ghalib, and so on.
 
He also acted in a couple of films – Eight Days and Chal Chal Re Naujawan. He died in 1955. 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. He was deeply pained because of Partition. 
 
Saadat Hasan Manto was undoubtedly one of the best short story tellers of the 20th century, and one of the most controversial as well. He is often compared with D. H. Lawrence, and like Lawrence he also wrote about the topics considered social taboos in Indo-Pakistani society.
 
His topics range from the socio-economic injustice prevailing in pre- and post- colonial subcontinent, to the more controversial topics of love, sex, incest, prostitution and the typical hypocrisy of a traditional sub-continental male.
 
MANTO AND DADAMONI
 
Saadat Hasan Manto and late Ashok Kumar, known as Dadamoni, shared a very good equation.
 
In a piece – 'Ashok Kumar: The Evergreen Hero', he pens details about the relationship that they shared during the Bombay Talkies days. 
 
“Ashok's popularity grew each passing day. He seldom ventured out, but wherever he was spotted, he was mobbed. Traffic would come to a stop and often the police would have to use lathis to disperse his fans. He was not too generous with his admirers. In fact, he would get irritated because they wanted to get close to him.....”
 
INVITATION TO ACTION
 
The Ismailia Cooperative Housing Society Ltd complex - at the Clare Road, where Manto used to stay
The Ismailia Cooperative Housing Society Ltd complex - at the Clare Road, where Manto used to stay
"When the neighbourhood was set of fire, everything burnt down with exception to one shop and its sign. It said: 'All building and construction materials are sold here'."
 
ON NUR JEHAN
 
"Sour and oily things are bad for the voice but who does not know that Nur Jehan ate large quantities of pickles in oil and, interestingly enough, when she had to record a song, she practically feasted on pickles, followed by iced water. Then and only then did she go and stand in front of a microphone. She had a theory about it. She believed that such things sharpened and enlivened the voice."
 
SUGGESTED READING
 
Bitter Fruit: The Very Best of Saadat Hasan Manto
Edited and Translated by Khalid Hasan/Penguin Books 
 
NNN
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