Monday, April 20, 2015

About stories and more..

You know there are times when you actively look out for inspiration. Let me tell you it is not easy to get inspired. I say that from experience. I love reading books. They have this magical ability to transport me to a different place in time. They make you sit up and think. I totally believe in what Hemmingway once said “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” . With age and wisdom I have also become very fickle. If I don't feel inspired I stop reading that book. It never used to happen earlier. I was taught as a child to never leave my food, book, game or fight unfinished. It stayed on. Yes, I feel very guilty when I leave a book halfway. The last book which really stayed on with me was this. I was there in that setting and probably that was the reason why this book stayed on.  It had set the standard so high that whatever I read after that paled in comparison to that book.

I bought, borrowed, asked for recommendations but nothing really helped. I was as listless as ever.
The other day I was just browsing through my bookshelf when I came across Toba Tek Singh by Sadaat Hasan Manto. Actually it is a compilation of short stories and I am about to finish it.
I have always been a fan of short stories. I love the way they convey emotions. The setting is so compact and yet there is so much happening. You have to keep reading between the lines. I love writing short stories (Sample: Here  and Here )and it has been a while since I have shared any of those here. I promise I will but tonight I want to talk about this book which has inspired me after so many months.

I first read about Sadaat Hasan Manto when I joined Delhi University to study Physics. I was introduced to Feyman (blogged here) by an enthusiastic professor and the very same lady recommended Hasan Manto's stories.
I read a few and I think was very naive at that time to understand the depth in his stories. I was quick to dismiss him as a writer of short stories. Look how time changes, here I am talking about the virtues of short stories. So when I found his book covered in dust I decided to give it a shot. It was a good call because now I am in love with his stories and wonder about him.

The stories that I have read so far are about Bombay in 1930's and different facets of human behavior. There are partition stories which talk about the victims openly without any bias. 
He was not a celebrated writer of his time. He was never given the honor/ recognition that he deserved. His stories were simple without any flowery language. He is an example for all aspiring writers/ bloggers to understand how thoughts are conveyed in simple words. The best story so far in my opinion is Toba Tek Singh. Every word shines through. It talks about partition and is set in the lunatic asylum in Lahore at the time of Partition. When the cities are being ethnically cleansed they also include asylums in it. The lunatics are told about the partition and that they will be transferred to institutions in their birth country. The inmates are not happy about it and are helpless. They all react differently and a Sikh is so overcome by rage that he dies on the demarcation line which divides Pakistan from India. All his stories carry truth and are presented through his words.

Hasan Manto died when he was 42 and  after reading his stories it shouldn't be a surprise that he drank himself to death. There is so much of pain in his stories. He witnessed, lived and heard the horrors of partition and wrote about them..
He wrote more than 200 short stories and left behind an epitaph for himself..

Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto. With him lie buried the arts of short-story telling. Here he lies underneath tons of mud still wondering if he was a better short-story writer than God

After reading his stories I have understood how short stories represent a snippet of time. It does not guarantee any ending. It is more of an authors state of mind. An amalgamation of situations, emotions and characters in a time machine.



  1. Yes, I always admire him as a writer.I read story Toba Tek Singh,which is so over-whelming.I was looking for forward to his more stories when I found another book of his named as 'Bombay Stories' which are set in Bombay.

  2. @Unknown: Yes, the one that I am reading is a compilation of his best stories. Will order the Bombay stories next..

  3. I was craving to read a good book and have just ordered Toba Tek Singh, hope to enjoy it as much as you did.

  4. You will love it.. Trust me on that :) Do let me know what you feel about it.

  5. Manto is a heart wrenching writer.