by Huma Dar
In today’s edition of Dawn.com, Jan 1, 2012, the renowned feminist poet, Fahmida Riaz has an article, “Understanding Manto,” about Urdu literature’s enfant terrible, Sa’adat Hasan Manto. This year will mark Manto’s birth centenary. Thank you, Fahmida Apa, for writing this moving tribute! Sad indeed is the day when Pakistan cannot or does not publish Manto’s work, uncensored, unedited. Despite justified indignation, knowing our “guardians of morality and piety,” it aches my heart to confess, I am not surprised.
Ironically, the “Indian pirated edition”—even if we overlook the immense ethical difficulties with the issue of piracy, and the direly-needed resources that were (and are) thus withheld from Manto and his family—is still no guarantee of accessing the “original, uncensored text.” Christine Everaert in her book, Tracing the Boundaries between Hindi and Urdu: Lost and Added in Translation (Brill, 2009) painstakingly records many elisions, omissions, and additions in just a few of Manto’s stories as they’re carried from their original Urdu to the [pirated] Hindi versions. Some of these transformations are, of course, to ease the transmission of the literary register in Urdu to Hindi; others to simply make things more palatable for Indian nationalism. (Please especially see the Chapter II of this book for many examples…)
Even more curious is the case of “Pandit Nehru ke naam Pandit Manto ka pehla KHat.” This was published in lieu of the preface in Manto’s collection BaGHair ‘Unwaan Ke (1954) [Without Title] published in Pakistan a few months before Manto’s tragic death. With typical (Heptullah) humor, Manto critiques Indian policies vis-à-vis Kashmir—Sheikh Abdullah was thrown into prison without charges in August 1953—and openly mocks Nehru even as he dedicates that particular book to him:
I have one more grievance against you. You’re stopping water from flowing in our rivers, and taking a cue from you, the publishers in your capital are hurriedly publishing my books without my permission. Is this proper? I thought that no such unseemly act could be perpetrated under your regime. You can find out right away how many publishers in Delhi, Lucknow, and Jallundhar have pirated my books.Several suits have already been filed against me on charges of obscenity. But look at the injustice that in Delhi, right under your nose, a publisher brings out the collection of my stories and calls it The Obscene Stories of Manto. I wrote the book Ganje Farishte. An Indian publisher has published it as Behind the Curtains… Now tell me, what should I do?I’ve written a new book. This letter addressed to you is the preface to it. If this book, too, is pirated, then by God I’ll reach Delhi some day, catch you by the throat and will not let go… I’ll cling to you in such a manner that you will remember it your whole life.
This is dedicated to Nighat, Nuzhat, Nusrat, Safia Khala (RIP), and Zakia Khala.