Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955) was famously known for his unique approach in Urdu literature. He used to write short stories, some of which still fascinate the readers especially across the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
Manto was born in 1912 in Ludhiana, British India. After completing his basic education, Manto’s enthusiasm for writing started developing as he read Western literature on his mentor’s advice. Consequently he got enrolled in Aligarh Muslim University to pursue his writing career and associated with Progressive Writers’ Movement.
During those times, India was witnessing a mass movement in order to get independence from British Raj. Many political activists, journalists and writers from all over the subcontinent, joined the movement against imperialist forces and contributed differently — Manto was one of them.
Manto’s first public work was an Urdu translation of Victor Hugo’s The Last Day of a Condemned Man. The French novel was a literary expression against the capital punishment, which was translated and published by Manto with the title of Sarguzasht-e-Aseer (A Prisoner’s Story), followed by some other translations of the Western literature.
After entering successfully into writing field, Manto soon published his own work titled as “Inqlab Pasand“, which was published in Aligarh Magazine. Manto continued writing short stories which were later compiled as his first collection – Atish Pare, published in 1936.
Apart from writing fiction, Manto also worked with several newspapers in Bombay and Lahore. Later in 1941 he joined All India Radio in Delhi. During his services for AIR he got close to many writers and himself flourished his writing career.
Manto’s literary contributions were viewed differently by his readers and critics. In his short stories Manto criticised the society and discussed many taboos: like prostitution, bigotry, patriarchy and communal tensions.
According to Rekhta: In his nearly 20-year literary career, Manto wrote 270 novels, more than 100 plays, many film stories and dialogues, and lots of sketches of famous and anonymous personalities. His fictions caused a stir in the literary world.
In 1942 Manto left his job and returned back to Bombay and there he worked in film industry as a writer. He then stayed in Bombay until he migrated to Lahore (now a part of Pakistan) following the events of partition in 1947.
Manto also penned down the tragedies of 1947 partition, although fictitious in nature, but he narrated them in a sense that the readers could relate it to the truth.
There were total six times that Manto had been tried for obscenity (as a writer) – thrice before and thrice after the independence. Sometimes heavily criticised and sometimes unconditionally idolised for his nature of writing, Manto is still a celebrated writer as his life story has been featured twice as biographical films– first in Pakistan and then in India.
During his last days, Manto had become increasingly alcoholic as he was traumatised by the events of partition including some ugly truths of the society, Eventually Manto’s worsening condition costed him heavily as he died on January 18, 1955 at the age of 43 years.