Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) is a name synonymous in the annals of Urdu Literature. Considered among the greatest contemporary Urdu short story writers of the 20th century, he has left a legacy which is far and wide. Manto’s greatest gift was his ability to depict the reality of society with such ease that he would leave the reader mesmerized and in utter awe. His attention to minor details and his signature style of description was second to none. Manto was a realist and puritan who hated hypocrisy in every given way.
Manto attacked a society which was mired in social ills and living in a state of self-denial. The breadth of topics that he covered in his short stories were a testimony to the versatility he displayed. Reality in any given era is never acceptable by any norms or standards in any society at any given period of time. The relevance that his writings resonate today will never cease to lose importance. His stories never distorted the truth, they were always challenging the perceptions of society and the people living in it. His short stories echo a grim picture of the evils of society where hypocrisy rules the roost and dominates proceedings. Manto by nature was a very sensitive person and his writings of the violence that engulfed partition had hurt him greatly.
Manto’s observation skills and directness of his language, while writing were arguably second to none. A humanist par excellence barring his alcoholism, he was proud and arrogant in nature virtue of his talent. He never augured faith and beliefs into his friendships. Manto forged bonds with people from all walks of life irrespective of faith example Ashok Kumar, Shayaam and Pran. Manto’s uniqueness lay in calling a spade a spade, and would not budge one bit from what he had written. Outspoken and brash in nature, this made him susceptible to attack from all quarters which as a result led him into trouble amongst the literary elite of that time. He was a rebel, who had formed his own niche of writing, and was unique in every given sense of the word. Manto’s writings were influenced by the happenings in society, not by the people that surrounded him. Once he finished writing a story, it was final and no editing of any sort was possible. He is supposed to have told his wife Safia Manto that he was capable of narrating four stories at any given time such was the ability he possessed. His literary genius has never ever been in doubt such was the prowess of the man.
Manto’s simple paradigm was, he wrote what he saw which was then depicted then in his short stories to telling effect. His ability to observe the present and decipher the future was on display in his famous Letters to Uncle Sam. Incisive, eye opening and jaw dropping in nature were his stories which left an undeniable impact on the reader. His stories removed the veil from those practices in society which were filthy and disgusting in nature. He raised those issues which were considered a taboo in society and abhorred. His writings were termed as ‘pornographic’ in nature and were condemned by most segments in society during that time. A firm proponent of openness in society, his rebellious nature would mean that he will never be owned up by anyone in society. His uniqueness and the ability to depict reality was, will always be a part of his legacy.