Manto Sahab: Mere dost, Mere dushman.
18 January, 1955 you left this world. After 45 years, I was born. 19 years after that, I was introduced to you at Daryaganj’s Big Book Bazaar bookstore, which lies on that Purani Dilli street, where you would have strolled too, when you worked in Delhi and produced audio plays at All India Radio.
An excerpt of our bond;
The journey started like this. Manto and I became frenemies too soon. As I entered into his world, I felt, it was so deep, that I kept drowning and then there was no way out. I consider him more of a friend. The very first story I read of his, was ‘Tamasha’, which was his first afsana, that too not written under his name. It gives me chills every time I read it. Imagine just 3 pages giving you the overview of partition with all the emotions you experience at once.
The book which introduced me to him was ‘Manto ki Amar Kahaniyan’. At first, I thought we look alike. Because of somewhat the same spectacles, I picked that book and got it home.
Manto sahab would be laughing because, he knows I was never a reader before this book. And now I’ve read almost everything about his life. It was an obsession.
One story after other, Toba Tek Singh, Tamasha, Boo, Kaali Salwaar, Ishq par zor nahi, License, Hatak. I wonder how could he think of all this. Storytelling was an art in which he was beyond excellence. Though some people considered his work obscene, but here is his wit. Manto sahab, I’m quoting you here, ‘Zamane ke jis daur se hum iss waqt guzar rahe hai, agar aap us se nawaaqif hai toh mere afsaane padhiye. Agar aap in afsaano ko bardasht nahi kar sakte toh iska matlab ye hai ki ye zamana naqaabil-e bardaasht hai.’ This still prevails too.
Manto saab, I’m not boasting of you to be honest. I know you know me. Being an enemy, you’ve exploited me as well with the art of storytelling. I would have never thought of writing. Everywhere I go, you find me and there’s no escape. Just like in your Dastavez at Faqir Chand Book Store, films, and even in so many books. I know you know, that half of you and half of me reside inside a frame in my studio too. Just under our favourite Mirza Ghalib. I wish we all would have been born together in one century. But you wrote about Ghalib Zaab, and I wrote about you. A writer in me, thank you.
It’s true when you said, ‘...and it is also possible that Saadat Hasan dies, but Manto remains alive’. For your eternal being, for your love for storytelling. Thank you, dil se. See you on stage very soon...
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/manankathuria/
Thank you for being a part of my journey :')