Nighat Patel, Nusrat Jalal and Nuzhat Arshad, the three daughters of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, on Wednesday laid the foundation stone of a gate in his memory at his native village Papraudi near Samrala.
Much admired in India and his adopted homeland Pakistan, Manto spent the early years of his life in Papraudi. His daughters, who arrived through the Attari border on Tuesday, were originally scheduled to visit the village on his birth centenary in May, but visa delays held them up.
The electric atmosphere during the 5km journey appeared to have made up for that disappointment, and the border seemed to have melted away, as the daughters were welcomed amid the beats of the dhol and slogans of ‘Hindustan-Pakistan bhaichara zindabad’ at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) in Samrala. A quick tea break at the office of Samrala MLA Amrik Dhillon, and the cavalcade resumed its journey to Papraudi. Excitement was writ large on the faces of Manto’s daughters as they stepped on to the open Gypsy.
They were showered with flower petals and garlanded several times as they laid the foundation stone of the Manto Yaadgari Gate. “I do not want to talk much; let me live this moment as I may never feel the same again,” said Nighat, the eldest of the three daughters, who was born in India. She spoke later, but just one crisp sentence, “My father was a secular human being whose thoughts reflected in his written accounts.”
Nusrat, the youngest of the three daughters, said that none in the family had taken to writing but admired their father’s books. Referring to the criticism of Manto as a writer in the early years that deprived him of highest national honour Nishan-i-Imtiaz in Pakistan for decades before he got it recently, Nusrat said, “Everybody acknowledged him as a great writer, and the initial criticism died down as his readers and critics realised the profundity of his writing.”
The programme -- part of the yearlong centenary celebrations of Manto, who was born on May 11, 1912 and died in 1955 -- was jointly organised by Lekhak Manch Samrala, Pardushan Virodhi Hockey Club, Pragatisheel Vichar Manch and Rangla Punjab. Other Pakistani delegates included Asrat Farooq, Prof Raviya, Prof Taira Iqbal and Rashid Azmal.
Prof Hamdardveer Naushairavi, a retired lecturer of political science who is a noted Punjabi and Urdu writer, also shared his feelings, “Manto’s writings rose above community lines, and no other writer has succeeded in recounting the sordid tales of Partition better than Manto. Against all odds, he remained defiant and unapologetic.” ‘Khol Do’, ‘Thanda Gosht’ and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ are Manto’s most celebrated stories.
Nusrat, Nuzhat and Nighat are to participate in a seminar to be organised by the Aalami Urdu Trust in New Delhi on September 7. On their return from Delhi, they will also pay a visit to Manto's house located at Kucha Vakila in Amritsar, where he stayed for many years.
When he stole walnuts
Prasanni, 95, is perhaps the only living companion of Manto from Papraudi. She recalled, “He used to steal walnuts, a gift from their relatives in Shimla, for me from his house. Later when he moved to Samrala, my mother and I used to take saag for him. Then he wnt to Mumbai and wrote to me. I could not read Urdu so the village goldsmith used to read them to me.”
Rs 3cr for memorial hall
The president of the Delhi-based All India Urdu Academy, Abdul Rehman, announced a grant of Rs 3 crore at the function in Papraudi for the construction of a ‘Manto memorial hall’ in the village.