Manto shares space with Shakespeare

  • Vishal Rambani, Hindustan Times, Patiala
  • Updated: May 12, 2015 09:26 IST

Saadat Hasan Manto, who wrote in Urdu and spoke in Punjabi, is in the company of Shakespeare and Chaucer after being abandoned by his own.

The Punjab-born legendary short-story writer has gone out of the Punjabi syllabus of the local university, replaced with a Japanese author, but been included in the English curriculum.

The English department of Punjabi University is translating Manto and doing research on him, and from the next session, its MA and MPhil students will read 'Toba Tek Singh', immortal work of Partition's chronicler. "The board of postgraduate studies has decided to introduce the subject of 'literature and politics' and in that category, Manto was the best fit," said Rajesh Sharma, head of the English department at the university, adding: "You can't understand the politics of Partition without reading Manto."

The Punjabi department's tossing Manto out for accommodating a Japanese writer had brought the university criticism from the literary community; since Manto, born at Samrala in Ludhiana district and raised in Amritsar, is Punjab's pride. The English department of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, is also teaching 'Toba Tek Singh', powerful satire on the India-Pakistan relationship after they separated in 1947. It's the story of inmates in the Labore asylum, some of whom are to be transferred to India post-Independence.

"English student Navdeep Kaur is not only doing research on Manto but also translating his works. There is a lot of work," said Sharma. Manto has written classic short stories such as 'Khol do', 'Kali Salwar', and 'Thanda Gosht'. He lived in Amritsar and later in Mumbai, where he wrote for Hindi cinema before finally going to Pakistan. He was born on May 11, 1912.

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