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  • Toba Tek Singh
  • Saadat Hasan Manto (bio)
    Translated by Tahira Naqvi (bio)

Two or three years after the Partition, it occurred to the governments of India and Pakistan that along with the transfer of the civilian prisoners, a transfer of the inmates of the lunatic asylums should also be made. In other words, Muslim lunatics from Indian institutions should be sent over to Pakistan, and Hindu and Sikh lunatics from Pakistani asylums should be allowed to go to India.

It is debatable whether this was a judicious step. Nonetheless, several high-level conferences took place, and the day of the transfer was fixed. Following a great deal of initial investigation, those inmates who had relatives in India were retained there, while the rest were transported to the border. Since there were no Hindus or Sikhs in Pakistan, the question of retaining anyone there did not arise. All the Hindus and Sikhs in the asylums were taken to the border in the custody of the police.

What happened in India is not known. But here, in the Lahore asylum, the news of the transfer resulted in interesting speculation among the inmates. One man, who had been reading Zamindar regularly for nearly twelve years, was approached by a friend.

"What is Pakistan?"

"A place in India where they manufacture razors," he answered after much deliberation.

His friend appeared to be satisfied by the answer.

A Sikh lunatic asked another Sikh, "Sardarji, why are we being sent to Hindustan? We can't even speak their language."

"But I know the language of the Hindustanis," the first one interjected with a smile, adding, "Hindustanis are devilish, they strut about haughtily…"

During the course of a bath one morning, an inmate shouted, "Pakistan Zindabad!" so loudly that he slipped on the floor and fainted.

Some of the inmates were not deranged at all. Many of them were murderers whose relatives had bribed the asylum authorities to keep them there so that they would be safe from the hangman's noose. These men had some idea of what was going on and knew something about Pakistan. But they did not have all the facts. Not much could be ascertained from newspapers [End Page 14] alone, and since the guards on duty were illiterate for the most part, little information could be gained by talking to them. All they knew was that there was a man, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who was known as Quaid-e-Azam, and that he had founded, for the Muslims, a separate country called Pakistan. Where was Pakistan? What were its boundaries? They did not know. For this very reason all the inmates who were altogether mad found themselves in a quandary; they could not figure out whether they were in Pakistan or India, and if they were in Pakistan, then how was it possible that only a short while ago they had been in India when they had not moved from the asylum at all?

For one lunatic, the entire issue of Hindustan-Pakistan and Pakistan-Hindustan resulted in further disorientation. One day, while he was sweeping the floor, he suddenly suspended his task and climbed onto a tree, where he remained for nearly two hours. During that time, he lectured extensively and nonstop on the matter of Pakistan versus Hindustan. When ordered by the guards to come down, he climbed higher still; when threatened with force, he said, "I want to live neither in Pakistan nor in Hindustan—I will live on this tree."

He descended from the tree when his fever cooled somewhat, and embracing his Hindu and Sikh friends, he cried bitterly. He was saddened by the thought of their impending departure to India.

One morning, a Muslim engineer who used to spend most of his time walking back and forth in a particular part of the garden suddenly took off his clothes and began running about naked.

A fat Muslim from Chiniot, who had once been an active member of the Muslim League and who bathed at least fifteen times during the day, suddenly gave up bathing altogether. His name was Mohammed Ali. One day he announced that he was Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Following his...


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