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29 2 AmritsarDreamsofRevolution Saadat Hasan Manto was born a hundred years ago on May 11, 1912, at Sambrala in Ludhiana District. His Kashmiri Muslim trading family had migrated to Punjab in the early nineteenth century and eventually settled down in Amritsar. After abandoning their traditional trade in Kashmiri pashmina shawls for the legal profession, Manto’s ancestors took up residence in Amritsar’s Koocha Vakilaan, the Lawyers’ Colony. Manto ’s mother, Sardar Begum, was the second wife of his father, Khwaja Ghulam Hasan. A trained lawyer who rose to become a sessions judge in the government of Punjab’s Justice Department , Ghulam Hasan was a strictly practicing Muslim who, in his spare time, penned works on Islam and the real meaning of jihad. He had three sons and six daughters from his first wife. Sardar Begum had a Pathan ancestry. After being orphaned at the age of nine, she was married into a well-­ off family in Amritsar , who brought her up with exemplary care and consideration . Her first marriage was never consummated. The husband resented being saddled with an underage wife and showed no interest in her even after she turned twenty-­ one. He started 30 I Stories leading a life of decadence, forcing his own family to consider marrying their young ward to a relative with a better sense of responsibility .SardarBegum’sfirsthusbandwasstronglyaverseto her marrying within his family. So he arranged for her marriage to an acquaintance, Ghulam Hasan, whose first wife was prone to fits of mental instability.8 Sardar Begum gave birth to four children, of whom only Saadat and his sister Nasira Iqbal survived. Ghulam Hasan wanted his youngest son to become a doctor, equaling if not surpassing the achievements of his elder sons, who were studying in England. Muhammad and Saeed qualified as barristers, while Salim became an engineer. Having spent a fortune educating his three elder sons abroad, Manto’s father had little left for the upkeep of his second wife and her children, who 2 Manto’s father, Khwaja Ghulam Hasan (1855–­1932) 31 Amritsar Dreams of Revolution lived separately from the rest of the family in a small section of the house. Saadat’s elementary education in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and English was completed at home under his father’s watchful eye. Ghulam Hasan’s eagerness to see Saadat excel in his studies flowed from a desire that the extended family should change its low opinion of his second wife, who, contrary to tradition, came from outside the Manto clan. The contempt shown by the paternal side of the family for his mother left a deep emotional scar. A sensitive and highly 3 Manto’s mother, Sardar Begum (d. 1940) 32 I Stories intelligent child, Saadat resented the differential treatment meted out to his mother. Memories of neglect and rejection shaped his personality, making him prone to excessive displays of emotion. Unable to forge a meaningful relationship with his father, he longed for the approval and affection of his elder brothers, whom he met only after he had become an established Urdu short story writer. His relationship with the brothers was cordial and correct, but never close. Differences in upbringing and age, not to mention their clashing lifestyles, kept them miles apart, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The distance between the siblings was partly bridged by the personal bonds Manto later forged with their children. His need to earn the respect of his elder brothers notwithstanding, Manto was fiercely individualistic and self-­ confident. If these traits can be credited to the indulgence of a doting mother and sister, the steely discipline of an authoritarian father served as a catalyst for Saadat’s rebellious nature. The rebel in Manto was still terrified of his father. Once while flying a kite on the rooftop instead of studying, he became panic-­ stricken upon hearing his father’s footsteps. To escape the wrath of the family patriarch, Saadat jumped into the courtyard below, hurting himself in the process, but without wincing. He sought no support and cut no corners; he hated those who pleaded for mercy. Kite flying remained an abiding passion for Manto. He frequently jumped off the roof to save his skin, often landing on people’s heads and eliciting their fury. Remorseless and belligerent, Manto claimed the right to fly kites since no one had proprietorship of the skies. He threatened to pounce on whoever tried to trip him. If someone cut the string of his kite, he vowed to smash his 33...


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