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55 3 Bombay:ChallengesandOpportunities In the fall of 1936 Saadat Hasan moved to Bombay to take up the job of editor for the film weekly Musawwir (Painter), owned by Nazir Ahmad Ludhianvi. The salary was a measly forty rupees a month, exactly what he was earning in Lahore. But the prospect of living in Bombay’s dynamic megalopolis excited his imagination. Saadat had high hopes for his future as a writer. India’s sprawling port city and film capital offered a welter of opportunities to a talent awaiting recognition. He admitted that, like any ordinary college student, he was possessed with the desire to enter the film world. “To fulfill this passion,” Manto wrote, “I had to struggle very hard.”33 Ludhianvi helped launch his film career by getting him jobs at the Imperial Film Company and Film City. The challenges and opportunities afforded by Bombay, a fast-­ growing city teaming with immigrants, plush with money and the amenities of modern life, was to bring out the best in Manto and leave an indelible mark on both his personality and his writings.34 Departing from Amritsar, he had left his mother to fend for herself. In a series of letters written to him over the next 56 I Stories several months, she gave full expression to the love she felt for her son, and went to considerable lengths to boost his morale. Bibijan read his stories with rapt enthusiasm, recording her approval where she felt it was due, and actively engaging with their plots and characters in detail. She saw her son’s imprint everywhere in Musawwir, since no one in Bombay, she was certain, could write the kind of quality Urdu that was being used in the journal. In a typically supportive letter, laden with prayers and advice, she wrote: Saadat, may God give you a long life, by God’s grace you are very clever and promising. If you do not let effort and tenacity slip out of your hands, by God’s grace you will soon be successful. . . . Steer away from contention and vice, and, my darling son, God will shower you with His blessings. . . . may you shine forth and be respected in every corner of the world, and be worthy of praise and appreciation and may God keep you free from dependence on anyone.35 Manto’s spirits were lifted by his mother’s keen appreciation of his early stories and unflinching belief in his impending success . Practically, life in Bombay was difficult. He was earning a pittance and paying rent for the privilege of camping at Musawwir ’s office. A spendthrift who loved buying books more than eating food, he was excessively generous toward friends and acquaintances. Whatever little was left of his modest salary , he burned up on drink, expensive fountain pens, and his fetish for shoes, which he liked collecting and giving away as presents to friends and relatives.36 Soon after his arrival, there were Hindu-­ Muslim clashes in the city from October to early December 1936, leading to sev- 57 Bombay eral deaths and the arrest of more than two thousand. The disturbances erupted when some Muslims took exception to the reconstruction of the Byculla Temple’s assembly hall (the original structure had been demolished by the colonial authorities to make way for a road). Based on the flimsy logic that the construction would disturb intercommunitarian relations, the objection was intrusive and designed to foment trouble. Some influential Muslim leaders tried involving Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the prominent barrister and leader of the All-­India Muslim League, to work out a compromise. Unwilling to concede an inch of their turf, local ulema sabotaged the attempt and issued eight conflicting fatwas instructing their followers to protest the playing of music before the mosque in the vicinity of the Byculla Temple.37 Local Hindus retaliated with fury, plunging the city into chaos. Shocked by the mayhem and bloodshed he had witnessed, Manto penned a tearful and stirring appeal to the residents of the city. The substance of his plea was that the merciless killing of fellow human beings was abhorrent to all reasonable individuals except those with a criminal bent. He condemned the savagery and pointed an accusing finger at self-­serving leaders who, devoid of faith and ethics, made a mockery of religion with their thunderous and insincere sermons. These so-­ called leaders, who used communitarian violence to further their own purposes, were not only a blot on the face of humanity, they...


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MARC Record
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