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211 Epilogue “ANail’sDebt”:MantoLivesOn... In 1946 an astrologer in Bombay had predicted that while Manto would live a long life, he was about to enter a seven-­ year period of hardship and suffering. Manto was then at the peak of his scriptwriting career. The slump in the film industry caused by India’s partition had yet to set in. After he passed away sooner than anyone expected, Hamid Jalal mused whether the astrologer had meant that while “Uncle Manto would have a long life as a literary figure . . . his seven year bad period would come to an end with physical death.”1 Saadat Hasan Manto’s death stunned and grieved literary and film circles across the divided subcontinent. Friends and admirers in India regretted that someone of his talent had become a victim of a partition they believed should never have taken place. In Pakistan, where he had felt unappreciated and humiliated , Manto was mourned more than any other Urdu writer since the death of the great poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal in 1938.2 News of Manto’s death spread like wildfire within hours of being broadcast on Radio Pakistan, Lahore—­ ironically, a 212 Epilogue station prohibited from airing his dramas. The funeral, scheduled for four in the afternoon, took place half an hour earlier, owing to the nature of his illness. By then a galaxy of people from different walks of life had gathered at 31 Lakshmi Mansions to make for a significant, though not traffic-­obstructing, procession down the city’s main artery on the Mall, via Fane road, to the Miani Sahib graveyard. As the cultural center of Pakistan, Lahore was home to a large number of writers who filled the teahouses where Manto had exchanged ideas with detractors and admirers alike. It was at the Halqa-­ i-­ Arbab-­ i-­ Zauq on Mall Road that Manto had read several of his short stories and participated actively in literary discussions. In an indication of the postcolonial state’s success in typecasting him as a pornographer, alcoholic, and rebel, and of the effectiveness of the progressive writers’ ban on him, none of the city’s literary luminaries—­except for Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi and Mirza Adeeb—­ showed up to pay him their last respects. The funeral assemblage, which ran into several hundreds, if not thousands, was marked by an overwhelming presence of younger writers, along with students, teachers, and a strong show of solidarity and appreciation from lines of burqa-­ clad women suspected of being from the red-­ light district.3 Proud of his antiestablishment credentials, Manto would not have wanted it any other way. If he was to survive as a writer beyond his short physical life on earth, it was not the old, self-­ serving literary guard, and their protectors in conservative circles of the establishment, but the restive younger generation of writers and readers who would keep his work alive. In an imaginative account of the solemn occasion, the literary critic Mumtaz Hasan described the latent tensions that gripped Manto’s funeral service. Since Manto did not belong 213 “A Nail’s Debt” to any literary faction, there were apprehensions that a sectarian brawl might erupt over possession of his body. By the time the troublemakers arrived, socially vilified characters of varying stripes and colors—­ languishing in poverty while servicing the whims of the rich—­had laid claim to Manto’s body. A potential clash between these devotees, a dubious-­ looking cleric, and a menacing-­ looking group of Sikhs was narrowly averted. But when, in preparation for the funeral prayers, the cleric pulled off his beard and turban and put them aside on the ground, there was uproar among the socially marginalized elements. Grasping the gravity of the situation, the cleric disclosed that he was the main character of Manto’s story “Sahib-­ i-­ Karamaat” (A Man of God), the tale of a fraudulent mullah who clothes his carnal desires in the garb of religious piety. The mullah noted that Manto was not opposed to the spirit of religion insofar as it related to human well-­being and meritorious deeds. But he plainly detested the pretenses of institutionalized religion. So it was only appropriate for the cleric to take off his false accoutrements before starting the funeral prayer. No sooner had these words been uttered than howls of protest broke out, as the majority congregated on the green outside Manto’s residence refused to pray behind a religious charlatan . Calmly pleading his case, the cleric...


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MARC Record
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