I’ve noticed that when sincere people laugh, they always cry.― Saadat Hasan Manto
Why I’m Reading this Book?
My brother Piyush has recommended me a movie ‘Manto’. He had high praises for it, so I watched it. It was about troubled writer ‘Saadat Hasan Manto’ and his few selected stories. I was so impressed with his stories and his personality, I decided to research about him and that’s how I came across this book.
This collection of 14 stories gives us a glimpse in Manto’s life and his thoughts. In almost all stories, he is present as himself. All stories are inspired from his own real life experiences. Every story is filled with irony, dark humor and complex human nature. All stories/characters are based in Bombay, hence the name, Bombay Stories.
Khushiya – An ironic story about a pimp who got insulted because his girl didn’t ‘respect’ him. By respect means she didn’t cover herself when he came to her room. Now its ironic because the relationship they shared was so informal, from girl’s point of view , it didn’t make any difference whether she is naked or not in front of him, but it hurt Khushiya’s ego and he kept thinking about it. And in end he does something which brings some peace to his mind. Story is filled with dark humor. My rating for this story 3.
Ten Rupees– This story was a part of film ‘Manto’. It started in a very innocent setting , like a child playing with her friends. Scene is so normal that it was a shock that this is a story of child prostitution. Story is about a girl named Sarita, who goes to a short trip with her customers. I can’t tell what one feels while reading this story. An innocent child in such a horrible setting. It was not an easy read. My rating – 5.
Barren– This story draws the parallel from a man’s life who is incapable of falling in love and a women’s who wants a child but can’t have. Writer illicit the same sympathy for both. This is a beautiful story about desires and it’s un-fulfillment in a very unique way. Story ending is a shocker. My rating -4.
The Insult– Imagine a stranger saying Yuck to you, and before you could respond or even look at him, he is gone ; forever. Imagine the seething anger waves that keep washing over you. You would want to forget this, but your mind wont let it. Same situation is explored in this story. Any person, even if he is at the bottom rung of the society’s ladder, can feel insult with same intensity as any respectable person would. And with no opportunity to avenge this, what would you do? A very good story which leaves its impressions deep. My rating – 5 .
Smell– Story about a monsoon day, a man and a woman. Kind of erotica. A man taking pleasure in natural scent of a body than artificial one. My rating -1.
Babu Gopi Nath– Story of a girl named Jinat who is a prostitute but without prostitute’s wiles. Everyone around her is taking advantage of her.Then there is Babu Gopi Nath, Like Jinat, everyone around him is just for his money. Gopi Nath used to be Jinat’s customer and gradually kind of adopted her. Before his money dwindles, he wants Jinat to be well off and so he is trying to find a suitable match for Jinat. This is a complex story about complex human nature. My rating -3.
Janaki– Story of Janaki who will give her life up for any man who will talk nicely to her. She is incapable of hatred and almost subservient to man. I didn’t much like this story as it pained me to see a girl being door-mat to everyone willingly. But such characters exist, hence my rating is 2.
Peerun– This is a very funny story. A man convinced that girl he is seeing is bringing him bad luck. But that intrigues him and keeps seeing her and keeps testing this theory. When theory proves right, he is happy. But will he be sad, if this theory is wrong? My rating -4.
Rude– An ironic story. Is it rude to leave your friends in one room and become intimate with other sex (not your spouse) in another room? If so, is it rude if other sex is your spouse? Writer asks these ironical questions in this story. My rating -3.
Hamid’s Baby– How far will you go to save your baby. If world he/she is being born in, is bad, would you kill it as soon as it’s born? That’s Hamid’s dilemma, who got a prostitute pregnant and didn’t want his baby to be in it’s mother’s surroundings. Story of amazing hypocrisy. My Rating -3.
Mummy– Story of an upper class brothel’s madam. Stories goes on to tell humane side of her. How everyone will call her mummy and like a mom she will take care of them. But more than that, it was the debauchery of people around that that was narrated in this story. And I didn’t find it much to my taste. My rating -1
Siraj– A touching story of Siraj, who is a prostitute but doesn’t behave like one. She doesn’t let her customers touch her and fights with them. She is an enigma to the writer, with her large and expressive eyes that have a personality of their own. In the end of story, we come to know about her past and her behavior. My Rating -3.
Mozelle– Bravery comes in many shapes and forms. Mozelle, a Jewish girl living in Bombay, who did seem like a careless, selfish and cold person initially, turned out to be an epitome of courageousness. During Hindu-Muslim riots , she shows an extraordinary display of fearlessness and proves that first impression is not always the last impression. My rating -4.
Mammad Bhai– An amusing story of Robin-hood like character named Mammad bhai. He is a gangster and feared by all, but he takes care of his people and very generous. There are two things he is proud of, his dagger and his mustache. But then one day, a case happens where he has to leave both of these prized things. Will Mammad bhai be Mammad bhai without them? My rating – 3.
My Rating — 4
On the scale of: (1- Hate , 2- Neither like nor dislike, 3- Like, 4- Love, 5- Gaga)
Why anyone else should read this Book?
This is a short story collection. So, it’s really easy to pick a story, and be done with it. In other words, a small book to read.
Manto was a controversial writer. He was tried and banned for obscenity in his stories several times. But in his own words, “I am not a pornographer but a story writer”. A writer who would not deter from telling truth just because its uncomfortable deserves a chance to be read. Agreed, his stories would make you uncomfortable, but those are not alien stories, those are real stories. And everyone who has or professes to have an open mind, should read this amazing writer.
All of Manto’s character are ordinary people , and that makes these stories extraordinary. Manto usually wrote about the worst of the worst lot of society, but in the process of writing about them, he humanized them. His story and their ending would sometimes leave you shocked, or will shake your moral values, but isn’t that why we sometimes read? To expand our understanding? To know? I for one will have an improved understanding when it comes to prostitutes after reading Manto. So, read for expanding your brain.
Like his characters, Manto was an enigma too. He loved Mumbai, but he left it. He roamed in upper class elites, but he circled the red-light areas with same curiosity. He loved everything, yet he was detached from everyone. He is usually there in all his stories as an steerer and when we read his stories, we somehow understand this writer too. So, read to know Manto , and his unflinching but deeply humane stories.
I’m just so enamored with his stories, that I’m going to read all his works, as and when I get my hands upon them. A true gem indeed. So, read this book, or watch the movie ‘Manto’ , you wont be disappointed. Thanks Piyush for introducing me to Manto.
Wear the mask, Stay home, Stay Safe!!!
Have you read it? Are you planning to? What is your opinion? Share them here. Till next time, Happy Reading Folks!!!