Remembering Sa’adat Hasan Manto
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA

Manto was indeed an enlightened and an intelligent soul. He had an acute sense of reality which he expressed freely in a conservative world and he had great acumen to express it in most vivid terms. The vulgarity and incisiveness of his writing was a protest more than an attempt to spread immorality as his detractors want to portray him. Unlike the tutored “intellectuals”, a true artist only shows a mirror to the society so that it can see its image and correct it. A society which had no courage to fight the immoral behavior and tolerated it was so outraged at Manto’s writing that it only provided a proof of its hypocrisy.

The most tragic aspect of this shining star of Urdu literature is his end. In one of the issue of the renowned literary magazine of yesteryear “Nuqoosh”, edited by Mohammad Tufail, his last days are chronicled by his close family members and friends. It is a tragedy which has outdone Macbeth. And what makes it more profound is that it is real.

Those who take to the business of correcting the society are so disappointed by the limitation that they face in face of the arduous task, they seek refuge in intoxicants. In the beginning it gives a false sense of euphoria and enlightenment, but ultimately they are consumed by their addiction.  As he was at the end of stage of his life with cirrhosis of liver and was vomiting blood, he begged his wife to give him more drink. His wife persuades him against it but he insists so much that she has to relent. He dies after consuming the last drop from the goblet and vomiting it out with lots and lots of blood.

Only if he was not deceived by the power of alcohol possibly he would have lived longer and given more to the society and literature.  Some may argue that he was able to give what he gave because of his inebriation which took away from him the inhibitions which come in way of expressing the truth as one sees it.

To express the truth as one sees it probably one needs to be a little bit inebriated, but to understand the truth as it is, one needs to be fully conscious and in his original senses. This is what failed not just Manto but several other people in most important and serious positions of power and authority.  This scourge of substance abuse is continuing to have its toll on many a young men and women in our universities on whom rests the future of our civilization.

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca in one of his TV appearance on a missionary channel about substance abuse had rightly said and I am paraphrasing him: The biggest gift of God to man is his memory and losing it by the use of alcohol and other substance is the greatest disservice to oneself and ingratitude to God.

Let all of us who remember Manto on his centennial celebration remember not only how he lived but also how he died and learn as much from his death as from his stories.


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