Saadat Hasan Manto

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Saadat Hassan Manto
Saadat Hasan Manto photograph.jpg
Born 11 May 1912
Samrala, Ludhiana district, Punjab, British India
Died 18 January 1955(1955-01-18) (aged 42) at the age 0f 42
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Occupation story writer, screenwriter
Years active 1934–1955
Awards Nishan-e-Imtiaz awarded by the Government of Pakistan

Saadat Hassan Manto (Urdu: سعادت حسن منٹو‎; Saʿādat Ḥasan Maṅṫō; 11 May 1912 – 18 January 1955) was a Pakistani short story writer of the Urdu language. He is best known for his short stories,Dhuan (1941), Bu (Odour)(1950), Khol Do (Open It), Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat) (1950), Khaali Botlein (1950) "Toba Tek Singh",Shikari Auratein (1955) and many others. Manto was also a film and radio scriptwriter and a journalist. He published twenty-two collections of short stories, one novel, five collections of radio plays, three collections of essays, and two collections of personal sketches.[1]

Manto was tried for obscenity six times; thrice before 1947 in British India, and thrice after independence in 1947 in Pakistan, but never convicted.[2] Some of his works have been translated in other languages.


Manto chronicled the chaos that prevailed, during and after the Partition of India in 1947.[3][4]

He started his literary career translating work of literary giants, such as Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Russian writers such as Chekhov and Gorky. His first story was "Tamasha", based on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar.[5] Though his earlier works, influenced by the progressive writers of his times,[4][6] showed a marked leftist and socialist leanings, his later work progressively became stark in portraying the darkness of the human psyche, as humanist values progressively declined around the Partition. His final works, which grew from the social climate and his own financial struggles, reflected an innate sense of human impotency towards darkness and contained a satirism that verged on dark comedy, as seen in his final work, Toba Tek Singh.[7] It not only showed the influence of his own demons, but also that of the collective madness that he saw in the ensuing decade of his life. To add to it, his numerous court cases and societal rebukes deepened his cynical view of society, from which he felt isolated.[8] No part of human existence remained untouched or taboo for him, he sincerely brought out stories of prostitutes and pimps alike, just as he highlighted the subversive sexual slavery of the women of his times.[9] To many contemporary women writers, his language portrayed reality and provided them with the dignity they long deserved.[10] He is still known for his scathing insight into human behaviour as well as revelation of the macabre animalistic nature of an enraged people, that stands out amidst the brevity of his prose.[3]

Saadat Hasan Manto is often compared with D. H. Lawrence, and like Lawrence he also wrote about the topics considered social taboos in Indo-Pakistani Society.[11] His concerns on the socio-political issues, from local to global level are revealed in his series, Letters to Uncle Sam, and those to Pandit Nehru.[3] On his writing he often commented, "If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth".[12]


Early life and education[edit]

Saadat Hassan Manto was born in Paproudi village of Samrala, in the Ludhiana district of the Punjab in a Kashmiri Pandit family of barristers on 11 May 1912.[13][14]

The big turning point in his life came in 1933, at age 21,[15] when he met Abdul Bari Alig, a scholar and polemic writer, in Amritsar. Alig encouraged him to find his true talents and read Russian and French authors.[16]

Early career[edit]

Within a matter of months Manto produced an Urdu translation of Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man, which was published by Urdu Book Stall, Lahore as Sarguzasht-e-Aseer (A Prisoner's Story).[17] Soon afterwards he joined the editorial staff of Masawat, a daily published from Ludhiana[18]

This heightened enthusiasm pushed Manto to pursue graduation at Aligarh Muslim University, which he joined in February 1934, and soon got associated with Indian Progressive Writers' Association (IPWA). It was here that he met writer Ali Sardar Jafri and found a new spurt in his writing. His second story, "Inqlaab Pasand", was published in Aligarh magazine in March 1935.[5]

In 1936, aged 24, he published his first collection of original short stories in Urdu, Atish Pare (Sparks; also Quarrel-Provokers).

He left Aligarh within a year, initially for Lahore and ultimately for Bombay.

After 1936, he moved to Bombay where he stayed for the next few years editing Musawwir, a monthly film magazine. He also started writing scripts and dialogues for Hindi films, including Kishan Kanhaya (1936) and Apni Nagariya (1939). Soon he was making enough money, though by the time he married Safia on 26 April 1939, he was once again in dire financial crisis. Despite this, he continued writing for films until he left for Delhi in January 1941.[citation needed]

Saadat Hasan Manto had accepted the job of writing for Urdu Service of All India Radio in 1941. This proved to be his most productive period as in the next eighteen months he published over four collections of radio plays, Aao (Come), Manto ke Drame (Manto's Dramas), Janaze (Funerals) and Teen Auraten (Three women). He continued to write short stories and his next short story collection Dhuan (Smoke) was soon out followed by Manto ke Afsane and his first collection of topical essays, Manto ke Mazamin. This period culminated with the publication of his mixed collection Afsane aur Dramey in 1943. Meanwhile, due to a quarrel with the director of the All India Radio, poet N. M. Rashid, he left his job and returned to Bombay in July 1942 and again started working with film industry. He entered his best phase in screenwriting giving films like Aatth Din, Chal Chal Re Naujawan and Mirza Ghalib, which was finally released in 1954.[2] Some of his best short stories also came from this phase including Kaali Shalwar (1941), Dhuan (1941) and Bu (1945), which was published in Qaumi Jang (Bombay) in February 1945. Another highlight of his second phase in Bombay was the publication of an important collection of his stories, Chugad, which also included the story 'Babu Gopinath'.[5] He stayed in Bombay until he moved to Pakistan in January 1948 after the partition of India in 1947.

Migration to Pakistan[edit]

Manto arrived in Lahore sometime in early 1948. In Bombay his friends had tried to stop him from migrating to Pakistan because he was quite popular as a film writer and was making reasonably good money. Among his friends there were top actors and directors of that age – many of them Hindus – who were trying to prevail upon him to forget about migrating. They thought that he would be unhappy in Pakistan because the film industry of Lahore stood badly disrupted with the departure of Hindu film-makers and studio owners. Manto had already sent his family to Lahore and was keen to join them. Manto and his family were among the millions of Muslims who left present-day India for the Muslim-majority nation of Pakistan .[19]

Life in Lahore[edit]

When Manto arrived in Lahore from Bombay, he lived near and associated with several prominent intellectuals including Faiz Ahmad Faiz,Nasir Kazmi and Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi among others.They all used to gather at Lahore's iconic Pak Tea House,witness to some of the most fiery literary debates and passionate political arguments back in 1948-49. Pak Tea House holds a special place in the memories of those who know about Lahore's vibrant literary and cultural past.The cafe's regular customers included such writers and poets as Saadat Hasan Manto,Faiz Ahmad Faiz,Nasir Kazmi and Intizar Hussain.Intizar Hussain,arguably Pakistan's greatest living fiction writer and a Pak Tea House patron since 1949,reminisces about the cafe's fearless culture of free speech."There was absolutely no external influence and people would share their opinions on any subject without fear."[who?] Manto thus found a stimulating atmosphere around him. His only problem was how to cater for his family. Lahore, at that time, did have many opportunities to offer.[20]

Career as a newspaper columnist[edit]

During those days, Manto also tried his hand at newspaper column writing. He started off with writing under the title Chashm-e-Rozan for daily Maghribi Pakistan on the insistence of his friends of Bombay days, Ehsan Ba and Murtaza Jillani, who were editing that paper. After a few columns, the space appeared blank under the column saying that due to his indisposition Manto couldn't write the column. Actually, the owner was not favourably disposed to some of the content.[citation needed]

The only paper that published Manto's articles regularly for quite some time was Daily Afaq, for which he wrote some of his well known sketches. These sketches were later collected in his book Ganjay Farishtay (Bald Angels). The sketches include those of famous actors and actresses like Ashok Kumar, Shyam, Nargis, Noor Jehan and Naseem Bano (mother of actress Saira Banu). He also wrote about literary figures including Meera Ji, Hashar Kashmiri and Ismat Chughtai. Manto's sketch of Muhammad Ali Jinnah was also first published in Afaq under the title Mera Sahib. It was based on an interview with Haneef Azad, Jinnah's driver of Bombay days who after leaving his job as driver became an actor. The article included some of the remarks related to the incident when Dina Jinnah married Wadia. Later when the sketch was included in the book these lines were omitted.

Manto created a new tell-all style of writing sketches, as described in his own words: "I have no camera which could wash out the small pox marks from Hashar Kashmiri's face or change the obscene invectives uttered by him in his flowery style".[citation needed]

Literary circles[edit]

Manto once tried to present the sketch of Chiragh Hasan Hasrat in a literary gathering organised in the YMCA Hall Lahore to celebrate the scholar's recovery from heart attack. The presiding dignitary stopped him reading and ordered him to leave the rostrum.[citation needed] Manto, however, was in "high spirits"[this quote needs a citation] and refused to oblige. He squatted on the floor, and was with difficulty prevailed upon by his wife, Safia, to leave the stage.[citation needed]

Financial troubles[edit]

Manto began writing to provide for his family and be able to drink every evening. For writing, he demanded cash in advance. In later days, he started writing for magazines like Director. He would go to its office, ask for a pen and paper, write his article, collect the remuneration and go away.[citation needed]

A changed man in his later years[edit]

In a few years, his complexion became pale and his hair turned grey. He was seen reading his story "Toba Tek Singh" at YMCA Hall at the annual meeting of Halqa-e Arbab-e Zauq. He looked older than his years, but he read his story in his usual dramatic style and when he finished reading it there was pin drop silence in the hall and there were tears in everyone's eyes.[citation needed]

In later days, Manto regularly appeared in the Pak Tea House and other literary functions, but he seemed to be in great stress. Whereas he was once known for his witty remarks in literary gatherings, in later days he would not tolerate any criticism.[citation needed] He had become extremely touchy and would shout back at his critics. People started avoiding him because he would not hesitate from borrowing money from them.[citation needed]

His famous literary works[edit]

Manto lived in Laxmi Mansions, The Mall, Lahore for seven difficult years. In Lahore he wrote some of his most praised works, including Thanda Gosht, Khol Do, Toba Tek Singh, Iss Manjdhar Mein, Mozalle, and Babu Gopi Nath.[citation needed]


Though Manto suffered from chronic financial difficulties, his popularity among critics and readers continued. When Manto died of alcoholism on January 18, 1955, thousands of people in Lahore walked in his funeral procession,a rare tribute which the public pays to an author.[21] He was 42 years old at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife Safiyah and three daughters.[citation needed]

On 18 January 2005, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Manto was commemorated on a Pakistani postage stamp.[22]

On August 14, 2012 which is Pakistan's Independence Day, Saadat Hasan Manto was posthumously awarded Nishan-I-Imtiaz award (Distinguished Service to Pakistan Award) by the Government of Pakistan.[23]

On January 18, 2005,Government of Pakistan issued a postage stamp honoring him.This postage stamp reads Saadat Hasan Manto(1912-1955) Men of Letters.[24]


  • Atishparay (Nuggets of Fire) – 1936
  • Chugad
  • Manto Ke Afsanay (Stories of Manto) – 1940
  • Dhuan (Smoke) – 1941
  • Afsane Aur Dramay (Fiction and Drama) – 1943
  • Lazzat-e-Sang-1948 (The Taste of Rock)
  • Siyah Hashiye-1948 (Black Borders)
  • Badshahat Ka Khatimah (The End of Kingship) – 1950
  • Khali Botlein (Empty Bottles) – 1950
  • Loud Speaker (Sketches)
  • Ganjey Farishtey (Sketches)
  • Manto ke Mazameen
  • Nimrud Ki Khudai (Nimrod The God) – 1950
  • Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat) – 1950
  • Yazid – 1951
  • Pardey Ke Peechhey (Behind The Curtains) – 1953
  • Sarak Ke Kinarey (By the Roadside) – 1953
  • Baghair Unwan Ke (Without a Title) – 1954
  • Baghair Ijazit (Without Permission) – 1955
  • Burquey – 1955
  • Phunduney (Tassles) – 1955
  • Sarkandon Ke Peechhey (Behind The Reeds) -1955
  • Shaiytan (Satan) – 1955
  • Shikari Auratein (Women of Prey) – 1955
  • Ratti, Masha, Tolah-1956
  • Kaali Shalwar (Black Pants) – 1961
  • Manto Ki Behtareen Kahanian (Best Stories of Manto) – 1963 [1]
  • Tahira Se Tahir (From Tahira to Tahir) – 1971

Further reading[edit]

  • Manto Naama, by Jagdish Chander Wadhawan.1998, Roli Books.
  • Manto Naama: The Life of Saadat Hasan Manto, English translation of the above by Jai Ratan, 1998,Roli Books.
  • Life and Works of Saadat Hasan Manto, by Alok Bhalla. 1997, Indian Institute of Advanced Study. ISBN 81-85952-48-5.
  • The Life and Works of Saadat Hasan Manto. Introduction by Leslie Flemming; trans. by Tahira Naqvi. Lahore, Pakistan: Vanguard Books Ltd., 1985.
  • Another Lonely Voice: The Urdu Short Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, by Leslie A. Flemming, Berkeley: Centre for South and South east Asian Studies. University of California. 1979. [2]
  • Madness and Partition: The Short Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, Stephen Alter, Journal of Comparative Poetics, No. 14, Madness and Civilization/ al-Junun wa al-Hadarah (1994), pp. 91–100. [3]
  • Bitter Fruit: The Very Best of Saadat Hassan Manto, edited and tr. by Khalid Hassan, Penguin, 2008.
  • Naked Voices: Stories and Sketches by Manto, Ed. and tr. by Rakhshanda Jalil. Indian Ink & Roli Books, 2008.
  • Stars from Another Sky: The Bombay Film World of the 1940s, tr. by Khalid Hasan. Penguin India, 2000.
  • Manto: Selected Stories, tr. by Aatish Taseer. Vintage/Random House India, 2008. ISBN 81-84001-44-4.
  • The Pity of Partition:Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide. Ayesha Jalal.

Manto's works online[edit]


  1. ^ Saadat Hassan Manto Author detail at penguinbooksindia.
  2. ^ a b Author Profile Saadat Hasan Manto Books at indiaclub.
  3. ^ a b c d Social and Political World-View of Saadat Hasan Manto kashmirsentinel, February 2003 Issue.
  4. ^ a b Saadat Hassan Manto Author Profile at boloji, Retrieved 12 August 2015
  5. ^ a b c Early Years Biography Sharad Dutt, BBC Hindi, Retrieved 12 August 2015
  6. ^ ,Digital South Asia Library Mahfil. v 1, V. 1 ( 1963) p. 12., Retrieved 12 August 2015
  7. ^ GREAT MINDS The Tribune, 19 March 2000.
  8. ^ Memories of Manto, Friday Times Khalid Hassan, 2002.
  9. ^ Seminar papers The Annual of Urdu Studies, Vol. 11, 1996.
  10. ^ He presented women as humans Nasira Sharma, BBC Hindi, 2005, 12 August 2015
  11. ^ Rajendra Yadav quote BBC Hindi, 2005.
  12. ^ Manto on his writing BBC Hindi, 2005.
  13. ^ Leslie A. Flemming, Another Lonely Voice: The Urdu Short Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies, University of California (1979), p. 2
  14. ^ Abida Samiuddin, Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Urdu Literature, Global Vision Publishing House (2007), p. 391
  15. ^ The Quintessential Storyteller Khurram Ali Shafique. ZAMEEN, Jun–Jul 1999.
  16. ^ Pakistan Post, 2005, Retrieved 12 August 2015
  17. ^ Manto, Saadat Hasan Author Profile at bookrags.
  18. ^ Author Profile Lekhal at abhivyakti-hindi.
  19. ^ Manto, Saadat Hasan. Ganjy Farashty. p. 190. 
  20. ^ DAWN newspaper,Karachi
  21. ^, Retrieved 12 August 2015
  22. ^ Bio details, Saadat Hassan Manto (1912–1955) Men of Letters, PakPost, Retrieved 12 August 2015
  23. ^, Retrieved 12 August 2015
  24. ^, Retrieved 12 August 2015



  • Words Without Borders – Dr Afzal Mirza, Sunday Pakistan, Online Magazine of International literature.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ DAWN Daily Newspaper,Karachi,Pakistan Aug.14,2012