For a recent class, I had to read short stories written by Saadat Hasan Manto. Well, only three of them; Toba Tek Singh, The Return and Bitter Fruit. I was hooked. Yes, this writing is a recommendation and a look back on my reading material this week.
Saadat Hasan Manto is awesome! If for anything, read his work for the thoughts it can inspire within you. And if you decide reading an entire book is too much for your taste, just read one story, Toba Tek Singh. Saadat Hasan Manto writes short stories (or afsana, to use the original Urdu name for the genre). Now I should explain the reference to Urdu. Sadat Hasan Manto was a writer born in the Punjab region in the British Raj Empire. In 1947, when England finally relinquished their hold on their South Asian colonies, they created a state in the northwestern region.
This state would be named Pakistan, and what was formally Punjab was suddenly cut in the middle, one half in India and one half in Pakistan. This Partition figured greatly in the stories of Manto, and understanding this is very important to get the meaning and crisis in his work.
Toba Tek Singh tells a story of how this Partition news affected people in an asylum in Lahore. Lahore was a place in India, that overnight found itself as a part of Pakistan. As some of the lunatics were going to be exchanged, the question of where Pakistan is ensues, and the sense of displacement settles in. How can we be displaced, when we haven’t gone anywhere? As experienced by the tenants of this asylum, they were in the same place, but the earth moved beneath them.
Enough rants from me. Just read Saadat Hasan Manto’s work, and if that is too much, just read Toba Tek Singh.