Saadat Hassan Manto, a famous name in the genre of Urdu literature. He was a leading Urdu short story writer and playwright of the twentieth century. Manto worked for the All India Radio during the Second World War. His partition stories make him an eminent and prominent writer.

The way Manto chronicled the saga of the Partition of the Subcontinent, it has not been done by anyone before. Manto envisioned the stories of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. He talked in a very blunt manner when he discussed the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims and the Hindus. He used very open language and his words leave an impression on the mind of the reader that intrigues him/her to read more of his work.

One can absolutely relate to the violence and misery, faced by the people back then, even in the current times. The agony, the pain, the helplessness, the strong sense of loss of the loved ones and most precious possessions can be felt through his writings.

The trauma of partition as he calls it at times, is best explained in his short stories like Toba Tek Singh, Open it, The Dog of Tetwal, Cold Meat, The New Constitution etc. There is a certain element of ‘Imagism’ which is quite prevalent in Manto’s writings, and creates a series of images while you read his work. He was aware of the price his people had to pay in order to achieve a separate homeland.

A prophetic and dauntless writer, his work is absolutely phenomenal. The language is powerful and the diction is strong. He also brings into the limelight, the sense of belonging which makes one nostalgic. The series of events that take place during partition often leave a huge number of people traumatized, desensitized and upset. As Stephen Alter says in his article ‘Madness and Partition: The Short Stories of Sadat Hassan Manto’,

"No writer has been able to convey the violent ambiguities of communal conflict with as much force and conviction as Sa’adat Hassan Manto."

After he published "Cold Meat" (Thanda Gosht), Manto was to be thrown into prison for writing such a short story. He faced a lot of criticism and was accused of ridiculing the honour of the Muslim women. He had to undergo a number of trials during which Faiz Ahmed Faiz ended up declaring Cold Meat as an ‘Unethical’ piece of writing and said that ‘it does not fulfil the standards of a literary text’. 

To which Manto replied, "You can comment on my work and criticise it, I won’t mind, but calling it not worthy enough of being labelled as a literary text is something I strongly disagree with" (Manto, 2018). Cold meat is one of the most remarkable short stories composed by Manto, as it reflects the conditions of people during the partition. The style, the vocabulary, the characters, simply each and everything contributes to making it one of Manto’s most read and critiqued works.  

At the time he was writing, British Raj in India was declining. His short story ‘‘The New Constitution’’ (Naya Qanoon) focuses on this topic. The main theme is how the people of the subcontinent i.e. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs viewed the British Government and having little knowledge can lead to certain misconceptions. Manto’s style is unique, mocking and blunt. The way he describes the anger and frustration of the masses, remains quite remarkable in the history of Urdu literature.  

Conclusively, throughout his stories it’s visible that Manto was implacably against partition. He was aware of the consequences, aware of the loss that people would have to go through. Manto’s characters became famous because of the humanitarian features embedded within them. The women had diverse personalities, some were aggressive, some were insane and some were ‘‘dead but alive’’. The obscenity of his stories is quite obvious due to which he was arrested multiple times, but he always defended himself by stating the fact that: 

 

"If you find my stories dirty, then the society you’re living in is dirty.’’ (Sa’adat Hassan Manto)  

 

Manto’s remarkable, ground-breaking work and his interest in all the tabooed topics makes him a distinctive writer among the others. His writings have left a mark on both India and Pakistan. The true depiction of the hypocrisy and lust is a common theme in his stories. The author Mohammed Hanif says about Manto:  

 

"Reading Manto makes you realise that literature does not always have to conform. It does not always have to tell polite stories’’ (Interview)  

 

As Manto himself was a victim of the violence that accompanied partition. He was able to narrate his experiences through his writings in a way that even in the contemporary world they seem relevant and are powerful enough to leave his readers in a state of trauma and disbelief.