“The field that cannot feed even its tiller Burn down every stalk that stands on it.”― Saadat Hasan Manto, Why I Write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto.

To be certain in a world full of uncertainties, violence, fear and humiliation is not an easy road to pass through. We find a very few people in the world history that rebelled against the social conventions, and whose ideas continue to shake the present-day society. The most ‘notorious and beloved’ child in modern south Asian fiction is Saadat Hassan Manto. He can be considered a patron saint of those who believed in their own kind of liberty. Even readers who seldom read fiction recognise the distinctive shape that Manto’s short stories makes on the page: the blizzard of punctuation, the words running together or suddenly breaking part. Manto has a way of sticking his readers by turning a multifaceted delicate web of solace and plenitude and opulence of his words. It seems that he was looking for liberty from the main stream narratives and orthodoxies of his own times. For him, liberation from socially constructed ideas is the condition for the unhindered spreading of the message of salvation. This notion kept reappearing in the writings of other authors since then. For instance, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s “Morning of Freedom (Subha-i-Nau)” is also echoed in Manto’s idea of liberty.

This stained light, this night-bitten dawn –

this is not the dawn we yearned for.

this is not the dawn

for which we set out so eagerly it ― From “Morning of Freedom” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (translated by Daud Kamal)

After migrating to Lahore in 1948, he wrote a series of letter to Uncle Sam, in which he describes himself like “a bird whose wings had been clipped”. As a rebel humanist, Manto’s Idea of liberty never matched the convention perception of his contemporaries. His ideas were regarded as salacious, immoral, shocking the 21st century society with their progressiveness. "Boldness" was a major trait of Manto's style. With the rebellious enthusiasm of a true writer, he elevated it to a moral and even a cosmic principle: his stories are constantly exhorting us to be original, independent, self-reliant. And he was scornful of everyone who took refuge in received ideas and conventional standards - all the lumbering conventions that society passes on to its members. This is the constantly repeated message of his short stories.

According to him, if you are born human, you should be progressive enough to bring a positive change in the society by not hiding its bitter realities. He had never seen progressiveness as an additional value in a person. He possessed an uncanny talent for uncovering the corrupt individuals of his time, and he did this with his straight-forward and legitimate depiction of abused, pitiable, feeble and misled individuals in his stories. He also defied national, regional identity, which is also an important issue for us today. Modern South Asian fiction owes a huge debt of gratitude to Saadat Hasan Manto. He was the one who never believed in skirting around the issues or putting his expressions into arcane formulations which is evident in his short stories. You need to recall Khol Do (Open) or Bu (Odour) or Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat) to understand the social picture Manto was determined to sketch. Manto's entrenched humanism stretched out beyond religion and was of more significance to him than any notion of perceived liberation. Throughout his life, society was an inescapable presence in Manto's moral universe: a place where conventions were imposed and where they could be fought against, a place bestowed by the fathers but populated by the sons. The epitaph he wrote for himself clearly shows that he had a sense of how history would look upon him.

“Here lies buried Saadat Hasan Manto in whose bosom are enshrined all the secrets and art of short story writing. Buried under mounds of earth, even now he is contemplating whether he is a greater short story writer or God.”