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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Ghalib in the writings of Manto

By Dr. Brij Premi

Ghalib and Manto are colosusses of two different segments of literature. The two are not bound in any relation of time and space. One is a 19th century poet and the other 20th century story­teller. The two figures had dif­ferent professional family back­grounds, yet they had an amazing re­lationship. The creative fires in Ghalib had catalyzed him as a personality of mazed layers. This was what made an egoist and anarchist that Sadat Hasan Manto was to bow his head in awe to Mirza Assad Ullah Khan Ghalib. Ego was writ large over the personality of Manto. It was the rampart of his strength and it was what fault-lined his person­ality. His undiminshable ego lost its lustre to Ghalib’s luminous aura of greatness. His frequent men­tion of Ghalib in varied ways conveys the reality explicitly.

In matters of temperament Manto was akin to Ghalib. Both had bohemian traits. Ghalib oc­casionally never hesitated from drinks which he borrowed and Manto also enjoyed swishes of drinks by putting his art on sale or by robbing pockets of others.

Ghalib says:

‘Mai Se Garaz Nishat Hey

Kis Ru Siya Ko’

Ik go na Be Khudi Mujhe Din Rat Chahiye’

Possibly as happened with Ghalib Manto also took to drink­ing as a pleasure. But with pas­sage of time it became a compul­sion for hurling himself into oblivion. In the last days Ghalib was neck-deep in economical and mental crisis and drinking would mean a wavy haze of for­get fulness for him. The last days of Manto were equally painful and agonizing. His intellectual capacities had petrified and wine alone was the support-plank. Both shared the pains and anxi­eties of life and rued the prevail­ing system that made them bite away each moment of life from the jaws of death. Gaddar (rebel­lion of 1857) left Ghalib a bro­ken reed and the ‘angst’ looming large in the surroundings is ex­pressly communicated through his letters. Manto lived the trag­edy of partition and the degrad­ing fires of communalism that raged furiously. His stories and essays written during this dark period demonstrably convey his internalised poignance and agony. Both the artists convey the events that were happening and the agonies that were rend­ing their cores in their character­istic lucid style. The tale that they weave is about a world reduced to a sapless desert.

Manto as a terrific egoist cri­tiqued the greatest of the great. He snapped contact with Nazir Ludhianvi, editor of the weekly ‘Musvir’. as he sensed diminution in his sense of reverence for him. He gave up his services in All India Radio where his dramas were scissored at the behest of Upendra Nath Ashk a story-writer and never saw the gates of filmistan which gave him bagfuls of money at the suspicion of Ashok Kumar, his actor-friend, planning to filmise story-lines of Nazir Ajmeri, Kamal Amrohi and Ismat Chugtai. All this was beyond his tolerance level. His personal ben­efits he never minded. On his way to Calcutta Ghalib broke his journey at Lucknow. His well-wishers were keen to arrange for his meeting with the Prime Min­ister of Awadh. But the meeting could not materialise because Prime Minister showed reluc­tance to exempt him from pay­ment of call-money. He even kicked away a teaching job in a Delhi college as he fell insulted by secretary of state, Thomson, for not receiving him at the gates of his mansion. Nothing better can testify to his integrity and sense of self-esteem. Both were ego­ists to a fault though egoism was equally their strength.

The complexities of Ghalib’s sensibilities and experiences are concealed in tinted veils of joys and sorrows. His metaphors are pregnant with a world of mean­ings. Manto also in his stories seems to give expression to com­plex layers of human pains and pangs and inner turbulence. Ghalib is a poet, but his intellect is not away from the ‘dastan tradition’. In his leisure he was in­terested in the study of ‘dastan’. His metaphors have a hang of ‘dastan’. Manto’s stories have episodic beauty and episodes do not lose their sparkle. For both close bonding of word and mean­ing matters. In fact, in their re­spective realms both are sover­eign. Though a poet, Ghalib is a prose-writer too and has been rightly estimated as the founder of modern prose. He is inimi­table. Mantoo falls in the same line of Ghalib. His themes, tech­nique and language are not imitable. Ghalib’s experimental la­yers are complex and profound. So are Mantoo’s. The very in­tellectual and emotional proxim­ity that Mantoo had with Ghalib made him to admire and love

Ghalib as an icon. Manto was born after 40 years of Ghalib’s demise.

Sometimes one is surprised about Mantoo’s fascination for Ghalib as he had no bent for po­etry. His mention of poets and their poetry is rare. In 1945 he told Majruh Sultanpuri, a mod­ern poet, that he had no love lost for gazals. Yet at the same time Manto labours at Ghalib’s gazals, quotes him frequently and employs his verses as allusions with a view to enhancing the intensity of his semantics. In 1940 he made a resolve to write a film script on Ghalib and devoted himself to the study of Ghalib. In a letter to his friend, Ahmad Nadim Qasimi, he writes

‘I am studying Ghalib these days. I intend to write a film script about him. Though material is scarce, yet whatever is available will do? Manto's Letter P 163.

He continued with it for quite some time. Around 1943 he took to writing a script about Ghalib. The letter that he wrote to Ahmad Nadim Qasimi in April 1943 hints at it.

‘I am writing two scripts. One is about Ghalib’.

Letters of Mantoo, P 144

But his script could not be filmised. During his stay in In­dia his dream could not materialise. After he migrated to Pakistan Sohrab Modi, a film director, utilised his script for filmising and Rajendra Singh Bedi wrote dialogues for it. It was recognised as a successful Mantoo film.

Mantoo has made an apt use of Ghalib’s verses in a number of essays and sketches, mainly for satires without injury to the theme and subject to sharpen their pointed effect. The verses are absorbed in the subject frame-work and seldom stand out as not being in tune with the con­text. Some examples :-

1) Ghalib was a poet of Urdu. A century ago he had mused-

Huye Mar Ke Ham Jo Ruswa, Huye Kyon Na Garake-e-Na Kahen Janaza Utha, Na Kahein Mazaar Hota’

The poor man had no fear of life because from cradle to grave he was a model of humiliation in the world. He had no fear but was extremely sure and confident. That is what made him to desire to die by drowning in the river-waters. There would be no bier and no grave-yard. I wish him to have taken his birth in your land. You would lift his bier pompously and build his mausoleum in the style of a sky-scraper. Had you condescended to act out his de­sire you would have prepared a tank for his body to remain sunk and visitors would throng to see it as people do in a zoo.

2) Cloth is a costly item. Poor people after death don’t get even a shroud. Those who are living are in shreds. Mentally ruffled I thought of setting up a nude club.

What will they live by -  rattled me as a worry. Each other’s nakedness! Eyes taking a morsel of it will leave it there in disgust there. There is desolation. There is grinding poverty. There is irritation. Dear uncle appreci­ate.

Fifth letter to Uncle Sam

3) You must have noticed a verse on the hotel-walls

Dar-O-Deewar Pe Hasrat Se Nazar Karte Hein

Khush Raho Ahle Wattan Hum To Safar Karte Hain

If poor, it will certainly injure the core of your heart writing on walls

To Ghalib's memory he dedi­cated his “Ganjay Firishtey”, a collection of his pen-portraits, which amply demonstrates the fact of his resemblance to a van­ity-ridden poet like Ghalib. He was so much impacted by him that under his spell he made a frequent mention of him in all his works. Mantoo had learnt the secret of brevity of words from Ghalib only. It is no exaggera­tion to put that Ghalib was his real master. Had it not been so a rebel and stormy-petrel like Mantoo would not have been extremely courteous and respect­ful to Ghalib.

4) A verse of Ghalib

‘Pakde Jate Hein Farishtoon Ke Likhe Par Naahak

Aadmi Koyi Hamara Dam-e-Tehreer Bhi Tha’

Those writings on walls can­not be models of writing-Hence arresting people does not arise. This is why the wall-writings and wall-paintings have not suffered the state repression and intimi­dation.

Writing on walls

5) Ghalib says

Mein Hilata To Hun Un Ko Magar Ae Jazba E.Dil

Un Pe Ban Jaye Kuch Aisey Ki Ban Aaye Na Bane’

It means that this verse would not have found place in his an­thology had he hated un-invited guests. Ghalib depicts ‘I invite her but I like her coming to me uninvited on any pretext’. The reality is that un-invited arrival is more pleasurable and sumptuous than when she arrives on invitation. It is beyond one’s ken why people scorn un-invited guests. It can be said that Ghalib had said it about beloveds whose un-invited arrival is thrilling. You have forcibly tagged this verse on to guests. Let it be so.

It is how many verses of Ghalib have cropped into Mantoo’s writings. In him there are themes that are inspired by Ghalib’s verses.

a) Ched Khuban Se Chali Jaye Asad

b) KuchNahi Hey To Adawat HiSahi

c) Sar Khujata Hey Jahan Zakham Sar Acha Ho Jaye

d)  Lazat-e-Sang Bandaz-i-Taqreer Nahi

f)      Zahmat  Meahar Darakhshan

It is already said that Mantoo , was an egoist and his entire life kept on simmering in the fires of egoism. Upender Nath Ashok in his book ‘Mantoo, My Enemy; writes -

Mantoo’s escapism is because of his egoistic temper and the secret of his greatness lies in his egoism. He was given to flattery. He would read out Ghalib’s verses to Mukerjee though a boor averse to delicacies of poetry. It does not detract from Mukerjee’s greatness. He had no second in his art. Ghalib appreciation was beyond him’.

It is evident that Mantoo, ran away from field of life when his egoistic sense was not gratified. Not an escapist he would stake everything at the altar of his ego. He would harness all his facul­ties. Finding the path prickly he would slip away by the by-lane to escape from humiliation, dis­grace and exposure. The defeat of his irrepressible ego was the cause for his escape from his home. Amritsar, Lahore, Bombay, service from the All India Radio and Filmistan in Bombay. The period that Ashq mentions is the golden period of Filmistan where Mantoo ruled his roost as a boss, To keep his airs Mantoo would not drag his feet from indulgence of Mukerjee. He used verses of Ghalib for such indulgence. This is the reason that he loved verses of Ghalib and the store of such verses was full with him. Hearing verses of Ghalib people dance into ecstasy and those who do not make a sense of the verses never express dis­appointment. Ghalib and his po­etry are a craze. Mantoo used it to the hilt.

Mantoo did much more than this. His essays about Ghalib are available in a good number.

Ghalib and Chodvi (an essay on Ghalib) is like a feature in the essay form based on the letter of Hatim Ali Mehar MughuI chil­dren are strange. They kill the woman they love...I too in the craze of my youth loved a Domba-girl and have kept her in a condition of death!

On the support of a Ghalib’s letter he writes - ‘Kotwal was the enemy and magistrate was not known. Feud was waiting for a chance and stars were in adverse stations. Despite magistrate being the of­ficer of Kotwal and with respect to me he turned to be a subordi­nate of Kotwal and ordered my incarceration?

Manto writes :-

Some of these references for a story writer can help in prepar­ing the map of Ghalib’s roman­tic life and the triangle of per­petual love gets formed by ‘you, the tyrannical dombini and the Kotwal?'

On these references Mantoo has woven an essay and this very essay is the plank of film on Mirza Ghalib.

b) Mirza’s life in Agra

To map out Mirza’s youth this is a feature-cum-essay high­lighting his kite-flying, adven­tures with Kanwar Balwan Singh and his chess-games. It is crowded with a host of charac­ters like Umrao Jan. Mullah Abdul Samad, Khwaja Ghulam Hasan, Nawab Allah Baksh and many others. It also spotlights Mirza’s life-aspects at Agra. Mantoo has put it in his own characteristic manner.

c) Ghalib and Govt Service This theme presents Ghalib’s appointment in Delhi College. Manto commences it this way -

‘The house by the side of late Hakim Mahmood Khan’s man­sion in the backyards of a mosque is that of Ghalib. You had said about it.

‘Masjid Ke Zer-e-Saya, Ek Ghar Bana Liya

Yeh Banda-e-Kamina Hamshye Khuda Hein

No harm in taking you inside the house. It is late in the night. Mirza’s house will surely be abuzz. Though not that abuzz, Munshi Shiva Narayan is present.

The episode of Ghalib’s ser­vice in Delhi college is made a mention of. The full threads in­cluding that of Thomson are picked up. The kicking off the service on the trifle plea of Thomson not showing him any respect is dramatically delin­eated.

d) Mirza Ghalib as an invitee at Hashmat Khan’s Mansion.

It is an essay lightly written in an epigrammatic style based on an episode about Ghalib, Hashmat Khan and characters of Chodvi. Hashmat Khan’s over-bearing mannerism is drawn in a fascinating manner.

e) Drinks borrowed: Manto in this essay has described the relations between Ghalib and Mathura Das, Ghalib’s state of indebtedness and court proceedings in the court of Mufti Sadur-ud-Din. Ghalib’s verses are interspersed in this essay to add to its fascination.

It will not be apt to give a de-tailed account of numerous verses of Ghalib that Manto has used in his works. But it is cer­tain that his writings other than his short-stories are replete with them.

It is already commented that the plank of egoism and self cen­tered bent was shared equally by both the stalwarts. In Ghalib egoism raises its head in the form of superiority complex and in Manto too superiority complex is expression of the same char­acter-trait.

Some Examples: a) Hein Aur Bhi Duniya Mein Sukhan Var Bohut Ache

b) ‘Aaj Mugh Sa Nahi Zamane Mein’

Kehte Hai Ki Ghalib Ka Hein Andaz-e-Bayan Aur’

Ada-e-Kaas Se Ghalib Hua

Hum ‘Sukhan Faham Hein ‘Ghalib Ke Taraf Dar Nahi’

Sadat Hasan Manto was an artist of the same tribe. It can be exemplified by the following quote -

‘I was a short story writer of the entire country of Hindustan. Now I am a story-teller of Pakistan. There are a number of pub­lications to my credit. People love and respect me. In India there were three law-suits filed against me and in Pakistan one law-suit is pending decision for quite sometime!

A Letter to Uncle Sam

The trumpet-sounding epi­taph that he used to give to his admirers as an autograph sup­ports the thesis of his superiority complex.

Epitaph: Here lies Sadat Hasan Mantoo buried. All the secrets and subjects of his stories too are buried in his bosom. He is still thinking under the tons of earth that he is a great story writer.

To Ghalib’s memory he dedicated his ‘Ganjay Firishtey’ a collection of his pen-portraits, which amply demonstrates the fact of his resemblance to a vanity-ridden poet like Ghalib. He was so much impacted by him that under his spell he made a frequent mention of him in all his works. Manto had learnt the secret of brevity of words from Ghalib only. It is no exaggeration to put that Ghalib was his real master. Had it not been so as rebel and stormy-petrel like Mantoo would not have been extremely courteous and respectful to Ghalib.

*(Translated from original Urdu text by Prof. M.L. Koul)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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