By Dr. Brij Premi
Translated from original Urdu text by Prof. ML Koul
There are no
two opinions about the Kashmiri origins of Sadat Hasan Mantoo. His father from
his externals demonstrably appeared to be a Kashmiri. Dressed in a coat with a
buttoned up collar, a Kashmiri-style turbon on his head and flaunting a dyed-up
beared he would drag the Kashmiri labourers working in the Punjab to his sitting
room and lovingly tell them, 'I am also a Kashmiri'.
myriad writings Mantoo too has proudly written about his Kashmiri origins and
even accepted the label of 'hato' with all its insulting sting that, feudalistic
people low in culture would frequently hurl at Kashmiris. In fact, it never
instilled a feeling of inferiority in his psyche. He writes:-
'I am a Kashmiri—a hato'.
All his life he craved for
In a letter
he yearns for a life in
and that emotive yearning was deeply buried in his sub-conscious. He felt it
perpetually biting him like a venomous snake and its expression is found
variedly expressed in his writings.
during 19th century that his family shifted to Punjab. It like many other
Kashmiris lived off the Shawlbaf trade. The ancestor of the family, Rahmat
Allah, settled at
and later on shifted to
permanently with the design of expanding his trade. The family continued living
at Amritsar for generations together. When Sadat Hasan Manto came to
consciousness, Mantoos had set up a separate mohalla for themselves and was
known as the Mohalla of lawyers. The reason for such a nomenclature was that the
family had taken up law as their profession and had bidden farewell to the
Ranjeet Singh was in ascendancy when the family-ancestor settled at Amritsar
permanently. Amritsar had assumed greater importance than
because of the holy shrine of Darbar Sahib. Amritsar had importance because it
was a trade centre. Khwaja Rahmat Allah had not confined his economic activities
only to shawl, but had started dealing in pashmina too. In his travels
Moorecraft has made a special mention of Kashmiris busy in Pashmina trade.
is a shawl producing centre...This industry appears to have been pushed up by
Kashmiris who had fled their land due to Afghan tyranny much before the Sikh
In the times
of Rahmat Allah Pashmina-weaving was a profitable business. After him his family
expanded the business limit with lot many efforts. Khwaja Jamal-ud-Din, the
grandson of RahmatAllah, expanded the business beyond the precincts of
to Lahore and Bombay. But, by this time the English had consolidated their rule
and their intervention had caused a set-back to the Indian handicrafts.
Pashmina-weaving too came under the adverse impact. The Mantoo-family also got
crisis-ridden and by and by the family wound up its trade and diverted to legal
Gani son of Khwaja Jamal-ud-Din was the first to divert to the legal profession
and he came to be an appeal-writer. Second son, Khwaja Miya Assadullah, duly
studied law and rose to be a lawyer and earned a fair name as a good lawyer at
But, major than this, he earned his name for service to the Muslim community. He
had deeper sympathies for the Muslims and wanted Muslim boys and girls to be
properly initiated in religious education. This sentiment he disseminated even
in the Muslim elite of the city. He set up the Muslim Anjuman for the welfare of
Muslims and founded a M.O. High School of Muslim learners. It was here in the
same school where Sadat Hasan Mantoo was initiated in formal education. Mian
Asaad Ullah acted as the general secretary of the Anjuman nearly all his life
and earned the respectable name of Ustad Jee' from his contemporaries in view of
his discerning abilities and community sentiment. The tradition goes that at
two alleys carried the names of Mian Assad Ullah Vakil. Jamal-ud-Din's third
son, Mian Habib Ullah, was an attorney and his fourth son, despite all efforts,
could not pursue the legal profession. He was pious and religious minded and
held propagation of Islam as his fore most duty. It is said about him that he
was extremely fearless, honest and sensitive as a person and perhaps he was the
first among Muslims who lectured on the greatness of Islam and countered the
Christian preachers and propagandists. What he did was of far-reaching
consequences. This alone did not satisfy him. He issued religious journals which
focussed on the reality of Jihad and research on Islam. He studied the Bible
carefully and gained expertise in it. The breadth of his studies helped in a
large measure to fulfill his religious obligations which he deemed very much as
son of Molvi Jamal-ud-Din was Molvi Ghulam Hassan who happened to be the father
of Sadat Hasan Mantoo. He was a Munsiff by vocation and later on rose to be a
sub judge. Like his ancestors Molvi Sahib was equally religious and literally
followed all rituals and obligations. He passed away on 3rd February 1932 at the ripe age of seventy. At the time of his death Sadat
Hasan was just twenty. Molvi Ghulam Hasan was married twice. From his first
wife, Jan Bibi, he had nine issues in all. Three sons were Khwaja Allah Mohammad
Hassan, Khwaja Sayyid Hassan and Khwaja Salim Hasan out of whom the first two
sons had studied higher levels of law for Bar-at-Law. Both of them had shifted
to Lahore during the repressive days of martial-law. It was during this very
period when a famous political leader and freedom fighter of undivided India,
Saif-ud-Din Kitchloo was framed up in the notorious Amritsar conspiracy case.
Dr. Kitchloo had Kashmiri origins and was closely related to the Mantoo family.
Khwaja Mohammad Hasan and Khwaja Sayyid Hasan pleaded his case. The former was
the assistant editor of a law journal and the latter was Vice-Principal of the
Lahore College. Both the brothers performed their duties with dedication and
honesty for years on end and afterwards sailed for
where they set up an independent legal consultancy 'Hasan and Hassan'.
The consultancy gained lot of reputation for providing legal services.
Meanwhile, Sayyid Hasan had to sail for London in connection with a legal case
involving Privy Council. There he cultivated contacts with the Fijian Muslim
League to the invitation which the Mantoo brothers decided to run their legal
That is how
they settled in Fiji and pursued their legal profession. Before settling in Fiji
they practised law at
for a short time. Manto has made a mention of it at many a place, though not
directly. A character of Mantoo, Ram Khalan, lisps the name of Sayyid Hasan as
Saayid Shallam Balishter.
practice of Manto Brothers flourished in the Fiji Island. By and by they started
interacting with the spectrum of the Fijian society. Sayyid Hasan was appointed
as the senior member of the Legislative Council and exercised influence over the
Fijian politics and administrative affairs. It benefited the Fijian immigrants
in a large measure. Al-Haj Mohammad Hasan was a pious and religious-minded
person. His observation was that the Fijian Muslims were only statistical
Muslims indifferent to Islam. He got the holy Quran translated into the local
dialect and throughout his stay in the
he preached and propagated Islam.
was a shade different from his brothers. He was born as a rebel. He was neither
a believer nor pious in terms of religion. He had his own, characteristic views
about life, religion and ethics. While comparing Sadat with his brothers Krishen
Chander jots down—
'He has seen
his elder brother-wearing a Shariat-dictated beard, believer, pious and Namazi
Musalman. Manto is all that has nothing in common with them. He respects his
elders, but does not love them. In matters of courtesy, ethics and world-view he
was entirely different from them and traversed a separate trajectory contrary to
them and therefore had abandoned his home right in his childhood'.
Builders of New Literature:
the stark bitterness of life. In his childhood days only he had lived the
hideous miseries of life and had borne the harsh temperament of his father. He
had also tasted the love-lessness of his brothers. Mantoo had keenly observed
the nudities of life in contrast to his brothers whose scholarship was limited
to religion and law. He respected his brothers but was in no way emotionally
involved with them. His brother, Sayyid Hasan, had stayed with him at Bombay and
was unhappy with the manner and style of his life and had judged him as a
'stray'. Mantoo has depicted it fearlessly and for this he has earned disdain
both from his admirers and critics.
reality had spent their lives within the parameters set by law-books. They
fought and pleaded for cases all through their tenor of lives in Lahore, Bombay
and Fiji and South of Africa. They are unaware of the tinsel world of Bollywood
and know little about its lovers and beloveds. That is why they took to their
heels and took refuge in the Khilafat house" (Noor Jehan).
Hasan's second spouse, Choti Begum, was Mantoo's mother. She hailed from
Kabul and bore the name of Sardar Begum.
It was from
that her family had migrated to
Sardar Begum was an orphan and was married to Hidayat Ullah, but the marriage
was not a success. It was at
that she was again married to Molvi Ghulam Hassan. She bore him three issues.
Sadat Hasan was the male child. As per Anis Nagi Molvi Sahib had a respectable
position in the government but was not very prosperous. In the family his second
marriage was more or less disliked.
already put that Manto's father, Molvi Ghulam Hasan had multiple issues. He had
retired by the time Sadat was to be reared and looked after. Because of his
meagre resources Choti Begum's two issues, Sadat and his sister, Nasira, had to
bear the brunt of it. They failed to get required education and bring-up. Sadat
failed in the Matric examination several times and finally passed in third
division. It is interesting to note that he failed in the subject of Urdu.
mother was a noble and mild-mannered lady. She had got married to Molvi Sahib at
such a stage in life when he had lost the vigour of youth and was economically
not very prosperous. After his demise she somehow managed the home. It is said
that she knew the skill of embroidery. After Mantoo had been in
Bombay she too had joined him there. In
fact, her daughter and son-in-law were also there in
After Mantoo was married she had continued to live with him. A letter from Ahmad
Nadim Qasimi reveals that it was there, that she breathed her last in June,
behest of his mother Mantoo was married in a Kashmiri family long settled in
Africa. The father of his spouse, Begum Safia,
had been a police inspector in
Mantoo himself has described their Kashmiri roots. He wrote to Ahmad Nadeem
Qasimi in a letter:-
belonged to a Kashmiri family settled in Lahore'.
married life lasted just for sixteen years. He had four issues, one son and
three daughters. During this short span Safia Begum had to face many ups and
downs of life. The three years of adversity period of Mantoo's life severely
impacted the bring-up of her children. But she never grumbled. She informed the
fortunate that I spent my life with a great literateur and by God's grace. It
was all through a good life. He deeply loved me, my daughters and other kinsmen.
Our life in sum was a happy venture'.
passed away at the age of sixty-two years. Mantoo's male child, Arif, could not
live beyond a year. His three daughters, Nikhat, Nuzhat and Nusrat are still
of Mantoo's life got extinguished on 18th January, 1955. He was a stormy petrel.