By Upender Ambardar
The book titled “Mantoo Katha” authored by Dr. Brij Premi is another factual and well documented book on Sadat Hassan Mantoo. Backed up with minutest details, the author reveals in a lucid manner certain unexplored and lesser known facets of Mantoo’s life and works, hitherto unknown.
The very first section of the book is intelligible with detailed information regarding Mantoo’s family, home, his communist mentor Bari Aleeg and his deep emotional attachment with Kashmir. The migration of Mantoo’s ancestors from Kashmir to Lahore and then to Amritsar, where a mohalla of Mantoos existed in the Kocha Vakeelyan is thoroughly traced by the author. The author further reveals that Mantoo’s ancestors had abandoned their traditional shawl and Pashmina business and adopted lawyer’s profession.
The reader is delighted to know that Mantoo’s father Moulvi Ghulam Hassan, a sub-judge by profession had like his son, Mantoo an emotional allegiance not only to Kashmir, his separated ‘homeland’ but also with its centuries old cultural and historical traditions. Though being physically far away from Kashmir, Mantoo’s father did not lose memory of his Kashmiri origin.
Likewise, we also come to know about the Kashmiri origin of Mantoo’s wife Safia Begum, who even though a resident of Africa was thoroughly a Kashmiri. Mantoo’s limitless love for Kashmir and his assertive feelings about it are also detailed with clarity in the book. Dr. Brij Premi familiarizes the readers with Mantoo’s mentor and guide, Bari Aleeg, a committed Marxist, who was greatly influenced by the revolutionary and proletarian ideology of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
As per the author, Mantoo even in adolescence was given to youthful pranks and elements of sensationalism. The unrestrained chats laced with sensational remarks like : "Americans have purchased Taj Mahal and would transport it to America with the help of heavy machinery”, "Traffic police of Lahore have been provided with jackets of Ice,” “My (Mantoo’s) fountain pen nib is made of donkey’s horn”, would make people gasp in wonder and amazement.
Dr. Premi’s indepth research indicates that Saadat Hassan Mantoo had no lure of money but was given to simple living and high thinking. He had also no tendency to camouflage his dealings. The reader also gets to know as to how Mantoo was initiated to drinking by his childhood friend, Hari Singh Amritsari and the circumstances which increased his addiction to alcohol during his stay at Delhi, Bombay and lastly in Lahore. A vivid picture of Mantoo’s addiction to alcohol is potrayed by the author, when Mantoo on his death-bed feversighly pleads for a drop of liquor to be put in his mouth to overcome his overpowering thirst for whisky. But the reader gets convinced that Mantoo resorted to alcoholism only to comfort his lacerated heart, hurt by unending chain of misfortunes and unhappy incidents in his life.
Continuing in the same vein, the author in the second section of the book gives a comprehensive account of Mantoo under various headings such as Mantoo as a novelist, Glimpses of Ghalib in Mantoo’s work, Mantoo as a translator besides his association with the film industry etc. Detailed information about Mantoo’s first novel ‘Untitled’ and his next novel‘Takhleeq’ is given in the book. Free use of Ghalib’s poetry by Mantoo in his writings is indicative of Ghalib’s influence on him. Though Mantoo was not personally acquainted with Shayir-e-Kashmir Mehjoor, yet he was successful in understanding Mehjoor through his inspiring poetry.
Similarly, the book carries letters written by Mantoo himself and the letters addressed to him, which are reminder of the times when Mantoo was actively associated with journalism and film industry. These letters reveal numerous incidents of his literary and personal life and are of lasting literary value. The detailed information provided by the author with regard to Mantoo’s translation work provides a valuable insight into his literary excellence.
The book “Mantoo Katha”, written by Dr. Brij Premi, is supplemented by graphic descriptions and valuable highlights of those aspects of Mantoo’s life and works most of which had remained hidden from the public gaze. Besides revealing Dr. Brij Premi's scholarly hold on the Urdu language, the book also exhibits the amount of painstaking efforts undertaken by the author. The book is appropriately titled, thoroughly enjoyable and a hallmark contribution to the Urdu literary world.
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