The book itself needs no introduction on this blog anymore. And, as I promised, I’ll be putting Chapter wise reviews of my favorite book, so here I am with the study of Chapter 2. Let’s get into it.
A writer’s main strength can be measured by the hook of his conversations/stories mainly. Manto starts with the revelation about how he was willing to have conversations with no one his whole life but one person and that was Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib himself. In doing so, he quotes the famous excerpt from Abdul Kadir Bedil that Ghalib used to quote during his life.
“My story is echoed around the world, But I am only an emptiness.”
Ah, how many of us can relate to this excerpt, don’t we?
Moving on, the famous quote embedded in Manto’s gravestone is mentioned: “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto in eternal rest. With him have been buried all the mysteries of writing stories. Under tons of earth he lies, wondering who among the two is the greater of stories – Allah or He.”
Like Manto’s writings, it irks you at first. It may make you think of it as some blasphemous content too. But deep down, if you really get into it, you’ll know the irony of this writing. But in order to clear it out, Manto (if he actually wrote it) or the writer explains beautifully that Manto came to earth with Khuda’s madness in his own head, and stories sought him out all his life. Manto never went seeking stories.
And here I wonder, doesn’t it happen with every person who is a born writer? Isn’t it the dilemma of every writer that they are prone to go mad too early? People call writers sensitive souls but how can they not be, when characters keep tugging them with their stories? When they are unable to take a break from it. When they want nothing but a bit of sound sleep, yet they are unable to get it until they put the character’s pain on paper with their blood?
The Distance between the Graves
After this brief introduction, Manto explains that even if they were buried in two different countries with barbed wires between them, it is still the same country, the same world underneath the surface, in the depths of the earth. And then the headline of this chapter was there, in front of my eyes:
“There’s no Manto without Mirza, and perhaps there’s no Mirza without Manto either.”
And, I cannot agree more with it.
Both, the outcasts of their eras, the rebels of their time, pariahs for everyone’s minds until now and forever, I guess. I wonder if that is the prime reason why they are my favorites or if it’s just a secondary thought.
The Iconic Twist
Here comes an ironic twist. Manto wrote this and started this conversation on January 18, 1955. That was exactly the day he died. As if he knew he was going to die that day. Sounds unrealistic, right? You might start debating that this story is some sort of a prank. I highly doubt it. But the translator aka writer did doubt it so he asked the woman he was getting translation services from, to which she replied beautifully: So, the writer gained enough courage to keep on writing the translation of the novel that was written by Manto, as claimed in Chapter 1.
The main Point
Now, it is a very important point that was catered to in this chapter that both Manto and Ghalib were known as Atheists, the people who don’t believe in the presence of God. But, towards the end of their lives, they started believing in his presence.
Now my only question for everyone is, isn’t this the entire purpose of being? At least they had the courage to ask for reasoning. Unlike many of us who never question when Allah, himself, asked you to question in the Quran. He asked you to wonder about his creation. He asked you explicitly in a very straightforward manner,
“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, and the ships which sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind, and the water (rain) which Allah sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive therewith after its death, and the moving (living) creatures of all kinds that He has scattered therein, and in the veering of winds and clouds which are held between the sky and the earth, are indeed Ayat (proofs, evidence, signs, etc.) for people of understanding.”
-Al Quran , Surah AL-Baqara (2), Verse 164.
And, believe me, when you start questioning (in real means), you start finding answers too. But if you are just doing it for the sake of it or just to be part of a trend or a community, then that’s beyond the reasoning. That’s your own business then. But that’s not the point here, yet I keep on diverting from the real topic. Alas!
Sons of the Soil
Moving forward, Manto describes the dignity and pride both of them feel, Ghalib and He, in being the sons of the soil. He resembles himself to the particles of grit in soil and then he praises Almighty by saying, “If Khuda had not been magnanimous to me as he was to you, do you think I could have been lying here in my grave so soon? Like you, I rejected him too, but to him, all his sons are equal.”
And it got me thinking about how we take his blessings for granted. The tiniest of the blessings and the biggest of them too, do we ever appreciate any of it? The blessing that this life is? Yet we always keep on complaining about how we never got what we didn’t, instead of focusing on the things we actually prayed for and have been blessed with. Indeed, a human is an ungrateful being, by all means.
As I read on, I stumbled upon this excerpt which I am unable to explain in my words so I am putting a picture of it here instead, for you to view and cherish.
Acts of Real Shame
After telling all about how Mirza came to believe in one lord by the end of his journey, Manto talks about how he used to believe in the oneness and existence of Almighty in a manner that definitely does something with your heart which is unexplainable in words, truth be told. He talks about how he was called names because of all the stories he wrote. Those stories needed a voice. Manto gave them a voice.
Here I want to write about what I feel for those who shamed Manto for this. I simply want to ask these respectable people “Why do they think these writings were rude and naked? When men from your society are okay with spending tons of their nights with these women who are forced for so many reasons to live and earn there, yet they are so open to speaking so eloquently about how these women are bad? God knows how many brothers or sisters you might have in those dark streets, yet you are only concerned with shaming and shutting down the people who speak for those women. How ironic!
Or you don’t consider them humans who can have a heart, who can feel too? Or are they just puppets with vaginas to fulfill the lust of the respectable men of your society who can kill you immediately if you’ll speak ill of their women but are happy to spend the nights in the arms of these outcasts of society and call it a status symbol? Moreover, they justify this behavior later on by saying — Oh, men are like that. They have needs — And the worst part is, their own mothers, grandmothers, etc. justify their acts like that. This behavior is beyond reasoning to me.”
There is plenty to tell but this is neither the time nor the blog to talk about all the unjust things happening in our society so openly.
What I Think
Most of all, this novel is giving me an insight into the lives of my two favorite people. This story has changed my perspective towards the Grave. Before this book, I used to imagine the grave as a place where you’ll be questioned and then you’ll rest for eternity. But it can’t be that simple, is it? Even the simplest of God’s creations is always too complex. Look at a simple atom, you’ll find chapters and tons of research on that only. How can the whole time period of the grave be that easy and mainstream? One thing that I am sure of, after looking at nature closely, is that he has created everything far from mainstream. That’s just not his type. And I kinda like it that way. Boy, does it leave plenty to my imagination, and what a beautiful blessing the power of imagination is?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the review of chapter 2 of Dozakhnama. I’ll be back with the next chapter. Until then, Adios!