‘Bu’ or ‘Smell’

Saadat Hasan Manto translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon

Read time: about 2 minutes

Before the eyebrows raise, I want to make it very clear! I have read Manto before and yes, I have read Toba Tek Singh. It has just been a long time and I wanted to read another story by the author hence I picked this one. The title of the story reads ‘Smell’ but I still like it’s Hindu version better. ‘Bu’ talks a lot about other things than just smell. Bu is a remembrance, a reminiscent of an era gone by. I absolutely loved the title.

Cover: ‘Bu’ or ‘Smell’

Coming to the story, this one is entirely different from ‘Toba Tek Singh’ that many know Manto for. It is a story of a young man. It is raining and there is a certain whiff in the air that comes with the rain. Randheer is reminded of his earlier days. The time spent in Bombay with various girls that he came across. There is a gay remembrance of the British times and the brothels he used to visit in Fort, Bombay. But things changed. Two problems arose. Christian girls were no longer readily available and

Although enviably suave and well mannered, educated, in good health, and quiet a bit more handsome than most young men, he was barred from practically all the brothels of the Fort area. After all, he was not a gora.

Days were going by pining for an encounter with a woman when one day during the rains of Bombay he saw a young girl standing under a tree. The girl was wet and Randheer pitied her. He invited her in and gave her clothes to change into. One thing led to another. It was a great intimate encounter that Randheer still remembers. The episode transpired and was long forgotten.

Now on his bed lies another woman- his wife. She has beautiful milky white skin but it is not the same.

In one last attempt, Randheer ran his hand over the girl’s milky white body but felt no tremor. His new bride, the daughter of a distinguished magistrate, with a bachelor’s degree, the heartthrob of countless boys at her college, failed to rouse her husband’s passion.

On days like these, while it’s raining, Randheer is reminded of the passion that he felt one rainy day for a dark skinned girl, like Bu in the air.

I found this story in an anthology of erotic Indian writings edited by Amrita Narayanan. The book is called ‘The Parrots of Desire’ published by Aleph Book Company.

Go ahead and read the story for yourself to find out what exactly it is. Also, join us in the journey of reading one book a day. You could even send us short stories or just their names, to review!

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com