Exchange of Lunatics

Saadat Hasan Manto, translated from Urdu by Khushwant Singh

Read time: about 2 minutes

It hasn’t been long since I came across the name of Saadat Hasan Manto; thanks to #365Stories. I also recently watched a (very) short film called In Defence Of Freedom – A Short Film on Manto starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui. I was intrigued.

When the name came up in the book I was reading, I was like, ‘OK, so I get a Manto story to review as well!’

This story… well, I think this story is a satire. It’s about the whole idea of the partition of India and Pakistan.

There’s an insane asylum in Lahore, which has Hindu, Muslim and Sikh inmates. The description somehow strangely seems as though mocking at the systems in both the countries, as well as the whole concept of the partition itself.

The inmates, obviously, behave in their strange, insane ways, including trying to understand the rationale behind the partition. None of them is sure of the reason and everyone deals with it in their own ways.

The focus is on Bishen Singh, a farmer from the village of Toba Tek Singh. He keeps mouthing abuses in a mixture of Punjabi, Urdu and English. That’s just what he keeps saying all the time. He doesn’t recognize his daughter, he doesn’t know whether his village is in India or in Pakistan. And there’s a lot more in his mind.

The day comes when non-Muslim inmates of the asylum are transported to India. Bishen Singh is one among them. Upon crossing the border, he gets out of the bus, and refuses to stay in India, because he learns that his village is actually in Pakistan. However, Pakistan wouldn’t accept him. So he stands at the border near the barbed fence. For fifteen years. Day and night. And then, he lets out a scream just before the sunrise. He falls off to the other side of the barbed fence, into the no man’s land, face down.

This story is part of the collection called, Our Favourite Indian Stories.

Join with us and read one short story a day; it’s a good habit! You can even suggest stories that you’d like us to read.

Have a good one, everybody!

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Ram Iyer

Writer, PowerShell addict, typographer, self-acclaimed rationalist.

Bangalore, KA ramiyer.me