The underdog and the odd one out

Print edition : June 29, 2012

Remembering Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the greatest Urdu writers of the 20th century, on his birth centenary.

Prophet, outcast or pervert? How should one categorise the great Pakistani Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, whose 100th birth anniversary fell in May? If one were to take the opinion of the common reader and the common man, from whom some of Manto's most memorable characters were drawn, the first designation would be correct; if the advice of the official custodians of morality, religion and literature were to be sought, it would be the latter two. Yet it is this group who continue to keep Manto's memory alive, a hundred years on.

So who was this man, who, like that great Soviet writer Maxim Gorky (whose work Manto greatly admired and would later translate into Urdu) started his life almost like a tramp, could not pass the matriculation examination, which would have been his ticket into educated, cultured bourgeois society, despite attempting it twice, yet rose to become one of the greatest Urdu writers of the 20th century amid much personal tribulation and anguish and decided to drink his life away in a hurry at the age of 42? He was born into a respectable middle-class Kashmiri family of Ludhiana in 1912 and was the only son from his father's second wife (his father's first wife bore him three sons and seven daughters). Being the underdog and odd one out in his own family probably had something to do with Manto's later affinity with the underdog in his literary work.

Saadat Hasan Manto. His sympathy with the downtrodden and with the Bolshevik revolution can be traced to his encounter with the writings of such authors as Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Maxim Gorky.-MANTO FAMILY ARCHIVES

In his early twenties, Manto spent his time drinking, idling about with loafers and reading English novels; the latter brought him into contact with Bari Alig, a leftist writer and activist who quickly became Manto's mentor and encouraged him to read French and Russian classics and to translate them. Manto, by then already a small-time author, successfully translated into Urdu the work of such writers as Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Maxim Gorky. Manto's sympathy with the downtrodden and with the Bolshevik revolution can be traced to his encounter with these writings; in fact, some of his best writing consists of translations of Hugo and essays on the revolution and Gorky. Those who are unconvinced about or downplay his socialist sympathies should peruse Manto's earliest collection of short stories, Aatish Paray (Flakes of Fire, 1936), and Manto kay Afsanay (Stories of Manto, 1940), which he wrote under the influence of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA). The PWA had taken on the twin tasks of liberating society from both British colonial control and obscurantism.

The most powerful story in Aatish Paray is undoubtedly Lover of Revolution, which is partly autobiographical and chronicles the transformation of a carefree young man into a thoughtful person vexed at the plight of the downtrodden: They call me a madman, they whose pulse of life is dependent on the blood of others, they whose paradise has been built by bricks borrowed from the hell of the poor; every note of whose instrument of ostentatiousness is covered with the sighs of widows, the nakedness of orphans, and the mournful wails of orphaned children. Let them call me that, but a time is coming when these very people shrouded in poverty will write their curses dipped in the collective blood of their hearts upon the foreheads of these people. That time is near when the doors of earthly paradise will open for every man. I ask if I am in comfort, then why should you live a life of misery? Is this humanity then that I, being the owner of a factory, watch the dance of a new courtesan every evening, every day waste thousands of rupees in gambling, and spend money ceaselessly on my weakest desires; and my workers can't even afford one square meal; their children pine for an earthen toy. Then the fun is that that I am civilised, am respected everywhere, and those whose sweat prepares my pearls are seen with contempt in the social circle. I hate them myself, you tell me, aren't both these oppressors and oppressed unaware of their responsibilities? I want to make both of them aware of their responsibilities. But how to do it? I don't know.

His second short story collection is also political and contains such explicitly anti-colonial gems as New Law, but a sign of imminent rupture with the PWA is discernible in a talk he gave at Geshwari College, Bombay (now Mumbai), in 1944, later inserted as a preface to this collection, in which he made his views on the social realist literature championed by the Progressives explicit: The greatest confusion has arisen about this progressive literature, although it needn't have. Literature is either just that, otherwise it's not; Man is just that, otherwise he's not, but a donkey, a house, a table, or something else. It is said: Saadat Hasan Manto is a progressive human, what is this nonsense? Saadat Hasan Manto is human and every human should be progressive. By calling me progressive, people don't describe any quality of mine, but prove their badness, which means that they themselves are not progressive, that is, they themselves don't want progress. I desire progress in all fields of life. I want that you all should progress. A woman who works in the mill all day and goes to bed at peace in the night cannot be my story's heroine. My heroine could be a cheap prostitute who is awake all night and while sleeping in the day sometimes sits up after having a nightmare that old age has come knocking on her door. How could I bare a culture, civilisation and society that is already naked. I don't even try to clothe it because that's not my job, but of the tailors. People call me black-penned but I don't write on the blackboard with black chalk; I use white chalk so that the blackness of the board becomes even more evident.

Manto with his wife, Safia, and sister-in-law, Zakia.-MANTO FAMILY ARCHIVES

In a satirical short story titled Progressive, in which Manto assailed the notion of progressive writing as not having any relation to real life, he elaborated on his definition in the following words: Amrit Kaur asked, What is this dreaded Progressiveness?' Joginder Singh gave his head a slight movement along with his turban and replied, Progressiveness you won't understand its meaning straight away. A Progressive is one who likes progress. It is a Persian word. In English a Progressive is known as a radical; those short story writers who want progress in story writing, they are known as Progressive story writers. At this moment, in India there are only three or four Progressive story writers, of whom I am one.'

Soon after the success of these early collections of short stories, Manto got married, in a match arranged by his elder sister. The years leading up to the partition of India were spent in frequent oscillation between Bombay and Delhi in search of permanent work, and some of his best work, in the form of essays and radio plays, came in this period. This was also the time when he had his first three run-ins with British law over the publication of three stories, Black Shalwar, Smoke and Odour, that were deemed obscene, but he was never convicted.

The partition of India in 1947 shattered Manto personally and financially, but his best creative work was undoubtedly produced after his migration to Pakistan. It also transformed him from a consummate connoisseur of wine into an alcoholic. Had he remained in India, he may have become a great film scriptwriter, as his numerous Indian friends who stayed behind believed. But he could see no future for himself in a partitioned country beset by a murderous communal frenzy, and he had already sent his wife and children to Pakistan. He also thought that at least the new Muslim state would give him the sort of acceptance, respect and financial security that would be on a par with what he had got in undivided India. But the new ideological state closed its doors to him even before the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case of 1956, when the minuscule Communist Party was deemed enough of an ideological threat to the custodians of the nascent undemocratic state for them to ban it on a trumped-up charge of sedition. However, much before the state it was the PWA in Pakistan, led by his old comrade Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, that renewed its old duel with Manto and expelled him from that organisation for displaying excessive bad taste in satirising the events of Partition in his collection of sketches, aptly titled Black Margins, and for his even worse taste in having the ex-communist-turned-reactionary ideologue and literary critic Muhammad Hasan Askari write its preface. The biting sketches, which go to the very core of Partition, do not spare religion or politicians or even the common man caught up in that frenzied tragedy and deserve to be much better known than his more famous masterpiece Toba Tek Singh. Even socialism was not spared: When the fire broke out, the whole neighbourhood was razed just one shop was spared at whose front the following board was inscribed: Here every kind of building material is available' (Invitation to Action).

The crowd changed direction and leapt onto the statue of (the great Hindu philanthropist) Sir Ganga Ram with sticks, bricks and stones. Someone daubed the face in tar. Another collected dozens of old shoes and was about to crown the neck with a garland made up of them, but the police came and firing started. The person who wanted to garland the statue was injured, so for first aid he was sent to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (Shoe).

Please don't kill my adolescent daughter is front of my eyes.' Came the reply: Okay do as he says: take off her clothes and pull her over on one side' (Concession).

A news report has come in that to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi's assassination sweets were distributed in several places in Amritsar, Gwalior and Bombay (A Sweet Moment).

He's not dead look he is still alive.' Came the reply: Leave it, mate I'm tired' (Need for Rest).

He was loading all essential items in a truck to leave for another city when people stopped him on his way. Someone looking greedily at his loaded truck said, Look, mate, with what abandon is he helping himself to all that loot.' The owner smiled and said, Sir, these belongings are my own.' Two or three men laughed, We know it all.' Someone shouted, Rob it. He is a rich man and uses the truck to rob other people' (Socialism).

The dance performance ended. The audience left, and Ustad ji said, We had been robbed of everything on our way here, but by the grace of God we are now dealing in riches' (By His Grace).

I'm not at all prepared to become a Sikh give me back my razor (Steadfastness).

The rioters pushed out the house owner with great difficulty. He got up after dusting his clothes and said to the rioters, You can kill me but beware of touching my money' (Beware).

Brother, tell me quickly, who are you?' I I' Brother, son of the devil, hurry up' Hindu or Muslim?' Muslim' Brother who is your prophet?' Muhammad Khan' Okay you can go' (Pathanistan).

( Black Margins, Partition sketches, 1948)

Whether these morbid sketches were in bad taste or not, or were progressive or reactionary, one thing is clear: Manto refused to take sides in chronicling this tragedy, and in retrospect it can be said that he came to terms with Partition in a much better way than the Communist Party did, with its erroneous thesis of supporting the demand for a confessional country on the basis of religion rather than on the right of self-determination. Perhaps his writing reminded it of its own infantility. Be that as it may, Manto could not care less about being expelled from the Progressives' fold; he was a man in a hurry, and he had many battles to fight and masterpieces to write yet.

The custodians of morality and ideology arraigned him in court three more times in the early 1950s on account of the lewdness of Open It, Cold Meat, and Above, Below and In-Between. Again, these were largely show trials whose purpose was to discourage the master from writing altogether and to discourage others from similarly challenging the ideological and moral boundaries defined by the state. Manto managed to avoid prison, but these experiences, together with the trauma of Partition and the attitude of the religious-moral and literary custodians of the country to his work, contributed to his financial insecurity, his greater need for alcohol and the sharpening of his pen. Among its victims were Uncle Sam and the beards, twin cancers which have gnawed at the very foundation of Pakistan to date.

His prescient Letters to Uncle Sam were written in the early 1950s when the contours of Pakistan's foreign policy were just beginning to be shaped by an unconstitutional government. Although written in a bitingly satirical vein, they contain a remarkable overview of the history, politics, culture and international relations of the period as they affected not only Pakistan and India but the wider world as well.

First letter

In his First Letter, Manto not only takes a dig at the bloody tragedy of Partition but also compares his own poverty as that of Pakistan's great short story writers in a poor country with the ostentatious wealth of the U.S., which makes possible facial surgeries for the dead and opulent funerals for gangsters.

He writes: I am poor because my country is poor, I'm lucky to still get two meals a day by any means, but there are some other fellows of mine who are too poor to even deserve this. My country is poor why is it illiterate you know this very well Uncle, this is one mutual chord of yours and your brother Bill's which I don't want to pluck, because it will come down hard on your hearing. I'm writing this letter as an obedient nephew that's why I should perhaps remain obedient from start to finish. You will ask and ask with a lot of amazement why my country is poor when so many Packards, Buicks and Max Factors reach it from your country. My country's population which rides these Packards and Buicks is not my country; my country is that where me and those worse than myself live.

Second letter

The Second Letter throws interesting light on Uncle Sam's cultural politics during the Cold War, when it was trying to woo the best artists of the post-colonial world into supporting the jehad against the Soviet Union, and was exporting soft pornography to woo the illiterate masses to the American way of life. Manto was similarly approached, by the United States Embassy, to write an ostensibly partisan piece, and even after offering him a lucrative package, it failed to win Manto over because of his fiercely independent views despite his playful observation: As long as Pakistan needs wheat, I cannot be disrespectful to you, though as a Pakistani (despite the fact that my own government doesn't regard me as obedient) I pray that, God willing, one day you will also be in need of lentils and mustard and if I am alive till then, I could send some to you. The tone of his letters gets progressively harsher as he proceeds to chastise American capitalism, as manifested by its consumerist culture, and the various defence deals the U.S. conducted with both Pakistan and India, and the state of democracy in his own country.

Third letter

In his Third Letter, he offers his Uncle a tantalising proposal: Although you have millions and billions of nephews but you wouldn't find a nephew like me even in atomic light; do turn your attention here once in a while, just one interested gaze is enough. Just announce that your country, may God preserve it till world's end, will give military aid to my country (may God utterly wreck its distilleries) only if Saadat Hasan Manto is handed over to you.

A small, tiny atomic bomb I'll definitely demand from you, it's been a secret wish of mine since long that I should do one good deed in my life. You will ask, what is this good deed? You have done many good deeds though, and continue to do so; you wiped out Hiroshima, turned Nagasaki into smoke and dust as well as giving birth to millions of bastard American kids in Japan. I want to kill a dry-cleaner; some of our maulvis [clerics] here have a particular way of cleaning themselves after they urinate but what will you understand anyway it is like that after urinating they pick up a stone to clean themselves and reaching inside their shalwars while walking about throughout the bazaar openly dry-clean themselves. I just want that immediately after seeing such a person, I take out from my pocket the signature atomic bomb which you gift me and throw it at him so that he along with the stone blows up in smoke. The military pact with us is a great success, do stick to it. Over there with India you should also establish a similar relation, sell outdated weapons to both because you must have made redundant those weapons which you used in the last war. Your spare weaponry would be useful this way and your factories would not remain idle. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is a Kashmiri, do gift him a gun which goes off after being kept in the sun; I'm also a Kashmiri but a Muslim. I have already asked you for the tiny atomic bomb. One thing more the constitution has still not been framed here, for God's sake send us an expert from there as soon as possible. The country can do without an anthem; but not without a constitution. But if you want, it can, as the poet says: Whatever your miracle-working beauty wants, it does.'

Satire apart, Manto was probably the first observer to foresee early on America's disastrous foreign policy in various parts of the Muslim world in the 1950s and 1960s leading right up to the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan of assisting Islamist fundamentalist parties against the threat of rising communist and secular-nationalist forces, a process which has now come full circle with the unannounced execution of one of their own armed mullahs, Osama bin Laden, last year in Abbottabad.

Children rescued during Partition in a transit camp in east Punjab. The partition of India shattered Manto personally and financially, but his best creative work was undoubtedly produced after his migration to Pakistan.-THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Fourth letter

His foresight continues to dazzle with insight almost 60 years later in his Fourth Letter (which was posted in 1954): India may grovel before you a million times but will definitely make a military aid pact with Pakistan because you are really worried about the integrity of this largest Islamic sultanate of the world and why not, as our mullahs are the best antidote to Russia's communism. If the military aid starts flowing, you should begin by arming the mullahs and dispatch vintage American (dry-cleaning) stones, vintage American rosaries and vintage American prayer mats, with special attention to razors and scissors, and if you bless them with the miraculous prescription of vintage American hair dye as well then do understand that the cat is in the bag.

The purpose of military aid as far as I understand it is to arm these mullahs, I'm your Pakistani nephew but I am aware of all your machinations but this heightened intelligence is all thanks to your politics (God save it from the evil eye). If this sect of mullahs is armed American-style, then the Soviet Union will have to pick up its spittoon from here, even whose gargles are mixed up in communism and socialism. It is evident that you will try your best to raise the lower-lower and lower-middle classes; recruitment will begin from these two classes, but I'm telling you that our upper class is capable of accepting all types of dishonour because it has already had its eyes washed out in your laundries, but the lower-lower and lower-middle class will not tolerate any such thing.

Manto then moves on to satirise the All Pakistan Women's Association (APWA), an elitist organisation founded by Begum Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan, wife of the country's first (unelected) Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who also has the dubious distinction of banning the Communist Party of Pakistan and bringing the country firmly into the American camp during the Cold War. This organisation claimed to work for the rights of Pakistani women and may well have served as a model for the dozens of women's non-governmental organisations that mushroomed in the country after the demise of its worst dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq. He writes: Please produce similar legs (as in the American film Bathing Beauty) so that we can also make such a film in our only film studio Shahnoor and show to APWA members so that they should feel a bit happy. APWA is a strange thing we have created which is the interesting result of the leisure activities of the great wives and daughters of great men. It is the acronym of the All Pakistan Women's Association and there is no room for further abridgement but a struggle is going on still which you can view in their ever-shortening blouses. The APWA ones are always ready to think about shortening their dresses as long as someone gives them a well-tried prescription.

And here he is on the aesthetics of kissing: I would also like to say something to you about the kiss-proof lipstick which you had sent. It has spectacularly failed among our upper classes. Girls and ladies have observed that this is kiss-proof' in name only, but I think even the way they kiss is wrong. I have observed them during these acts, it seems as if they are eating a slice of watermelon please send an American lady via air immediately who will make the difference between eating a melon slice and kissing totally clear to our upper class.

Fifth letter

In his Fifth Letter, he brilliantly exposes America's pretensions to maintaining world peace even after acquiring the capability to make hydrogen bombs: I have heard that you have made the hydrogen bomb just so that there should be absolute world peace. Although God knows better, but I am sure of what you say because I have eaten your wheat and, after all, I'm your nephew. Although the young should readily obey the elderly, but I ask you if you did succeed in establishing world peace, wouldn't the world become a smaller space? I mean so many countries would be wiped off the face of the earth. My school-going niece was asking me yesterday to draw a world map, I told her, not now, first let me talk to Uncle; I will ask him which country will remain and which will not, then I will draw it. For God's sake, first of all, blow up Russia, for I hate it like anything. Regarding your decision to give military aid to Pakistan and other problems of the Far East over which you have disagreements with India and which Pandit Nehru had severely criticised a few days ago, I have heard that as a reaction to this your country is progressing towards a new strategy, some even think that America is trying a bit too hard in reassuring India of its aims. As far as I understand, by keeping Pakistan and India happy your sole objective is that wherever the flickering lamp of freedom and democracy is burning, it should not be extinguished by blowing it but should be oiled. In fact, drowned in oil so that it never again complains of being thirsty isn't it so dear Uncle? You want to see Pakistan sovereign because you deeply love the Khyber Pass from where invaders have been attacking us for centuries. In fact, the Khyber Pass is also really very beautiful; does Pakistan really possess anything else more beautiful? And India you want to see being sovereign so because you are always wary seeing Russia's aggressive activities in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Korea lest this red republic begin working hammers and sickles in India too. Obviously, if India loses its sovereignty, God forbid, it will be a big tragedy you would start trembling just visualising it.

Seventh letter

While the Sixth Letter got lost in the post (Manto cheekily blamed the communists for this misdeed in his Eighth Letter), Manto's Seventh Letter makes fun of America's Cold War obsession with communism (this was still a few years before 1956, when the Communist Party was banned in Pakistan) and offers a subversive suggestion: But this secret is now no longer one that in my country Pakistan communism is spreading swiftly. What should I hide from you? Sometimes, I also wish to become a Red by sticking red feathers to myself. In a passage which could have been written in the last couple of years, Manto offers some equally subversive remedies for America's financial crises, remarkably prescient if one looks at the state of that country today, as well as of Europe, and those with which John Maynard Keynes would have heartily agreed: Dear Uncle, I have heard a very disquieting news that your trade and commerce is passing through a very delicate period. You are wise by the grace of God, but please do also heed a fool's words. This trade and commercial crisis has only happened because you stopped the Korean War. This was a big mistake. Now it's up to you to think where will your tanks, bomber jets and guns be sold. Undoubtedly, the strong opposition of world public opinion has forced you to stop the war, but what does world public opinion matter to you? I mean how can the whole world confront your lone hydrogen bomb? You have stopped the Korean War. This is a big mistake but anyhow leave it. You should start a war between India and Pakistan. I dare you, if the benefits from the Korean War are not upended by the benefits of this particular war, then I won't ever have the right to be your nephew. Please do think, this war will be such profitable trade, all your armaments factories will begin to work on double shifts. India will buy weapons from you, and so will Pakistan. Your five fingers dipped in oil and your head in the frying pan. By the way, please continue with the Sino-Indian war. Keep advising people that this is very noble work. The French people and French government can go to hell, if they are against this war so be it. We should not care about it. After all, our objective is to create world peace, right dear Uncle? I really like what your Mr Dulles said that the free world's objective is to defeat communism this is the freedom-laden language of the hydrogen bomb.

Eighth letter

Manto's Eighth Letter to Uncle Sam pokes light fun at the Soviet Union, and he reserves his sharpest pen for Saudi Arabia (and by extension organised religion), with whom Pakistan's ruling elite forged a close relationship, to the detriment of both its politics and culture in subsequent years. Here is Manto on the Soviet Union: One day that unfortunate (the communist poet Ahmad Rahi) began to say to me that you should leave Uncle Sam and initiate correspondence with Malenkov; after all he is your maternal uncle. I said this is true but he is my step-uncle; he can never love me nor I him. In addition, I know that he doesn't treat his own real nephews so well too, those poor people are willing to lay down their lives for him and love him deeply. Clad in rags, despite their hardships they serve him and all he does is just to dispatch a dry appreciation by affixing a red stamp. English uncles, paternal and maternal, were a million times better than this Russian uncle. At least they used to pretend to elevate by bestowing such titles like Sir, Khan Bahadur and Khan Sahib; but Mr Malenkov doesn't even do this. I will only be convinced if they just give some kind of small title to Abdullah Malik, who is their most faithful nephew. How convenient it will be for him to go to jail and write books with ease and comfort.

On Saudi Arabia: I am recounting briefly the eyewitness and earheard account of Saudi King Saud's Mecca. He reached Karachi via aircraft along with his 25 princes, where he was heartily welcomed. He has other princes too; I don't know why they didn't come, maybe because two or three additional aircraft would be required for the purpose; or maybe they are very young and they prefer their mother's lap to the aircraft. It's true: how can children brought up on their mothers' and she-camels' milk survive on Glaxo and Cow Gate dried milk. Dear Uncle! It is thoughtful that if King Saud had with him his 25 sons, by God's grace, only God knows how many girls there would be, may God give them long life, and save the King from the evil eye. Tell me that in your state of seven freedoms is there any such iron man who has so many children? Dear Uncle! This is all courtesy our religion Islam and this high honour was given to whoever got it. In my humble opinion, you should immediately declare Islam your state religion. It will have a lot of advantages. Nearly every married man would be allowed to marry four times. If a woman gives birth to four children, even with a lot of miserliness, by this rule then sixteen boys and girls should be proof of a man's manliness and a woman's fertility. Boys and girls can be so useful in wartime. You are worldly-wise, you know better. If initially your married men have any type of problem handling four wives simultaneously, you can invite King Saud here to make use of his services. You are his friend; you and his late father were bosom buddies. I heard that you arranged a caravan of very grand cars as a gift for him and his harem. I think that King Saud will tell you all his presidential prescriptions. Nearly every country except India and Russia is taking an interest in Pakistan these days and it is all a result of your kindnesses that you have extended a hand of friendship and cooperation towards us; and we became so capable that others also began to view us kindly. We, Pakistanis, are ready to die for Islam. King Saud was feted along with his 22 or 25 princes in Government House, where all married and unmarried girls and women of high society participated. Cigarette-smoking was not permitted; not even for (Crown-Prince) Abdullah, however he is very safe without the cigarette smoke and he received this privilege owing to his vintage Islamic hospitality. His two dozen princes bought several Pakistani shoes in the Anarkali bazaar and gave a proof of their solidarity and good wishes. Now these shoes will walk on the sands of the Arabian Desert and imprint the temporary stamps of their longevity.

July 16, 1945: The U.S. test-fired its new atomic weapon deep in the northern New Mexico desert. A few weeks later, it dropped the bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In his "Third Letter" Manto says: "...You [the U.S.] have done many good deeds though, and continue to do so; you wiped out Hiroshima, turned Nagasaki into smoke and dust...."-AFP/H.O./LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY

Ninth letter

In his Ninth Letter, the final one, Manto satirises some prominent journalists on the payroll of the government and America during the Cold War while passionately trying to prove his anti-communist and pro-American credentials: Just observe his (Marxist intellectual Sibte Hasan's) arrogance, he says that Saadat you yourself are a communist whether you accept or not. Dear Uncle, this letter will soon pass through your eyes, I assure you with your seven freedoms and your dollars as my witness that I was never a communist nor I am one still, this is just a prank by Sibte Hasan, a very Red one, hell-bent on spoiling my relations with you. As you know I am ever faithful to you. I want to reassure you that I am not a communist, maybe I become a Qadiani but I will never become a communist because these oafs just make do by a lot of talking shop and never really spend anything if they have to. Well same goes for Qadianis but at least they are Pakistanis and apart from that I don't want to spoil my relations with them because I know that you will need a prophet immediately after your hydrogen bomb tests, who can only be supplied by (Qadiani leader) Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud. I have heard an announcement by the government of Iraq today that you have agreed to give military aid to this Islamic country as well; I have also come to know that the aid will be unconditional. Dear Uncle! If you were near me I would have kissed your feet, may God perpetuate you forever. Your kindnesses to the Islamic countries are ample proof that you are about to embrace Islam very soon. Japanese scientists have just revealed in an announcement that hydrogen bombs also affect the weather, reason being that you have recently tested this bomb in the Marshall Islands. These people say that Japan's weather was affected such that despite the end of April, they are still experiencing extreme cold, I don't know why those flat-looking Japanese don't like winter. We, Pakistanis, love it, can you please drop a hydrogen bomb over India? Summer has already begun here and if the weather turns cold, I will be in great comfort.

Reading these words today, one gets the feeling that Manto had envisioned today's headlines, not only in terms of the relationship of Pakistan and India with Uncle Sam but even the threat of nuclear proliferation. As I write this, the newspaper headlines scream out: Pakistan, U.S. exploring joint ownership of drone attacks; U.S. apology further delayed; U.S. describes India as a responsible N-state; Pragmatism (in Pakistan-U.S. ties) is the name of the game; and Drone strikes will continue: Panetta. What more proof does one need of the continuing dominance of Uncle Sam in subcontinental affairs, which Manto foresaw with such perspicacity in the middle of the last century?

Note: All the translations of Manto (from the original Urdu) are Raza Naeem's.

Raza Naeem is an independent writer living in Lahore and is at present working on a book on the crisis of bourgeois democracy in Pakistan.

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