May 11 marks the birth centenary of the modern Urdu writer, Saadat Hasan Manto. Born in India in 1912, he died in Pakistan 43 years later. Manto's most enduring literary legacy were his stories — some just a few lines long — on the violence against innocent Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in the aftermath of Partition.
His stories were about the Punjab in 1947. But they could be about Delhi, 1984, or Gujarat, 2002. The Hindu presents three of his stories, translated into English by Kuldeep Kumar.
1. Prior Arrangement
The first incident took place near the barricade. A constable was immediately posted there.
The very next day, another incident took place in front of the store. The constable was shifted to where the second incident had taken place.
The third incident happened near the laundry at midnight. When the Inspector ordered the constable to move to the new place, he took a few minutes before making the request: “Please depute me to that spot where the next incident is going to take place.”
“Please don't kill my young daughter in front of me...”
“OK...let's accept his request...take off her clothes and push her to the other side..”
The knife ripped the stomach open beyond the navel, and the belt was cut. All of a sudden, the attacker was full of regret. “Oh...I have committed a mishtek.”