Pre-Independent Bombay – Saadat Hasan Manto

If Manto was a photographer, his pictures would be high contrast, gritty and harshly lit. No staged lights with careful lighting and high heeled muses. His lens would always be trained towards the shadows and blurs that bring vitality to a picture. Pixelated freezes that don’t run after definition, but moments, slurring vignettes of human emotions.

Manto’s life is as colorful as his stories. Bombay Stories, is a collection of his short stories set in pre-independence Bombay, mainly written as wistful recollections of the time he spent in Bombay before moving to Lahore after the Partition. The stories are filled with pimps, prostitutes, thugs and drunks. The stories are briskly told, sometimes by a complicit writer, who inserts himself into the narrative with self deprecating humor.

The stories deal with refreshing honesty about jealousy, debauchery and disregard. Many of his stories present glimpses of human nature that huge tomes cannot convey.

Why does Khushiya feel incapacitated by his whore’s indifference to his presence while naked? Is Siraj a lover or avenger? Does Moezelle care?

Life is a great storyteller. Manto a close second.

If I write more, I wont stay true to his ethos of brevity.

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