Art blends with mystic notes in Mumbai
Feb 04 2013 , Mumbai
The dreamlike romance of the place was awakened by a Saadat Hussain Manto reading session by the bards of passion — ‘Urduwallahs’ in David Sasoon Library garden at Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai. The magic was heightened by an old soul in feline form, his head swaying from side to side, his greyish black exterior shining like armour, his frayed whiskers and his greenish eyes, clear and steady seemed to pierce to the very roots of the audience’s hearts.
The crowd’s sensibility was palpable; the word that filled the air was “nostalgia”, a journey to the depths of depravity, insecurity and the many ironies during the partition of British India, snaking through the wide alleys of Manto’s humanity and radicalism. It was also a sort of journey to the heart of a de-centred individual with a progressive view of life, intolerant of hypocrisies of the then prevailing society.
“Society is anyways naked, we do not need to live by its rules,” he had said. No wonder, Manto was tried for obscenity six times, thrice before 1947 and thrice after 1947 in Pakistan, but never convicted. He wrote about queer intimacies in his stories such as Bu (smell) and Thanda gosht (cold flesh) much before it became acceptable norm even in the western world.
“That he could be a rascal and at the same time an honourable man is intriguing. He could find out the purity of heart in a woman in brothel,” said a member of ‘Urduwallahs’. After about an hour of book reading, clippings of Manto’s movies and his family snaps, the panellists announced a break for five minutes where audience could pick up knickknacks related with Manto such as bookmarks, candles among others and his book of short stories.
There was also a corner for a session on Urdu calligraphy. And thus with constantly receding horizons, sensitivity and boldness, and lot of ‘tehzeeb’ (refinement) Manto ended a mystical evening.