The pity of Partition is not that a country was split,but that human beings of both sides became slaves of passion and barbarity.
This is how acclaimed Pakistani-American author and historian Ayesha Jalal highlighted the pangs of Partition,juxtaposing it with the life of renowned Urdu short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto at the first distinguished lecture series organised by Nalanda University at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in the city.
Jalal spoke at length on The Pity of Partition: Manto as Witness to History,deftly playing up the content of Mantos work and the trajectory of his life.
The grandniece of Manto drew heavily from her yet-to-be-released work,The Pity of Partition: Mantos Life,Times and Work Across the India Pakistan Divide (Princeton University Press,forthcoming March 2013).
Jalal said the pity of Partition also lies in the modification of the iconic Urdu writers epitaph.
He had originally chosen these lines: In the name of God,the Compassionate,the Merciful,here lies Saadat Hassan Manto and with him lie buried all the secrets of the art of storytelling in his breast. Weighed down by the earth he wonders still: Who is the greater writer,God or he?
His bereaved family,worried about public opinion,turned it into: Here lies buried Manto who still believes that he was not the final word on the face of the earth.
It was taken from a Mirza Ghalib couplet.
Manto has always been a controversial figure,who repeatedly faced charges of obscenity. But Jalal,the Mary Richardson Professor of History in Tufts University,Boston,chose to speak about the human side of the man.
Be it his kabaddi games during Holi,the heartbreak after losing his first child (a year-old son),his deep friendship with actors Ashok Kumar and Sunder Shyam Chadha and his sibling-like affection for fellow writer Ismat Chughtai.
Peppered with humorous anecdotes that highlighted Mantos signature wit,Jalal revealed his relationship with his friends.
Partition and the decision to leave Bombay,his home for 12 years,for Lahore proved to be the defining moments of the authors life. Manto suddenly found everything seemed futile,the present and future had become pointless,Jalal said.
The experience of Partition became the livewire of his finest short stories acclaimed even today.