This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by K. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Remembering Manto, A Brilliant, Playful, But Deeply Wounded Man

More from K

By Kabir Sharma

Saadat Hasan Manto wasn’t just one of the greatest writers of all time; he was a revolutionary and daredevil. Relentlessly bringing up truths nobody else had the guts to, he forced society to confront itself, causing it great discomfort. His writing will forever remain the crushing and inescapable force it was made to be.


A fresh collection of essays, ‘Why I Write: Essays By Saadat Hasan Manto’, edited and translated from Urdu by Aakar Patel, strings together the breadth of his writing – humorous, sarcastic, appealing, and attacking. All but two of the essays have been brought into English for the first time. Aakar Patel has chosen and organised them very well, showcasing the development of Manto’s many facets. The annotations to each essay are most insightful, and build excellent context.

Following the essays, one sees how dealing with the world gradually began to change Manto and his writing. The jocose Manto became darker with time, as people got divided and violence escalated. His wit never dies out though, and even towards the end, comes through in his funny anecdotes and shattering sarcasm.

The collection starts out with lighter, more personal pieces by a younger Manto, giving glimpses into his own life in the press and movie world of 1930s Bombay. How he slept in his office to save money, how his mother found him a wife against all odds, how much of Bollywood’s who’s who came for his wedding even though they hardly knew him, and how his wife’s financial concerns got him to write more.

The hilarious scenes he creates to make his point on much-debated issues of the time are unforgettable. Two such, lampooning the arms race and the Hindi-Urdu debate, had me laughing loudly sitting in the metro.

Things which had no humour in them, he wrote about with honesty and clarity. The essays on the riots in Bombay give first-hand observations. Different stories of people caught inside and outside the mobs: survival and death, murder, humanity and continuity. He attacks leaders causing the violence face-on.

Soon after the partition, Manto had to leave Bombay and move to Pakistan. But in his heart, he could never leave the country and city he loved.

He was deeply pained by the superficial changes he saw on the streets of Lahore. Looking at the unending violence everyone believed would be over after the partition, he warned people even then to expect “an era of barbarism” if the psyche of violence was not resolved sensitively and psychologically.

Praise the lord, we can find neither poet nor musician“, he says in a brilliant satire on the government’s crackdown on free thought. It rings true all across the world even today.

book cover- essays by mantoManto was tried a number of times as his writing was regularly deemed obscene. In talking about the trials and the ‘bizarre’ courts he hoped nobody else would ever have to go to, a certain humour returns to his writing. He jokes with the police, and complains about all the arduous travelling the trials required- thanking only beer for making the journeys sufferable.

So called moralists never stopped lashing out at him. “Take him away Lord… He has little use for it (the world). He eschews the fragrances of Your world and runs towards its odours. He shuts his eyes when faced with light and goes in search of dark corners. Sweet things he dislikes, he delights in the bitter… He bathes in filth. When we cry, he giggles. When one is meant to laugh, he howls. He’s forsaken you, Lord, and worships the devil,” he imagines them to be praying in the haunting essay ‘The Background’.

Too true for a world not willing to question or be questioned, made to believe it could do and forget (much like our own); he drank himself to death at the age of 42.

The essays are a look inside a brilliant, playful, hopeful, but deeply wounded man. Inside a mind that wrote to shake us, to forever remind and bother us with the astounding loss of conscience it lived through. Manto, inexorably honest and humane: responding to a world which was neither.

You must be to comment.

More from K

Similar Posts

By Rapti Mukherjee

By varun pratap

By Love Matters India

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below