Manto's daughter says
We don’t want to cash in on Manto: Nighat Manto
TALKING MANTO BY NAILA INAYAT
Born in 1946 in Bombay, Saadat Hasan Manto’s eldest daughter, 65-years-old, Nighat Manto now lives at Manto House---a flat Manto lived last years of his life---at Lakshmi Mansions off Lahore’s famous The Mall. This neighbourhood was once packed with noted academics and intellectuals.
Nighat has been living here for the last 11 years now. “This house was renovated and I moved in along with my husband,” she says.
Just to ease into the conversation I ask Nighat, “Which daughter was Manto’s favourite?”
“I don’t remember exactly if he had any favourites, or life didn’t give him a chance to make a favourite,” she replies with a straight face.
On asking how much does she remember of her father she says, “We never spent time with him, all we know of him is through books and others, we can’t say we were close to him, how do you expect a-nine-year-old to remember little things.”
Nighat regrets the early loss of Manto, “If he was alive he would have had different plans for us like any father has for his children. We are unfortunate that we lost him so early.”
Following is an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Viewpoint:
Tell us about yourself and your siblings. Manto fans generally know very little about his family.
Nighat Manto: How come? (she asks with surprise), the younger fans must be unaware but the older generation knows nitty gritty of Manto’s family through his writings as well. In fact the hardcore fans of his know things that even we might not know.
We are three daughters, Nuzhat, Nusrat and I am the eldest. Our mother was a simple housewife. We were pretty young when he passed away. I was 9, Nuzhat was 7 and Nusrat was 5.
Manto died young and all of you were in your infancy. How did your family survive?
Honestly, we don’t remember much of the entire fallout. I would say we were protected by our family. It was our grandmother who became the support-system of my mother. She fought with us through thick and thin, and later Hamid Jalal (Manto’s nephew) and our maternal and paternal aunts who were living on the top flats supported us.
Our family has been very united, whatever problems the family faced after father’s death were amicably resolved by the elders. We as infants were never really troubled by the family issues. But definitely it is later on we realized what consequences his death had.
Tell us about your mother. From Manto’s writings, it appears he loved her. How did she brave through a harsh life that befell Manto family when it moved to Pakistan?
Yes he loved her a lot. You see this photo in the background (she points at Safiyah’s photo frame). Aba used to make her pose; he ironed her saris and then stylishly photographed her.
Our father was very strong, in every way, but our mother was very innocent. She was so simple that she often did not understand what Manto wrote. Aba separately wrote down short stories and explained them to her. This is what our mother told us because as I said we have blurring impressions of the man. Like our mother told us that he loved gajjar ka halwa or certain expressions that he made at a certain point.
And like any other wife who loses her husband, it would have been tough for her. But she never shared with anyone what she went through.
For Safiyah what the government of Pakistan did was more painful than his death. None of his published stories was rewarded. When my mother used to stop her from drinking Aba would say, “Safu gee tanu gadi wi koi masla nai huey ga” (you will never face any financial issues). He thought he was leaving so much behind that the family would never ever face any trouble but he was always banned. And interestingly, that’s still the case.
Are you referring to the modern-day TV plays?
Yes, today’s TV plays are showing everything, from physical intimacy to bold storylines. But none of his plays is adapted on TV. Ptv has done a few but none was a quality production. I don’t understand why anybody doesn’t want to do a Manto play – is it because of the ban that people are afraid to work on him. His story ‘Bu’ is so powerful, you get involved in its script, and I don’t see any vulgarity in it.
The epitaph on Manto’s grave is not the one we often read about. Why, who and when the epitaph was replaced?
The words on his epitaph are his own: “Here lies buried Saadat Hasan Manto in whose bosom are enshrined all the secrets and art of short story writing. Buried under mounds of earth, even now he is contemplating whether he is a greater short story writer or God.”
But all the words are not seen on it anymore, my phuphoo (paternal aunt) who was an opposite of my Aba, she was the one who replaced it, thinking that it would have serious consequences if it was left as it was.
So the epitaph today reads: “Here lies buried Manto who still believes that he was not the final word on the face of the earth.”
Manto all his life complained about greedy publishers. What happened after his death. Did anybody pay your family any royalties?
That creed of publishers is still there isn’t it? No one paid any royalty. It was later on when Sang-e-Meel published his works that the royalties were paid. My mother asked help from a lot of literary personalities too, like Ashfaq Ahmed but nobody helped. Our uncle, aunt and grandmother were the ones who helped us financially. One thing should be remembered here, Manto wasn’t a lota he didn’t change with the changing government like others did.
Manto’s centenary has by and large been ignored by literary circles, media and official circles. Why this neglect? And if your family is planning to do anything in this regard?
Yes this is his centenary so a lot of events will be organised around that time. And I don’t blame the media for ignoring him, actually we as daughters don’t want to cash in on our father. This is one thing that we have him with us, we just don’t want to cash on his achievements, and it’s not that we can’t but we don’t want to!
On his centenary, historian and sociologist Ayesha Jalal is writing Manto’s biography. My younger sister Nusrat is working with Ayesha Jalal.
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 10 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 10 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 11 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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