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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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The Family of Manto

By Dr. Brij Premi

- Translated from original Urdu text by Prof. ML Koul

There are no two opinions about the Kashmiri origins of Sadat Hasan Mantoo. His father from his externals demonstrably appeared to be a Kashmiri. Dressed in a coat with a buttoned up collar, a Kashmiri-style turbon on his head and flaunting a dyed-up beared he would drag the Kashmiri labourers working in the Punjab to his sitting room and lovingly tell them, 'I am also a Kashmiri'.

In his myriad writings Mantoo too has proudly written about his Kashmiri origins and even accepted the label of 'hato' with all its insulting sting that, feudalistic people low in culture would frequently hurl at Kashmiris. In fact, it never instilled a feeling of inferiority in his psyche. He writes:-

'I am a Kashmiri—a hato'.

All his life he craved for Kashmir.

In a letter he yearns for a life in Kashmir and that emotive yearning was deeply buried in his sub-conscious. He felt it perpetually biting him like a venomous snake and its expression is found variedly expressed in his writings.

It was during 19th century that his family shifted to Punjab. It like many other Kashmiris lived off the Shawlbaf trade. The ancestor of the family, Rahmat Allah, settled at Lahore and later on shifted to Amritsar permanently with the design of expanding his trade. The family continued living at Amritsar for generations together. When Sadat Hasan Manto came to consciousness, Mantoos had set up a separate mohalla for themselves and was known as the Mohalla of lawyers. The reason for such a nomenclature was that the family had taken up law as their profession and had bidden farewell to the shawl-selling vocation.

Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was in ascendancy when the family-ancestor settled at Amritsar permanently. Amritsar had assumed greater importance than Lahore because of the holy shrine of Darbar Sahib. Amritsar had importance because it was a trade centre. Khwaja Rahmat Allah had not confined his economic activities only to shawl, but had started dealing in pashmina too. In his travels Moorecraft has made a special mention of Kashmiris busy in Pashmina trade. Moorecraft writes:-

Amritsar is a shawl producing centre...This industry appears to have been pushed up by Kashmiris who had fled their land due to Afghan tyranny much before the Sikh occupation of Kashmir (Travels).

In the times of Rahmat Allah Pashmina-weaving was a profitable business. After him his family expanded the business limit with lot many efforts. Khwaja Jamal-ud-Din, the grandson of RahmatAllah, expanded the business beyond the precincts of Amritsar to Lahore and Bombay. But, by this time the English had consolidated their rule and their intervention had caused a set-back to the Indian handicrafts. Pashmina-weaving too came under the adverse impact. The Mantoo-family also got crisis-ridden and by and by the family wound up its trade and diverted to legal profession.

Khwaja Abdul Gani son of Khwaja Jamal-ud-Din was the first to divert to the legal profession and he came to be an appeal-writer. Second son, Khwaja Miya Assadullah, duly studied law and rose to be a lawyer and earned a fair name as a good lawyer at Amritsar. But, major than this, he earned his name for service to the Muslim community. He had deeper sympathies for the Muslims and wanted Muslim boys and girls to be properly initiated in religious education. This sentiment he disseminated even in the Muslim elite of the city. He set up the Muslim Anjuman for the welfare of Muslims and founded a M.O. High School of Muslim learners. It was here in the same school where Sadat Hasan Mantoo was initiated in formal education. Mian Asaad Ullah acted as the general secretary of the Anjuman nearly all his life and earned the respectable name of Ustad Jee' from his contemporaries in view of his discerning abilities and community sentiment. The tradition goes that at Amritsar two alleys carried the names of Mian Assad Ullah Vakil. Jamal-ud-Din's third son, Mian Habib Ullah, was an attorney and his fourth son, despite all efforts, could not pursue the legal profession. He was pious and religious minded and held propagation of Islam as his fore most duty. It is said about him that he was extremely fearless, honest and sensitive as a person and perhaps he was the first among Muslims who lectured on the greatness of Islam and countered the Christian preachers and propagandists. What he did was of far-reaching consequences. This alone did not satisfy him. He issued religious journals which focussed on the  reality of Jihad and research on Islam. He studied the Bible carefully and gained expertise in it. The breadth of his studies helped in a large measure to fulfill his religious obligations which he deemed very much as sacred.

The youngest son of Molvi Jamal-ud-Din was Molvi Ghulam Hassan who happened to be the father of Sadat Hasan Mantoo. He was a Munsiff by vocation and later on rose to be a sub judge. Like his ancestors Molvi Sahib was equally religious and literally followed all rituals and obligations. He passed away on  3rd February 1932 at the ripe age of seventy. At the time of his death Sadat Hasan was just twenty. Molvi Ghulam Hasan was married twice. From his first wife, Jan Bibi, he had nine issues in all. Three sons were Khwaja Allah Mohammad Hassan, Khwaja Sayyid Hassan and Khwaja Salim Hasan out of whom the first two sons had studied higher levels of law for Bar-at-Law. Both of them had shifted from Amritsar to Lahore during the repressive days of martial-law. It was during this very period when a famous political leader and freedom fighter of undivided India, Saif-ud-Din Kitchloo was framed up in the notorious Amritsar conspiracy case. Dr. Kitchloo had Kashmiri origins and was closely related to the Mantoo family. Khwaja Mohammad Hasan and Khwaja Sayyid Hasan pleaded his case. The former was the assistant editor of a law journal and the latter was Vice-Principal of the Lahore College. Both the brothers performed their duties with dedication and honesty for years on end and afterwards sailed for Africa where they set up an independent legal consultancy 'Hasan and Hassan'. The consultancy gained lot of reputation for providing legal services. Meanwhile, Sayyid Hasan had to sail for London in connection with a legal case involving Privy Council. There he cultivated contacts with the Fijian Muslim League to the invitation which the Mantoo brothers decided to run their legal consultancy business.

That is how they settled in Fiji and pursued their legal profession. Before settling in Fiji they practised law at Bombay for a short time. Manto has made a mention of it at many a place, though not directly. A character of Mantoo, Ram Khalan, lisps the name of Sayyid Hasan as Saayid Shallam Balishter.

The legal practice of Manto Brothers flourished in the Fiji Island. By and by they started interacting with the spectrum of the Fijian society. Sayyid Hasan was appointed as the senior member of the Legislative Council and exercised influence over the Fijian politics and administrative affairs. It benefited the Fijian immigrants in a large measure. Al-Haj Mohammad Hasan was a pious and religious-minded person. His observation was that the Fijian Muslims were only statistical Muslims indifferent to Islam. He got the holy  Quran translated into the local dialect and throughout his stay in the Island he preached and propagated Islam.

Saddat Hasan was a shade different from his brothers. He was born as a rebel. He was neither a believer nor pious in terms of religion. He had his own, characteristic views about life, religion and ethics. While comparing Sadat with his brothers Krishen Chander jots down—

'He has seen his elder brother-wearing a Shariat-dictated beard, believer, pious and Namazi Musalman. Manto is all that has nothing in common with them. He respects his elders, but does not love them. In matters of courtesy, ethics and world-view he was entirely different from them and traversed a separate trajectory contrary to them and therefore had abandoned his home right in his childhood'.

Builders of New Literature:

Mantoo lived the stark bitterness of life. In his childhood days only he had lived the hideous miseries of life and had borne the harsh temperament of his father. He had also tasted the love-lessness of his brothers. Mantoo had keenly observed the nudities of life in contrast to his brothers whose scholarship was limited to religion and law. He respected his brothers but was in no way emotionally involved with them. His brother, Sayyid Hasan, had stayed with him at Bombay and was unhappy with the manner and style of his life and had judged him as a 'stray'. Mantoo has depicted it fearlessly and for this he has earned disdain both from his admirers and critics.

He writes:

"They in reality had spent their lives within the parameters set by law-books. They fought and pleaded for cases all through their tenor of lives in Lahore, Bombay and Fiji and South of Africa. They are unaware of the tinsel world of Bollywood and know little about its lovers and beloveds. That is why they took to their heels and took refuge in the Khilafat house" (Noor Jehan).

Molvi Ghulam Hasan's second spouse, Choti Begum, was Mantoo's mother. She hailed from Kabul and bore the name of Sardar Begum. It was from Kabul that her family had migrated to Lahore. Sardar Begum was an orphan and was married to Hidayat Ullah, but the marriage was not a success. It was at Lahore that she was again married to Molvi Ghulam Hassan. She bore him three issues. Sadat Hasan was the male child. As per Anis Nagi Molvi Sahib had a respectable position in the government but was not very prosperous. In the family his second marriage was more or less disliked.

It is already put that Manto's father, Molvi Ghulam Hasan had multiple issues. He had retired by the time Sadat was to be reared and looked after. Because of his meagre resources Choti Begum's two issues, Sadat and his sister, Nasira, had to bear the brunt of it. They failed to get required education and bring-up. Sadat failed in the Matric examination several times and finally passed in third division. It is interesting to note that he failed in the subject of Urdu.

Mantoo's mother was a noble and mild-mannered lady. She had got married to Molvi Sahib at such a stage in life when he had lost the vigour of youth and was economically not very prosperous. After his demise she somehow managed the home. It is said that she knew the skill of embroidery. After Mantoo had been in Bombay she too had joined him there. In fact, her daughter and son-in-law were also there in Bombay. After Mantoo was married she had continued to live with him. A letter from Ahmad Nadim Qasimi reveals that it was there, that she breathed her last in June, 1940.

At the behest of his mother Mantoo was married in a Kashmiri family long settled in Africa. The father of his spouse, Begum Safia, had been a police inspector in Africa. Mantoo himself has described their Kashmiri roots. He wrote to Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi in a letter:-

'My wife belonged to a Kashmiri family settled in Lahore'.

Manto's married life lasted just for sixteen years. He had four issues, one son and three daughters. During this short span Safia Begum had to face many ups and downs of life. The three years of adversity period of Mantoo's life severely impacted the bring-up of her children. But she never grumbled. She informed the writer-

'I am fortunate that I spent my life with a great literateur and by God's grace. It was all through a good life. He deeply loved me, my daughters and other kinsmen. Our life in sum was a happy venture'.

Safia Begum passed away at the age of sixty-two years. Mantoo's male child, Arif, could not live beyond a year. His three daughters, Nikhat, Nuzhat and Nusrat are still living.

The candle of Mantoo's life got extinguished on 18th January, 1955. He was a stormy petrel.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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