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Manto and Krishan Chander

By Dr. Brij Premi

Munshi Prem Chand and Sajjad Hyder Yaldram were pioneers in the field of Urdu short story writing. Sultan Haider Josh, Niyaz Fatehpuri, Sudershan, Majnu Gorakhpuri, Ali Abbas etc. the artists who were the with the ‘Angarey Group’, were no doubt influenced by the pioneers. Their emergence saw the transition from earlier themes based on romance and suspense to the articulation of nationalist sentiments. The Indian writers tried to adopt the style of western writers.

European stories began to be translated. The new Urdu short story writing reflected diversity in form and themes, characterisation, background basis of plot, psychological aspects of human life etc. The Urdu short story appeared in a form, where there was intermingling of beautiful ideas with artistic awareness. In 1930, prose emerged as the popular genre of writing in Urdu.

The second phase of short story writing in Urdu starts from 1930. Europe was in throes of turbulence. The Indians wanted to break the shackles of slavery. Gandhi Ji had emerged on the scene and his leadership was  well recognised. He started the civil disobedience movement. Urdu short story could not remain immune to these influences. It took up a lead role in projecting social, political and psychological problems. All these found place in 'Angarey' (1933). Some of these stories had been published earlier in Humanyun and some other journals. 'Angarey' did a commendable job in blazing a new path in literature. The old worn-out themes gave way to new ones which were more solid, subtle and full of life. Experimentation in form, structure was accompanied by including themes related to everyday life. The standard of writing was also upgraded and also incorporated pungent satire. Dr. Rashida Jahan, Sajad Zaheer, Ahmed Ali, Mehmood Alzafar....were associated with 'Angarey group'. Some of the younger members of the group also had taste for English literature. They began incorporating  the revolutionary ideas in their writings and this became the basis of Progressive Literature. The themes were sexuality, religion, society etc.

Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Krishan Chander were products of this epoch. They were writers with fresh ideas, and had a distinct world-view and individual style in writing. Till 1955 they constituted the Trinity in the field of Urdu short story writing. Their stories bore a distinctive individual stamp. Though Bedi was not as prolific as Krishan Chander and Manto, yet his writings had the artistic grandeur. Krishan Chander and Manto, who produced gems in literature, profoundly influenced Urdu short story writers.

Krishan Chander wielded a magic touch in his usage of words. His friends and foes alike, appreciated his writing. Manto's repertoire was not as big but his way of telling a story and the distinctive style captivated the attention of the reader. Even after the reader had finished reading the story, he remained glued to it.  The readers would not leave the story half way.

Unlike Bedi, Manto and Krishan Chander had many similarities. Both were stenographers, who could write their story in one sitting with a style of their own. Both wrote stories, dramas, essays, sketches, film script and screen dialogues. Krishan Chander gained recognition as a novelist, while Manto failed. The former wrote about two dozen novels, Manto could not go beyond one and a half. It was in 1940-41 that Krishan Chander published his first novel 'Shikast'. This prompted Manto to try his had at writing a novel. Manto was a writer in a hurry. His 'Begar Unwanon Se' and the incomplete novel 'Takhleef' are lifeless, boring and below standard. Manto regretted this shortcoming which he had in comparison to Krishan Chander. Manto passed away when he was only 42. Who knows he may have succeeded had he lived longer? After writing 'Shikast', and 'Doosri Barfbari Tak', Krishan Chander went on to write around two dozen novels. Krishan Chander's elegant themes and enchanting prose made him a successful writer.

Manto and Krishan Chander, both were born in Punjab and started journey in literature from there. Manto was two years elder to him. Both were emotionally drawn to Kashmir. Krishan Chander, though a Punjabi, spent best part of his life in Poonch, amidst its Valleys. This brought Kashmir in his essays and short stories. The beautiful ambience of Poonch, with its mountains, forests, streams, lakes provided the backdrop for his writings.

Manto had been only up to Batote, where he stayed to cure his lungs in the salubrious climate. He never saw Kashmir. His writings have backdrop of Batote and its landscape. We have stories 'Zindagi Key Mode Par', 'Shikast' and 'Toofan Kee Kaliyan' by Krishan Chander and 'Misri Kee Dali', 'Lalteen', 'Ek Khat', 'Teetwal Ka Kuta' and 'Aakhri Salute' by Manto.

In their student life, both Krishan Chander and Manto were drawn to 'Red Revolution'. Manto had named his room 'Darulahmar'. He and his friends talked and discussed about revolution. The centre of attraction in this room was a large life-size photograph of Sardar Bhagat Singh. Manto began calling himself a revolutionary. He had translated Hugo's book and Oscar Wilde's novel 'Veera', that was about the social revolutionaries of Russia. The intervention of some relations helped Manto escape the long arm of the Police. Everything was hushed up.

Krishan Chander too had actually joined Bhagat Singh's group and was imprisoned for two months. After finishing his studies Krishan Chander continued his pursuit in writing and participating in revolutionary activities. He subsequently joined MN Roy's group, and had an urge to see India free. Later, he was influenced by the Russian Socialist Revolution.

Manto, under the influence of Bhagat Singh, had been reading socialistic literature and propagated revolutionary ideas. He rendered Russian short stories in Urdu and published the first collection 'Aatish Parey'. His first short story indicates his leanings, its theme is Martial Law of 1919. His literary activities reflect his mastery. It would not be wrong to say that he was forerunner of Krishan Chander, who wrote his first story 'Yarqaan' in 1936. By that time, Manto's 4 collections of stories had already been published. These were Ek Asser Kee Sarguzasth (1933). Veera (1943), Russian Stories (1934), Atish Parey (1934). In short story writing the two writers entered through different routes. Manto found his way through translations, while Krishan Chander took to story writing directly.

Krishan Chander's recognition in short story writing was instant, while Manto had to struggle harder. Krishan Chander's romantic themes and poetically rich prose made him more acceptable. Manto had to concede this. In a letter to Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi (February, 1939) he writes :

"I happened to read Krishan Chander's stories. I feel that he is a writer of merit".

Krishan Chander wrote the preface for Qasimi's collection of stories 'Bigoley' (1941). Manto commented:

"The preface which Krishan Chander wrote to your collection of stories is indeed quite good. Krishan Chander has picked up in writing preface and forward".

Krishan Chander too appreciated the force of Manto's pen. In 1939 he rendered "Sho-Sho" (a collection of Manto's stories) into english. This created good impression. More stories of Manto appeared in Musavir-'Khushiya', 'Dewali Ke Diye'. Krishan Chander was all praise for this work and lauded Manto's talent. He writes!

"I had read his stories before I met Manto. These stories had been written quite powerfully, in unusual ways. I had to accept his merits and wrote to him to convey my impressions",

Krishan Chander included Manto's 'Hatak' in his 'Naye Zaaivye'. He comments, "Manto has systematically projected the life of a prostitute and laid bare her sentiments, the soul, the inner and external situation of a prostitute. After going through 'Hatak' one doesn't have a feeling of malice towards these poor women-the prostitutes. Innocence of 'Sugandhi' and her womanhood--all these elicite new feelings, those of sympathy. This is the hallmark of a great litterateur".

Manto and Krishan Chander met first time in 1941. Manto had left 'Musavir' and had come to Delhi to join AIR. Krishan Chander was already working with AIR. Manto was well-known . The two developed a good rapport. Krishan Chander felt quite sad on Manto's death fifteen years later.

Injustice remained Manto's permanent companion. Krishan Chander raised his powerful voice on this. In "Khali Botal Bara Hua Dil", Krishen Chander writes :

"Manto worked very hard, he was disgusted with the society in which he lived. Apparently, he never approved of progressive writers, nor did he lean towards non-progressives. Pakistan or India made no impressions on him. Uncle Sam and Russia also did not appeal to him. His was a restless soul. His highly critical and bitter remarks were the consequence of this restlessness. Though his writings had a caustic touch, yet if his writings are seen in their proper perspective, his sweet and noble intentions become clear. His malice had love, his 'obscene' language contained a remedy, a cover, protection. Though he did not consider it has role to awaken the masses, yet his writings performed this role. In his life he did not get justice, but time won't be faithless. We all feel his loss. He won't come again. What we have lost is lost for ever".

Manto and Krishan Chander worked together in Delhi for two years. They wrote short stories and plays for the Radio, Manto wrote 'Journalist', 'Jebkutra', 'Neeley Ragein' and other good dramas. Krishan Chander's drama 'Sarayi Ke Bahar' was later made into a film. Their joint endeavour was "Banjara", the script for a film. After one and a half years Manto returned to Bombay and again took up the editorship of 'Musavir'. He also entered the film world.

Krishan Chander too bid good-bye to AIR and came to Poona at the instance of producer Ahmed. Josh Malihabadi and Sagar Nizami were already there. Krishan Chander did not succeed here, while Manto had done better in this field. He too came to Bombay.

Manto and Krishan Chander share a lot, though their ways were different. Manto leaned towards socialism and revolutionary ideas and did good job in propagating these ideas. Later, he moved away from this philosophy but contrary to what some critics say, he never turned into a 'reactionary'. He worked hard to explore the inner recesses of life and was moved by bitter conflicts in it. He came to project subsequently the goodness life essentially carried. Manto artistically projected the bruised psyche of a human individual. Though the range of his themes was narrow, yet he succeeded in doing justice to project the life. His narrative in portraying the human individual had good historical backdrop. His stories came in new form and content. Manto has brevity in his style. His use of metaphors, words, expressions, in making his writing full of life, was spontaneous and effortless. His writing style succeeds in shaking the conscience of the reader.

Krishan Chander has variety in his themes and subject matter. He advocated struggle against injustice, be it at national or international level. Peace, socialism, culture and civilisation, vision for a better life, positive aspects of life, nature etc. come in his literary outpourings. Be it war in Korea, Bengal famine, wars and bloodshed anywhere, Krishan Chander's pen never stopped. He wrote symbolic stories and novels and experimented with new themes and techniques. This made him a unique writer.

Krishan Chander's style was different from Manto. Ali Sardar Jafri calls this romantic style a great achievement. Krishan Chander wielded magic in his usage of words, this is reflected in his writings. Sometimes, one experiences that Krishan Chander shakes the very essence of a story, but the rainbow feeling his usage of words give make his stories immortal. His story displays perfect unity. In 1941 Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi called Krishan Chander the King of Urdu short story.

Both Manto and Krishan Chander turn spokespersons of the 'bruised' psyche of man. Their writings indicate how they have been free from any prejudice or bias. No student of Urdu fiction can move ahead without understanding what Manto and Krishan Chander stood for.

*(Translated from original Urdu text by M.N. Kak).

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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