Archive for August 3rd, 2007

August 3, 2007

Saadat Hasan Manto

Found a site with four letters written by the great Urdu short story/screenplay writer Saadat Hasan Manto (and translated by Khalid Hasan). They are the first four of a series of nine letters written by Manto to “Uncle Sam” in the 1950’s before he died of alcoholism at the age of 42 in 1955, and they are hysterically funny. He talks about America’s plan to provide military assistance to the fledgling nation of Pakistan*, being tried on pornography charges, his alcoholic tendencies, plastic surgery, American casual wear shirts, Packards, Buicks and Max Factor cosmetics. The letters are sharp, sarcastic, and very very witty.

I have a book which he wrote called “Stars From Another Sky” about the Bombay film world in the 1940’s. It’s a great read too, if you can find it (I had to go all the way to India for my copy). So are his short stories about Partition (you can find them on Amazon or online used bookshops).

Among the funny lines in these letters:

“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is a Kashmiri, so you should send him a gun which should go off when it is placed in the sun. I am a Kashmiri too, but a Muslim which is why I have asked for a tiny atom bomb for myself.”

About Gregory Peck’s visit with the Indian movie star Suraiya he wrote:

“Have all Pakistani actresses croaked that they should be ignored! We have Gulshan Ara. She may be black as a pot but she has appeared as the lead in many movies. She also is said to have a big heart. As for Sahiba, while it is true that she is slightly cross-eyed, a little attention from you can take care of that.”

Now I need to track down the last five letters. I’ll let you know if I find them.

*India at that time was leaning towards communism and the Soviet Union for support—as anyone who has watched Hindi films from the late 40’s/early 50’s knows!

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