LAHORE: Activist Raza Naeem said on Sunday that Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto’s work had inspired him to become a social activist and work for the oppressed.
He was speaking at an event organised at The Knowledge Factory to mark Manto’s death anniversary. Speakers shed light on Manto’s life, times and work on the occasion. Naeem, who also teaches at the Punjab University, was the main speaker on the occasion. He has extensively researched on Manto and his translations of the writer’s non-fiction essays are currently in the pipeline.
Naeem told the audience about his affiliation with Manto. He said it was the renegade nature of Manto’s work that had drawn him to the writer’s work in his adolescence. “It was after coming across his work that I decided to become a social activist and commit myself to working for the rights of the downtrodden,” Naeem said.
He said he had concentrated on the final seven years of Manto’s life in his research. Naeem said these years were extremely tumultuous as Manto’s standard of life had markedly deteriorated. He said his personal life had also started suffering as friends and acquaintances had started maintaining a distance from him due to the controversial nature of his work.
“But these years were also prolific for Manto as he authored some gems during this timeframe including Toba Tek Singh.” He said Manto had been persecuted because he had mercilessly exposed social contradictions. Poet Javeria Khan spoke about Manto’s persecution. Comparing him to Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer and poet, Khan said individuals who had the ability to think out of the box had always been persecuted by society. She also read out an excerpt from Indian writer Ismat Chughtai’s essay on Manto. “Talking to Manto was akin to sharpening your intellect,” Chughtai had written. The event concluded with a reading of Manto’s short stories and a discussion regarding the prophetic nature of his work.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2015.