Category Archives: Creative Corner

Creative Corner is a space for creative expressions in the form of poems, fiction or creative non-fiction that expresses thoughts, feelings, experiences and passions that we’d like to share. The intention of this corner is to be able to encourage readers and writers to allow their imaginations to experience or create aesthetic work that expresses our journeys, our identities and our times. The word limits for stories and poems is approximately 1500 words.

As a starting project, we invite stories and pieces on ‘Home’ and will be posting contributions we receive from SANSAD members. The idea around ‘Home’ is for us to explore the emotions, experiences or ideas that the word inspires.

The partitioned home of Manto

From: Daily Times, Sunday, January 20, 2012\01\22\story_22-1-2012_pg3_3

  Saadat Hassan Manto and the partition of India

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

This year marks the centenary of one of the most remarkable Urdu short-story writers of the Indian subcontinent: Saadat Hassan Manto (May 11, 1912-January 18, 1955). His contemporary, Krishan Chander (1914-1977), himself a literary icon who some critics have described as the “the imam of the Urdu short-story” graciously wrote in his obituary on Manto that indeed he was the greatest short-story writer of his generation.

Manto had wanted inscribed on his gravestone that he wondered who the greater story-teller was: he or God. His sister was prescient enough to sense that in Pakistan it would sooner or later invite vandalism and much worse. So it was supplanted by a more modest claim: that Manto was aware of the fact that his was not the last word in this world.

Like many other youngsters initially I read Manto’s so-called sex stories primarily in search of salacious excitement, but sensed immediately that far from providing entertainment he was exposing in a shocking manner the misogynist culture and hypocrisy that pervaded South Asia. Some of his stories,  set in the background of the partition, on sexual violence against women are masterpieces.

Some biographical data is in order — Manto was born at Samrala in eastern Punjab in 1912 in a Muslim family of Kashmiri-Brahmin extraction. He grew up in Amritsar. He started his literary journey by translating Russian and French literature. According to some experts, the influence of Russian writers such as Chekov and the Frenchman Maupassant were the profoundest on his writings. He worked as a script, dialogue and story writer in Bombay, then joined All-India Radio, Delhi, but returned to Bombay some years before partition. He was well received and earned a good living. 

Manto penned sketches of Bombay film personalities in his usual irreverent and caustic style. The kindest words were reserved for legendary actor Ashok Kumar whom he described as a kind and caring friend, and a fellow Punjabi Shyam (died 1951), one of the handsomest actors in Bombay, who became his closest chum. The two were inseparable, but then the dagger and torch of mob fury unleashed during the partition riots in Bombay scared the life out of him. One day Ashok Kumar drove him to his home but they were caught up in the midst of a Muslim wedding procession. Manto was terrified. The people recognised Ashok Kumar but let them pass. At Bombay Talkies where Manto worked, the staff had changed and those Hindus who took over were hostile to his and other Muslims’ presence. His wife and daughter had already moved to Lahore.

He left for Lahore in January 1948.

It must be soon after he arrived in Pakistan that Manto composed an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, reminding him that he too was a Kashmiri pandit, highborn and thus his equal. Therefore, since he, a Muslim, had left India, Nehru must vacate Muslim-majority Kashmir, asserted Manto. That was perhaps the only time he bluntly subscribed to the underlying logic of the Two-Nation Theory. 

Returning to Lahore, being among relatives and becoming a part of the Muslim nation understandably heightened his sense of physical security. His family were regular Sunnis, who had — along with thousands of other Muslims — shifted from nearby Amritsar to Lahore, spoke Punjabi — all the ethnic factors were positive. 

However, Manto was more than just a living entity of flesh and blood. His was a restless spirit. He would perish without the freedom of expression — a freedom he was in the habit of exercising without recourse to circumlocution, hitting the nail hard on its head. 

Such an attitude was not going to be treated kindly in Pakistan. Neither he nor the orthodox Communists had anticipated that far from becoming a welfare state based on Islamic social justice or a bourgeois democracy, the deep and virulent fundamentalist dimension in the Pakistani state project would cast a long shadow on the intellectual landscape. Manto came under that cloud rather quickly. He was put on trial for preaching obscenity in his short stories. The case went through different levels. Finally the Lahore High Court confirmed his guilt and fined him, but did not send him to prison. 

Such experience combined with difficulties in earning a decent living from his writing and a personal tragedy — his only son died in infancy leaving him traumatised. As the head of an impoverished family that included his wife and three small daughters, he found himself hopelessly in dire straits. Relatives and friends helped, but he could not cope with the cumulative pressures of poverty and sorrows. He began to drink more heavily, was sent to the mental asylum and on January 18, 1955 — when only 42 — he died a broken man.

Manto’s indictment of the senseless partition violence is proverbial. One can easily put together a long list of select short stories. His ‘Toba Tek Singh’ has been recognised as the most powerful satire of those events. The story is set some years after partition. The governments of India and Pakistan decide to exchange the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu mentally-challenged people who were still in the various mental asylums. Bishan Singh is an inmate of the Lahore mental hospital and part of the exchange programme. When he is told that his hometown, Toba Tek Singh, will remain in Pakistan, he refuses to go. The staff promise to send Toba Tek Singh to wherever he goes but fail to deceive him. The story ends with Bishan Singh lying down between the barbed wire that separates the two countries created through a bloody severance of a territory on which had evolved and flourished a composite culture hundreds of years old. He thus occupies a space with no name.

I will end by narrating one of my other favourites. In his, ‘Siyah Hashiye’ (Black Borders), Manto depicts an excited pro-Pakistan mob that attacks the statue on the Lahore Mall Road of the great Hindu philanthropist of Punjab, Sir Ganga Ram. One of them blackens its face with tar. Another collects old shoes, strung into a garland, and is about to put it around the statue’s neck, when the police shows up and begins firing. The man who is about to put the garland of shoes around the statue’s neck is injured. He is sent to the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for treatment!

The writer has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at


Bus Stop in Delhi

Bus Stop in Delhi


Suddenly a gust

Of wind brought spring

A murmur in Peepul leaves

Somewhere in darkness

The bus nowhere in sight

As usual

Spring was here


Jolting through fog and flitting ghosts

Silence inside the late night bus

At least there are seats

For some to fall asleep

The man beside me

Head covered in shawl nods

Wakes with a start as the bus lurches to stop

At Red Fort

Asks if we have come to Srinagar

As he stumbles to get out

The bus roars into the next patch of fog


Delhi must be somewhere here

Almost in Mehrauli

Where the lark sank on scrub

High-rises now flyovers

Packed with cars

Diesel fumes nested

In eucalyptus

Where dhaba

Free unlimited daal with roti orders

Offered dimly lit hospitality

Spanking Cafe Coffee Day

Smart baristas in low light serve

Cappuccino and latte and

Free WiFi

I sip and email Vancouver

Kutub Minar still stands

Woman from village in UP

Holds out necklace of beads

Urging support for small business

I bring out the wallet

Taking gifts for no one

In particular

Chinmoy Banerjee, Vancouver October 6, 2013

A Trio of Reminders


By Zahid Makhdoom


Remember that spring when the flowers’ dreams of blossoming got nipped in their own buds. And that water refused to trickle down. You were sobbing, the sky was electrified, our reflections ossified. Like always, the rhythm from the djembes disturbed the apple cart. Wasn’t that what those goddamned kids wanted in the first place?



Remember the mouse that had not stirred many Christmas nights past and that the crazed werewolf had not stalked his unsuspecting admirers on those lush nights denuded by a trickster-like full moon. What happened then? That the creatures alive, dead or undead rose to walk all those miles on some faded Christmases and nondescript nights. It all got messed up, I couldn’t although I had intended and desired, to walk and to strum the notes enshrined in the score I had written to mark the end. Do you know what happened? Do you even remember those Christmases, those full-moon nights, and that score or even the end?


In the Beginning

Remember that last time we were perched high above the highest branch of that giant tree that everyone around us thought was forbidden, a no go area? I only remember something happened and then those mesmerizing contours of your countenance began to drift away, slowly brightening the Milky Way. I could still discern you and the highest branch of that tallest tree perched above the brightest star of that dazzling galaxy that still seemed so foreboding.


It’s been a long time, I couldn’t continue counting, the numbers have transcended my faculties. Memories are hapless cripples without any crutches. The ones I broke are yet to be replaced. And I know of no measure to discern the space between the time I last delved deep inside the depths of every pore of your body to now when even the Milky Way looks so distant, so faded. The times I still remember you rolling your naked body on the mountains of fallen flower petals until I could see a constellation of rainbows etched on your skin. We always gave in to those rainbows. Then those epochs would descend when we could no longer use silence as a canvas to paint those melodies that filled everything around us, made those rainbows dance, and the only refuge from surfeit was to be deeply ensconced within the layers of your scent. Are memories free yet? Has the time for venial liberties arrived? Your scent still wrapped around every part of my being. And silence has successfully subverted music. Let’s paint again. The pristine brightness has forever scared and scarred me.





Musings about Home Sweet Home

By Promod Puri

Back in 1972, when I immigrated to Canada and made my first home in
Winnipeg, Manitoba, I happened to meet a very helpful and friendly
person by the name of CR Bector. He was a distinguished professor of
mathematics at the University of Manitoba. And out of respect, as he was my elder and held an academic professional status, I along with other close acquaintances addressed him as ‘Doctor Sahib’ or ‘Doctor Bector’. He was not a medical doctor but had a PhD degree in his extensive portfolio of

CR Bector, although to most of us in the Indo-Canadian community sounded
like an English name, especially since the surname hails from Punjab and is typically Punjabi. He was a popular personality in Winnipeg simply because of his informal, lively and sociable temperament.

However for me, the enticing thing about him is that his real name is Chajju
Ram. It is really an old-fashioned North Indian name as we seldom come
across people with that name any longer. And his first name, Chajju, immediately strikes up memories of the famous Indian proverb “jo sukh chajju ke chobare, na balakh na bukhare.
Translation: East or West home is the best.

The name Chajju certainly resonates with the importance of home
as it is part of life’s triangle, rather I would say the most
sought-after trinity of “roti, kapadra aur Makaan”, meaning
food, clothing and shelter.

The fact is anybody with a home in reality owns his or her little sovereign
kingdom or queendom. It is one of those virtues of life which one aspires to have. Life begins and revolves around home and we also enjoy the pride of
having that possession.

Home is not merely a physical dwelling of walls, windows and doors; floors
and roofs. It is not just a rest spot either, but a cozy place of peace and
tranquility in the midst of family or friends’ lively togetherness and
entertainment. Home is the place of absolute independence within acceptable social norms.

Home sweet home is a simple expression carrying deep feelings of that warmth
and comfort which one yearns for.

If the home does not give all that is expected then it is a house, and for
that reason home sickness is better than being confined under a sort of house arrest.

Home is the place of everlasting nostalgia of living with parents,
brothers, sisters and dear ones, the childhood anecdotes of little fights and
laughs, the home-cooked food, books and beds, and a lot more. The physical
remembrance of each and every household item is also a somewhat nostalgic

Home is where we accumulate our cultural values, connect with our heritage
and acquire our family’s social, linguistic and religious identities.

Home is that place of security and independence where with elated feelings
one can unwind, recline and relax.

As eighteenth century English poet James Thompson has exquisitely expressed:

“Home is the resort
Of love, of joy, of peace, and plenty; where
Supporting and supported, polished friends
and dear relations mingle into bliss.”

But that bliss is denied to millions of homeless people all over the world sheltering under the open sky at the mercy of Mother Nature. It is this sad aspect of humanity that is visibly invisible as life goes on in busy metropolises.