An Hour With Manto!

This particular quote struck my mind like lightning when I came to know about the second event that was to be conducted by the BDR Club of the psychology department ‘No two persons ever read the same book’. This particular quote is so true; everybody in the light of their own knowledge, experience, perception and understanding read or rather live through the book in a unique way. There can be similarities but never are the experiences of two persons’ just the same! Appropriately the first event of the club was a vibrant book reading session; something that proved this statement once again.

The reading was a short story named “Doing God’s Work” by Saadat Hasan Manto. The session was conducted by Dr. Megha Dhillon and was attended by students who were from various departments English, Psychology, Political science, and, etc.,

Manto, a refugee of India’s catastrophic partition is a phenomenal story-teller. He stands out special and unique amidst other authors for his pungent satire, fierce candor and realistic portrayals. His works during the partition portrayed the darkness of the human psyche. They not only showed the influence of his own demons, but also that of the collective madness that he saw in the ensuing decade of his life. Inter alia, he is still known for his scathing insight into human behavior as well as revelation of the macabre animalistic nature of an enraged person; no wonder that he had left not a single feature of human existence untouched.

“Doing God’s Work” is a lesser known short story of Manto, but is just as phenomenal as any of his other works. The story was given to the students to be read right before the discussion started, this fostered the continuation of the emotions evoked while reading even during the discussion. After a short initial phase of briefing by Ma’am Megha the general discussion commenced. Each student expressed her views, sometimes in opposition and sometimes in favor of another person. While one said that the entire story was a satire on the absurd and unfounded behavior of rationalization another said that it deeply reflects subjective nature of morality. Just as we were coming to the end of that debate, another found an astonishing parallel between the ideologies portrayed in the story and the perceptions of the state. To one’s surprise the ideology of the story written decades ago, still had relevance to our lives. The discussion never in the course of the entire session was restricted to the story, as the ideologies travelled from concepts of narcissism, materialism and religion to something like euthanasia.

The session then ended after an hour and a quarter, with numerous minds enlightened in the process. It was unanimously agreed that, when there were serious people talking about serious issues, there was an immediate need for someone to put things differently and portray issues in a different style, and that Manto turned out to be one such remarkable author!

Reported By Mohana Bharathi. M

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