Saadat Hasan Manto

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How is “Toba Tek Singh” by Saadat Hasan Manto a satire of partition?

In “Toba Tek Singh,” Saadat Hasan Manto presents a satire of the Partition of India and Pakistan by describing the confusion following the partition through the eyes of the inmates of an insane asylum. These men are as confused as can be about India and Pakistan and which is which, and Manto uses them to show that everyone else is just as confused and that the partition is insane.

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In his short story “Toba Tek Singh,” Saadat Hasan Manto reflects on the Partition of India and Pakistan through the eyes of lunatics. The story focuses on the creation of Pakistan in 1947 as a Muslim state. The Muslim lunatics still in India are to be moved to Pakistan, and the Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistan are to be moved to India.

The problem is that the lunatics have no idea what is going on. They cannot understand the partition. They have no idea whether they are in India or Pakistan, and many of them become so upset over the upheaval that they go even crazier than they already are. Herein lies the satire. Through the eyes of these crazy men, Manto is showing the insanity of the partition and its aftermath of confusion.

The lunatics in the Lahore asylum are just as confused as everyone else. The Sikh and Hindu lunatics cannot figure out why they are being transferred to India. They don't even know the language, they claim. One Muslim lunatic declares that Pakistan must be “the name of a place in India where cut-throat razors are manufactured.” Of course, this statement is packed with satire about the conflicts between India and Pakistan and between Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims.

Some of the inmates of the asylum are not really crazy at all. Rather, they are murderers whose families placed them in the asylum so they could avoid prison (notice the dripping satire here!). They are just as clueless as everyone else about the India-Pakistan split, showing that one doesn't need to be insane to be confused about the partition. Newspapers, the narrator ironically notes, don't help a bit, and even the guards can't answer questions, for even those that aren't illiterate don't understand the situation.

One inmate becomes so upset and confused that he climbs a tree and declares that he will live there instead of in India or Pakistan. Another runs about naked. Still others try to adopt the identities of local rulers to gain some control over the situation.

One man in particular, a fellow by the name of Bishan Singh, has been in the asylum for fifteen years. He never speaks a word of sense, yet he is just as troubled as everyone else by the upheaval. He is a Sikh, so he will be moved to India. He gets into the habit of asking people where his home town is. He wants to know whether it is is India or Pakistan, but no one can answer him because no one actually knows. Notice the satire again. It is quite a silly circumstance when people don't even know in which country a simple town lies.

Eventually, Bishan Singh is bused to India, but he refuses to move. He stands still because he has discovered that his town is actually now in Pakistan. He eventually collapses and dies, right in the middle of India and Pakistan, the last “bit of earth which had no name.” Here, we can see the satire and the tragedy of the partition of India and Pakistan.

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