Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pundit Manto’s First Letter to Pundit Nehru

Pundit-ji, assalamu alaikum!
This is the first letter I’m sending you. By the grace of God you’re considered very handsome by the Americans. Well, my features are not exactly bad either. If I go to America, perhaps I’ll be accorded the same status. But you’re the Prime Minister of India, and I’m the famed story writer of Pakistan. Quite a deep gulf separating us! However, what is common between us is that we are both Kashmiris. You’re a Nehru, I’m a Manto. To be a Kashmiri is to be handsome, and to be handsome … I don’t know.

Opening lines from Saadat Hassan Manto's Pundit Manto’s First Letter to Pundit Nehru, dated 27th August 1954. This particular letter was meant as preface to a literary work written like a series of letters from Manto to various people including Uncle Sam.

Manto was just as much Kashmiri as Nehru, their ancestors having left Kashmir long ago, and still both acutely (definitely in case of Nehru) proud of their origin.

Elsewhere in the same letter, Manto writes:

I would like to tell you an interesting anecdote. Whenever my late father—who was, obviously, a Kashmiri—ran into a hato*, he would bring him home, seat him in the vestibule and treat him to some Kashmiri salty tea and kulchas. Then he would tell the hato proudly, “I’m also a kosher.” Pundit-ji, you’re a kosher too. By God, if you want my life, it is yours for the asking. I know and believe that you’ve clung to Kashmir because, being a Kashmiri, you feel a sort of magnetic love for that land. Every Kashmiri, even if he has not seen Kashmir, should feel this way.

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* Hato: Fetch (They were probably saying Hyato: Buy; but to Indian ears it sounded like Hato): Kashmiri traveling salesmen called so because of the sound they made while calling potential buyers. Like: Shawl Hyato. Or Like: Hato Kawa  - Come Crow, fetch.

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Download Pundit Manto’s First Letter to Pundit Nehru here (.pdf) - Translated from the Hindi version of the original Urdu by M. Asaduddin

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