Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Manto - Ten Stories

M  A  N  T  O

translated by
Mustansir Dalvi



The knife
slices the belly open,

down, down beyond the navel. 
The pajama-string
is severed. 

All of a sudden,
the knife-wielder
invokes Kalma-e-ta'assuf:
"Che che che che...



With great effort,
rioters drag 
the homeowner 
out of his house. 

He gets to his feet,
brushes dust off his clothes

and turns on them:

"Kill me if you want,
but beware!
If you even dare touch a rupee...!"

All Your Needs


When the fires were lit,
the whole mohalla
was reduced to ashes... 

only one shop survived,
on whose proud forehead
a hoarding proclaimed:

'One Stop Shop for All Your Building Needs'.

The Advantage of Ignorance

(Bekhabri ka faayda)

A trigger pressed –
a bullet rages.
An inquisitive soul, head 

poking out of a window,
laid low right where he stands.

The trigger squeezed 

once again – a second bullet 
screams into the night.
The water-carrier's mushk explodes, 

blood dilutes water,
both overflow.

Pressed a third time - 

this time, missing the target,
the bullet drowns
inside a wet wall.

The forth finds
an old lady's back.
Dead even before
she can scream.

The fifth and the sixth,

both wasted, no one dies, 
no one is hurt, but 
the trigger-happy man 
is left bereft.

A child is seen
running down the street.
The man turns the barrel
in its direction.

"What are you doing?" asks a friend.
"You've run out of bullets, haven't you?"
"Be quiet!
D'you think this tiny little thing would know?"



At six 

in the morning,
near the petrol pump,
an ice-seller is stabbed.

Until seven
his body lies stiffening
soaked, drop by drop,
by melting ice water.

At seven fifteen, 

police carry away the corpse.
All that remains
is blood and ice.

A tonga passes by.
A child gazes in wonder
at fresh, congealing globules 

of blood. 

His mouth waters. He pulls
at his mother's sleeve, points
downwards with his little finger:
"Look Mommy, Jelly!"

The Need for Rest

(Aaraam ki zaroorat)

"He's not dead... look,
there's life in him yet."

"Let it go, yaar...
I'm too tired."

Halaal and Jhatkaa 

(Halaal aur jhatkaa)

“I put my knife to his jugular,
cut slowly, baaack and forth,
finished him, halaal fashion.”

“Why'd you do that?”
“Do what?”
“Why'd you grant him a halaal death?”
“It’s fun, this way.”

“Fun? Fun? Son of a bitch...
you should have killed him
with a jhatkaa... like this!”

And the halaal maker’s neck
was lopped off
with a single jhatkaa.

A Dud Investment

(Ghaate ka sauda)

Two friends
made their selections
from the ten or twenty girls

in front of them. 

Then they picked one
and bought her together,
pooling in forty-two rupees.

The morning after,
one friend asked the girl:

"What's your name?"

She told him.
He was left shaken:

"He told us that you...
were from the other religion!"
"He lied", said the girl.

On hearing this,
he ran back to his friend:
"That bastard fooled us,
stiffed us with a girl

of our own religion.
Come on,
let's give her back!"

A Miracle


The police commenced raids to recover looted goods. Scared, everyone tried to dispose of their loot in the dark of night. Then there were some who, finding the right moment, secreted goods far away from their homes, out of reach of the long arm of the law. One man faced a dilemma. He had come into possession of two sacks of sugar, looted from the grocer’s shop. Taking advantage of the dark, willy-nilly, he managed to dump one sack into a nearby well. But as he tried to throw the other in, he fell in himself, sack and all. Hearing his cries, many rushed to the well. Ropes were dangled into its dankness. Young worthies lowered themselves in, managed to extricate the man. Despite their efforts, after a few hours the man died. The next day, when people drew from the well to drink, the water was sweet. From that very night, lamps were found lit over the man’s grave.

Good Hosts


The moving bus is accosted.
Those from the other faith
are pulled out one by one
and finished off with sword and gun. 

Once the doing is done,
the other occupants of the bus
are plied with halwa, milk and fruits. 

Just as the bus resumes its journey,
the spokesman of the hosts
addresses the passengers:
“Brothers and sisters, 

we came to know
about the time of the bus's arrival
only just now. That is why
we were not able to attend to you
in the manner we wanted.”

© Mustansir Dalvi, 2018. All rights reserved.