This story is from ‘The Collected Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto; Volume 1, Bombay and Poona’ translated by Nasreen Rehman (2022)
NOT far from Congress House and Jinnah Hal, there is a urinal, generally referred to as a mootri in Bombay. All the filth of the local neighbourhood piles up outside this foul-smelling little shed. The stench is so overpowering that those forced to walk past it must cover their noses with their handkerchiefs.
One day, he had no option but to use the urinal. He held his breath, covered his nose with a handkerchief, and entered the fetid hellhole to urinate. He found its floor smeared with rank faeces and the walls covered with sexually explicit graffiti. In front of him, somebody had written: “Screw the Pakistan of the Sisters of Mussalmans!’ These words intensified the putrid stench, and he rushed out.
The government has control over all the activities in Jinnah Hall and Congress House, but the urinal around the corner is free to spew its filth, as mounds of garbage from the local neighbourhood grow higher by the day.
One day, yet again, he had to use the urinal; he covered his nose with his hanky, held his breath, and entered the hellhole. Streaks of runny faces had dried on the floor. Emissions of semen had multiplied on the walls. Below “Screw the Pakistan of the Sisters of Mussalmans!’ somebody had inscribed these vile words: ‘Screw the Akhand Hindustan of the Mothers of Hindus!’ The inscriptions added a noxious heat to the stench of the urinal, and he rushed out.
Mahatma Gandhi had been released unconditionally. Jinnah lost in Punjab, and Jinnah Hall and Congress House remained under government control. Around the corner, the urinal remained under the sway of that fetid stench as the mounds of rubbish from the local neighbourhood rose higher.
He had to visit the urinal yet again, for the third time. This time, it was not just to urinate. He covered his nose, held his breath, and filtered the house of filth. Revolting creatures swarmed around the Moor. Images of shameful parts of the human anatomy covered the walls, leaving no room for graffiti. The words “Screw the Pakistan of the Sisters of Mussulmans!’ and Screw the Akhand Hindustan of the Mothers of Hindus!’ had faded.
Below, someone had written in white chalk: ‘Screw the Hindustan of the Mothers of Both!’ For a moment, these words blocked out the stench of the urinal. As he walked out from the foul-smelling house of filth, he thought he caught a whiff of an unnamed perfume.
- Excerpted with permission from ‘The Collected Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto; Volume 1, Bombay and Poona’, Translated by Nasreen Rehman, Aleph Book Company
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
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