Audio: Saadat Hasan Manto’s Saveray Jo Kal Aankh Meri Khuli
English translation by Papercuts staff
When I Woke Up Yesterday Morning by Saadat Hasan Manto
It was a wondrous spring and a wondrous stroll. I thought I should step out of the house and walk to the Gardens. It is evident that on my way to the Gardens I would’ve crossed some markets and streets and my eyes would’ve seen some things too. I was already familiar with Pakistan but I only saw the “Long Live” version of it yesterday. I saw it on an electricity pole. I saw it on a drain pipe, on a balcony, a ledge, the rooftop of a house. Suffice it to say I saw it everywhere and returned home with the longing to see it in all the other places where I did not spot it.
Long Live Pakistan. This is a shop for firewood. Long Live Pakistan. Quick-service Mohajir Hair-cutting Saloon. Long Live Pakistan. Here locks are repaired. Long Live Pakistan. Hot tea. Long Live Pakistan. A hospital. Long Live Pakistan. Thank Allah that this shop has been allotted to Syed Anwar Hussain Mohajir Jalandhari.
I even saw this written in front of a house: “Long Live Pakistan. This house belongs to a Parsi brother.” Which really meant “please don’t get this house allotted to a migrant, too.”
It was morning, the spring was wondrous and so was the walk. Almost all the shops were closed. A halwai‘s shop was open. I thought I should get some lassi. As I approached the shop, I noticed the electric pedestal fan was switched on but it was facing away from the patrons.
I asked the halwai what’s the sense in running the fan in the opposite direction?
He stared at me and said, “Can’t you see?”
I saw the fan was facing towards a colour portrait of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on the wall.
I shouted “Long Live Pakistan” and moved on without having lassi.
A man sat on the stoop of a closed shop, frying pooriyan. I wondered how the pooriwallah came to be there because I had bought a chappal from the same shop just the day before yesterday. I thought maybe this was some other shop but the shoe store’s signboard was the same and right across it was the same house that was gutted in the riots. In the shed of the house was hanging the same electricity fan that I had seen before and thought that it must have helped a lot in fanning the flames that destroyed the house.
The pooriwallah addressed me now, “What are you thinking, babu jee? The pooriyan are fresh.”
“I am wondering that there used to be a shoe store where you are sitting?” I said.
The pooriwallah wiped the sweat off his forehead and smiled.
“The shoe store is still here but it opens at nine and I start my morning at six and end work at eight-thirty,” he said.
I walked ahead.
What do I see? A man is scattering shards of glass on the road. At first, I thought he must be a good man, trying to remove the shards from the road because the pieces might hurt people. But when I saw that instead of collecting the pieces, he was dropping them here and there in some order, I stopped at some distance. After he was done, he sat down on a mat lying on the side of the road. There was a tree nearby with a sign hanging from it that read: “Bicycle tire punctures are fixed here and cycles are repaired.” I started walking briskly.
I noticed a pleasant change in the signboards of shops. Earlier, almost all of these used to be in English. Now, on some shop fronts, the names and descriptions were in Urdu. Someone had correctly said, “Do in Rome as the Romans do.”
The writing was elegant and the names were also pleasing to the eye. For example, araish. It is clear the shop would have decoration items. A hotel’s building had the name mahzar in Arabic script. There was a shop some way ahead with the name paposhiana meaning a home for shoes. One shop had the board zumhareer. It must have been a shop for qulfi. I happily said “Long Live Pakistan!” and kept walking.
While walking, I saw a strange cart on four wheels. “What is this?” I asked. “A hotel,” came the reply. A hotel on wheels. A stove and a flat pan for cooking chapati, four dishes ready, a frying pan for shami kebab, two pitchers of water, ice, lemonade bottles, a pot of yoghurt, a lemon squeezer, cups, plates, everything was there.
I covered some more distance and saw a man raining blows on a small boy in quick succession. On inquiring, I found out the boy was a servant and had lost a one-rupee note. I scolded the man. “What is this? He’s only a child. It’s just a scrap of paper, this one rupee note. It might have dropped somewhere. Don’t you dare hit the child.” The man resisted. “It might be a scrap of paper to you but do you know what it takes to earn one these days,” he said and started beating the child again. I felt pity, took a one-rupee note out of my pocket and gave it to the man to save the child from the beating.
I must have only walked a few more steps when a man put a hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, “So you gave a rupee to that scoundrel.”
“Yes, he was beating that poor boy terribly.”
“That poor boy is his own son.”
“This is their business, the father and son’s. They earn a few rupees every day through this routine.”
I said “OK” and walked away.
Suddenly, there was an uproar. I saw some boys, carrying paper bundles, shouting and running around wildly. I heard them speak in many languages. Newspapers were being sold. Breaking news. Shoes thrown as fights break out in Dilli. Dogs attack some leader’s house in Lucknow. Kashmir will be liberated in two weeks, Pakistani soothsayer predicts.
There were hundreds of papers. Today’s Nawa-i-Subh, the new Abul Waqt, today’s Sunehra Pakistan. As the flood of newspaper boys passed, I saw a woman of around 50 with a strong, serious demeanour. She was holding a bag in one hand and a newspaper bundle in the other hand.
I asked her, “Do you sell newspapers?”
I bought two newspapers and with respect for this newspaper woman moved ahead.
After a little while, a pack of dogs emerged. The dogs were barking, gnawing at each other, loving and even biting. I moved to a side, afraid. Because fifteen days ago, a dog had bitten me and I had 10cc injections piece my stomach for a full fourteen days.
I thought are all these dogs refugees or have these been left behind by the people who migrated away. Whomever they might be, they should be taken care of. The refugees should be rehabilitated and the ones now without masters, they should be allotted according to their race to those migrants who arrived here with their dogs left behind on the other side, and those without any guardians should be provided with wooden legs so they can have fun too.
When the pack of dogs left, I felt at ease again. I started walking.
I opened a newspaper and started going through it. On the front page, there was a three-colour photograph of a film actress. Her body was semi-naked. The caption read, “This is how immorality is being displayed in movies.” In my head I shouted the slogan “Long Live Pakistan!” and threw the newspaper on the footpath. I opened the other newspaper. A small advertisement caught my eye.
It read: “I left my bicycle outside the Lloyd’s Bank yesterday. When I returned after work, I saw the cycle’s new seat had been replaced with an old seat. I am a poor migrant. Whoever took it, please return it.”
I laughed heartily, folded the newspaper and tucked it into my pocket.
A few yards ahead, I saw a burnt shop. Inside a man sat with two heavy slabs of ice. I thought the poor shop finally found some way of cooling itself.
I saw a few bicycles go past at small intervals. Men peddled the bicycles and a burqa-clad woman sat on the carrier behind. After some minutes, I saw a similar bicycle but the burqa-clad woman was sitting on the handle. Suddenly, the bicycle slipped off a melon peel on the road. The rider pulled the brake. The cycle tumbled over. I ran to help. The man was entangled in the woman’s burqa and the poor woman was buried underneath the cycle. I removed the cycle and supported her to her feet. The man peeked out of the burqa. “Please leave, we don’t need your help,” he said, and got up, put the burqa over the woman hurriedly, sat her on the handle and left. I prayed another melon peel would not be lying around on the road ahead.
Nearby, I saw an advertisement on a wall. Its title was very meaningful: “Muslim woman and purdah”.
I got very far. The place was familiar but an idol that I used to see there was missing. I asked a man, who was resting on the grass, “Hey mister, there used to be the statue of an idol here. Where did it go?”
The man opened his eyes and said, “It left.”
“No, they took it.”
“The people who owned it.”
“Even idols have started migrating now,” I said to myself. “Such a day might soon arrive when people will dig up the graves of their dead and take the dead with them.”
Lost in this thought, I was about to step away when a man, who was taking a stroll like myself, said to me, “The idol did not go anywhere. It is here and safe.”
“In the museum.”
I prayed that God save me from the day when we all are deemed worthy of being placed in a museum.
On the footpath, an immigrant from Delhi was walking leisurely with his son. The son said, “Abba jan, we will eat cholay today.”
The father’s ears went red. “What did you say?”
“We will eat cholay today.”
“What is cholay? Say channay.”
“No Abba jaan, channay are available in Delhi. Here everyone eats cholay.”
The father calmed down.
I reached Lawrence Gardens. It was the same old park but without the usual bustle. There were nearly no women to be found. The flowers had bloomed, buds were blossoming, the fragrance of spring was floating on the light breeze. I wondered why the women were imprisoned in their homes on such a beautiful day. Why are they not making the most of it?
But I soon found the answer to this question when the sound of a cheap and inappropriate song fell on my ears and when I saw unshapely chunks of flesh with greedy eyes walking on the paths of Lawrence Gardens. I grew sad and my sadness increased when I thought the flowers are blooming for nothing, the buds are blossoming for no reason. These people, who are not even looking at the flowers, who are completely unaware of the fragrance, are they not supposed to be in some psychiatric rehabilitation centre instead of this garden, some school where the closed windows of their minds can be opened, the rusty locks of their souls be broken. If someone cannot do this, I mean, if the human mind is helpless in correcting the minds of these people, then can they not be put in the zoo located inside the Lawrence Gardens.
I felt sad and angry.
As I was exiting the garden, a man asked me, “Is this Bagh-e-Jinnah?”
“No, this is Lawrence Gardens.”
“Are you returning from the zoo?”
The man laughed.
“Sir, since Pakistan’s creation, its name has changed to Bagh-e-Jinnah.”
“Long Live Pakistan,” I said to him.
He laughed some more and entered Lawrence Gardens, and I felt as if I had just walked out of hell.
Glossary of local terms
Mohajir – Migrant
Jalandhari – From the city of Jalandhar
halwai – A confectioner
lassi – A yogurt-based drink
pooriyan – Deep-fried unleavened bread
pooriwallah – A man who fries and sells pooriyan
chappal – Sandals
babu jee – Gentleman
araish – Adornment
mahzar – The place to be
zumhareer – ice cold
qulfi – Popsicle-like dessert made from milk
chapati – Unleavened flatbread
shami kebab – A variety of kebab made from ground meat
Nawa-i-Subh – The Sound of Morning
Abul Waqt – The Father of Time
Sunehra Pakistan – Golden Pakistan
Abba jan – Father
cholay/channay – A dish made from chickpeas
Bagh-e-Jinnah – Jinnah’s garden