Toba Tek Singh is a short story based on the partition of India, written by Saadat Hasan Manto. It was first written in Urdu and published in 1955. It is interwoven with the theme of partition and its emotional and psychological effects on the human psyche. Manto very realistically depicts the division of society into different sects after the partition in the name of religion. It tells the story of the migration of Hindus and Muslims to India and Pakistan respectively after partition in the name of religion.
The story is set two or three years after the 1947 partition when the governments of India and Pakistan decided to exchange some Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu lunatics. It revolves around Bishan Singh, a Sikh inmate of an Asylum in Lahore, who is from the town of Toba Tek Singh.
About Saadat Hasan Manto
Saadat Hasan Manto was a Pakistani writer, playwright, and author born in Ludhiana, British India. He was writing mainly in Urdu, He added approximately 22 Collections of Short stories, a novel, five series of radio plays, three collections of essays, and two collections of personal sketches to the history of English literature.
His best short stories are appreciated by writers and critics even today. Mostly his works deal with different subjects such as partition, human life, social taboos, communal violence so on and so forth. Manto has basically given voice to the hard and naked truth of society no one ventured to talk about. He is opposed to the partition of India.
Satire On Partition
Toba Tek Singh is regarded as Satire on Partition. It reflects how after partition the political system of both countries India and Pakistan forces the common people to leave their native place on the basis of religion. Therefore, the decision of the Higher Authorities of both India and Pakistan, that non-Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs should go to India, divided people on the basis of religion and forced them to leave their ancestor’s homes against their will. Thus, in the story, Man to portrays very patently the griefs, and woes of the affected families the sad plight, and the tormenting experiences of the people who were displaced forcibly from their ancestral homes in the name of religion.
Before partition, people lived in harmony and love with one another irrespective of religion and culture. But once the boundaries were drawn all these things come to end, Thereby promoting religious hatred among the common people. People began to hate each other on the basis of religion.
The story very realistically portrays the emotional trauma of the partition. A Hindu Lawyer with a girl from Amritsar turns mad and experiences a sense of grief when Amritsar becomes part of India, when he comes to know that he is now being sent to India, the country where his beloved lives, he doesn’t feel happy and is not willing to leave his ancestral home.
The partition created havoc problems for millions of people some of whom were transported to other places, many were displaced. Many refugee camps were made based on religious identities. There was a wide range of violence that resulted in the loss of millions of people. The Hindus started to flee to India and the Muslims to Pakistan and in that journey, many died. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that plagues their relationship to the present.
The effect of partition still now in modern times the hostility remained, based on the religious identities of human beings.
Setting – The setting of the short story is mainly inside a lunatic asylum in Lahore and also at the Wagah border check post.
The story is about Bisha Singh and some other lunatics who live in Lahore Mental Asylum. The story starts two or three years after the partition. The Governments of India and Pakistan decided to exchange their lunatics from one country to other. Muslim lunatics from India would be sent to Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan would be sent to India. The Lunatics were totally confused when they came to know about the decision as they didn’t know anything about Pakistan.
They were unaware of its location and wanted to know whether they were in India or Pakistan. One of the lunatics climbed up a tree and decided to live there and decided to live there saying he would go to neither Pakistan nor India. Another Lunatic whose name is Mohammad Ali Jinnah. A Sikh lunatic called himself Master Tara Singh and another young Hindu lawyer from Lahore did not wish to go to India.
Bishan Singh is one of the lunatics of Lahore Asylum, he is the protagonist of this story. He is a harmless old man who came to the asylum fifteen years ago when he went mad. Toba Tek Singh is his hometown where he had some land and property. His family members came to visit him once a month, but after the riots broke out they stopped coming. Later through Fazal Din, a friend, and neighbor of Bishan Singh’s family, we came to know that Bisan Singh’s family left for India and were safe there.
Finally, the day of exchange came and the lunatics were taken to the Wagha Border. The exchange procedure started after the formalities had been done by both sides but it proved to be a very difficult task. The lunatics were out of control, they were screaming, laughing, crying running here and there making the task all the more complex. After many lunatics Bishan Singh’s turn came for the exchange he asked to register, Where is Toba Tek Singh? It is in India or Pakistan.
The official tells it is in Pakistan, the place Singh is leaving. Bishan Singh tried to run but was overpowered by the Pakistani guards who tried to put him across the diving line toward India. Just before sunrise, Bishan Singh, the man who had stood on his legs for fifteen years screamed and as officials from the two sides rushed toward him, he collapsed to the ground.
India was one side behind a barbed wire fence. Pakistan was another side behind another barbed fence. Taba Tek Singh lay in the Middle, on a piece of land that had no name.
Thus, the story of Toba Tek Singh describes the changing physical and mental behaviors of the lunatics when their exchange between India and Pakistan is based on religion. The story is to criticize the reason for partition and the math crisis and human tragedies both in the newly created India and Pakistan. The story depicts the plight of such simple and ignorant people whose physical and ignorant people whose physical and mental conditions were neglected.