Toba Tek Singh
August 16, 2005 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Upar Di Gur Gur Thinking about August Fifteenth, of course, leads us to thinking about the rest of the month. Coincidentally, the one man who arguably gave partition it's most enduring image was also as sure a victim of it as anyone else. And I'm sure he would have a very definate reaction to this. (A more exhaustive and bilingual edition here.)
posted by goodglovin77 (8 comments total)
I had not read much about Saadat Hasan Manto, so thanks for all the links.
posted by chunking express at 11:18 AM on August 16, 2005

Wonderful. A great post that introduces me to a writer I want to read more of. I googled Toba Tek Singh (which is a real town, on the train line southwest of Faizalabad in Punjab) and found this essay by Amitava Kumar, which includes a section on the story and a poem inspired by it:
I have to go to Wagah and meet Toba Tek Singh's Bishan
I have heard that he is still standing on his swollen legs
exactly where Manto had left him.
He still mutters "Uper the gur gur the mung the dal of the laltain."
Thanks, goodglovin77!
posted by languagehat at 12:34 PM on August 16, 2005

He's fantastic, if you like battery acid spilled across your pages. Check out Mottled Dawn, which is a translated collection of mostly stories he wrote on partition. It's unbelievably harsh and unbelievably great. I'd also love to get my hand on his film about Ghalib, which I hadn't noticed the existence of before...
posted by goodglovin77 at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2005

Thanks for the article, Languagehat--finding out that Toba Tek Singh really exists, and is really in Pakistan, was amazing--

Another ironic bit is that "Toba Tek Singh" was the only non-English piece of writing to meet Rushdie's standards in his infamous Mirrorwork anthology.

This is from his book Stars from another Sky, I think, but it turns up in my copy of Mottle Dawn:

"Every question had an answer, but when you tried to look for the truth, these answers were no help. Some people said if you were looking for the truth, you would have to go back to the smouldering ruins of the 1857 Mutiny. Others disagreed. No, they said, the answer lay in the history of the East India Company. Then there were those who insisted on going further back. They wanted you sto study and analyse the Mughal empire. Everybody wanted to drag you back into the past, while killers and terrorists, went about their gruesome business unchallenged, in the process writing a story of blood and fire which has had no parallel in history."

What I'd really like to get my hands on, though, is a collection of his work in Devanagari, which I can read, rather than Nastaliq, which would be torturous... I've heard it exists, but... yet to find it.
posted by goodglovin77 at 12:54 PM on August 16, 2005

Wah, wah! Thank you, goodglovin77. That was truely a wonderful story. The Partition was insane.

I must look up his other writings.
posted by QIbHom at 5:34 PM on August 16, 2005

goodglovin77, there is a Marathi language edition of his work. It doesn't have an ISBN in my library catalog, pub. data is MUMBAI: LAKAVANMAYA GRHA, 2003. Title is TOBA TEKA SIHA ANI ITARA KATHA .

Don't know if you read Marathi, but Marathi is written in Devanagari, at least...
posted by QIbHom at 5:38 PM on August 16, 2005

I ended up reading too much about the Partition and couldn't bring myself to refer to it. Thank you for keeping the ball rolling on this topic.
posted by infini at 8:02 PM on August 17, 2005

Well, no, I don't know any Marathi, though as I'm thinking about moving to Mumbai i'd like to give it a shot... I know there is a Nagari addition somewhere, I even just the other day turned up online a nagari of his story "Khol Do", but I just haven't found it here in the states... Hindi literature is pretty brutal to find for a student, or at least for this student it is...
posted by goodglovin77 at 1:27 PM on August 19, 2005

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