Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, September 12, 2011

Two Stories On The Partition of India by Two Very Different Writers Who Are Closer than we might Think

"Dog of Tithwal" by Saadaat Hasan Monto (5 pages, 1955)
"The Comments of Moung" by Saki  (1906, 4 pages)

BBAW Day Two
Reader's Suggestion Day
Two Stories Set in India 
both suggested by Book Bloggers  from India

Today is day two of BBAW.   Today has been set aside for posting of interviews with other bloggers.   In 2009 I participated in this event but this year I decided not to be interviewed or interview anyone else.    But I am not at all ignoring BBAW.   In fact I think my plans for today might be a good idea for next year!   Today I am going to post on three short works of fiction that I learned about through either readers of my blog or blogs I follow.   If it were not for these fellow bloggers I would have missed out on these three  works.   (I will do a separate post on Anton Chekhov's powerful and very dark work set in a mental hospital, "Ward 6".)

"Dog of Tithwal" by Saadaat Hasan Monto was suggested to me by Wordsbeyondorders who is from Tamil in southern India.   It is a very keenly observed story that finds a dark humor in the shooting of a dog during the war that resulted from the 1947 partition of India.

Saadat Hasan Monto (1912-1955-Samrala, Punjab, India) was a very prolific writer but it  is for his work as the literary chronicler of the terrible human consequences of the 1947 Partition of India into the two countries of Pakistan and India that he is best known.  (There is some additional background on him here)

"Dog of Tithwal" opens in a military camp on the Indian side of the Pakistan-India border in 1947 right after the Partition of India.    Both sides have military camps facing each other and every morning they go through the show of shooting some shots at each other.    One day a friendly stray dog wanders in the camp and the soldiers give him some food.   He then leaves and comes back the next day (compressing a bit here-I will have a link at the close of the post to read this work) with a note on his collar.   The  note makes no sense but the men assume he has been in the enemy camp.   They take the note and give it to  their captain.   The next day the dog comes back wagging his tail as he approaches the camp.   The Indians begin to yell at him that they will shoot any Pakistani, even a dog, who approaches their camp.   In sport first they shoot near him, then they shoot him in the leg but he comes forward still and still wags his tail in friendship.   He is then shot dead.   This story is a wonderful account of the absurdity of war.

"The Comments of Moung" by Saki was suggested to me by Rohan of Rest is Still Unwritten from Mumbai, India.  Here is the comment that lead me to this story

"Saki is master at twisted endings,it is trait of his writing. Irony is despite knowing this; in the end we are left nothing but to admire them.
Shredni Vestar is good,but being learner of a confused democracy,as India,I admire his "The Comments of Moung Ka" most of all. It is surprising to know that even after 100 years,his politically incorrect observations about democracy still stand time-test with no difficulty".
Before India was partitioned in 1947,  the large province of Bengal was partitioned along religious lines from 1905 to 1912 when the partition was abolished.   "The Comments of Moung" is not set in India, but in Burma (I prefer to use the old name) in a village on the shores of the Irrawaddy River.  (Saki was a military policemen in Burma from 1893 to 1895, just like his father was.)    Moung is a prosperous rice merchant who travels quite a bit in his business so when he comes home people ask him what is going on in Indian and England.   He tells everyone how the province of Bengal is going to be partitioned.   He says even though the people do not want it the English do and they must know best.     Now he explains that he heard that England is also to be partitioned into two countries.   I will quote a bit as Saki really does a great job with this:

‘The other matter,’ said Moung Ka, ‘is that the British Government has decided on the partition of Britain. Where there has been one Parliament and one Government there are to be two Parliaments and two Governments, and there will be two treasuries and two sets of taxes.’
Moung Thwa was greatly interested at this news.
‘And is the feeling of the people of Britain in favour of this partition?’ he asked. ‘Will they not dislike it, as the people of Bengal disliked the partition of their Province?’
‘The feeling of the people of Britain has not been consulted, and will not be consulted,’ said Moung Ka; ‘the Act of Partition will pass through one Chamber where the Government rules supreme, and the other Chamber can only delay it a little while, and then it will be made into the Law of the Land.’
‘But is it wise not to consult the feeling of the people?’ asked Moung Thwa.
‘Very wise,’ answered Moung Ka, ‘for if the people were consulted they would say “No,” as they have always said when such a decree was submitted to their opinion, and if the people said “No” there would be an end of the matter, but also an end of the Government. Therefore, it is wise for the Government to shut its ears to what the people may wish.’
‘But why must the people of Bengal be listened to and the people of Britain not listened to?’ asked Moung Thwa; ‘surely the partition of their country affects them just as closely. Are their opinions too silly to be of any weight?’
Both of these stories are very much worth reading.

"The Comments of Moung" by Saki  can be read HERE

"Dog of Tithwal" by Saadaat Hasan Monto can be read HERE

In the last few days my regard for Saki has gone up quite a bit and I wish there was more Monto online I could read.

Mel u


Rohan Shedage said...

About Saadat-saab I carry the same concern as you do. I wish more of his work was online. I haven't read this story,so eager to read it :) thanx!!!

You may like some of his brilliant work-letters to uncle sam,Cold Flesh,Open it ...

Mel u said...

Rohan, for sure I will read and post on the two short stories-I will take a look at the "Letters to Uncle Sam" also-thanks very much-please send me any other links you come across also-I book marked the ones you sent me just now-thanks so much

Mel u said...

Rohan-I have read and posted on "Open It" but the title in my version was translated as "The Return"-I read the story again in this new to me translation and it is even more powerful the second time-I will read the other story now also

CHE said...

I've read the Dog of Tithwal and Open It. I have a book of Manto's short stories called Kingdom's End and many of them are really powerful. I also read this very amusing essay by him online called Letter to Uncle Sam. So glad you are posting about Saki, he is seriously underrated.

Mel u said...

Che-I am glad you have read the two Manto stories-I am developing more and more respect for Saki also