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

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Two Rupees" by Saadat Hassan Manto

"Two Rupees" by Saadat Hassan Manto (1951, 5 pages)

Short Stories of the Indian Subcontinent
A Reading Life Project

Saadat Hasan Manto was born 100 years ago in British India, in Punjab.   He was a very prolific writer publishing twenty six collections of short stories, worked as a Bollywood script writer in Bombay (a city he loved above all others).   He wrote in Urdu.   (There is more data on him in my prior posts.)

Lately I have read some interesting brand new novels that are about the "dark side" of Bombay or as it is now called, Mumbai.   I enjoyed reading these works but Manto was doing this a long time ago.  I have a special fondness for stories and novels about Mumbai/Bombay as it is the home town of more of my readers than any other city.  

  He was actually arrested and tried for obscenity six times, partially in retaliation for his devotion to the truth.

"Two Rupees" (I will provide a link where you can read this story) is about a prostitute and her young daughter who she is introducing into the business.   The story is set in the slums of  Bombay.   The people live almost right on top of each other so there is a lot of gossip.   Two women in the area love to talk trash about each other, suggesting the other is a prostitute.  One for sure is and the other, though she is married, does have some men visitors who look like they are not from that part of town.   The heart of this story is the developing career as a sex worker of the five-teen year old daughter of one of the women.   She loves it when men in fancy cars come to pick her up.   We know that she has sex with them and that her mother takes most of the money.   One days some men from Hyderabad come pick her up along with another girl even younger.    The men, who seem pretty young and I am not sure what politically is to be made of the fact that they are from Hyderabad, maybe just out of town boys doing in the slums of Bombay what they cannot do at home for fear of being observed, are thrilled to have the two girls in the car with them.  They start feeling their legs and such.   The girls are so happy to be in a car and they know what will bring in money so they do not object.   The price for the girls is two rupees.  I do not know what two rupees in 1951 means in modern rupees but one suspects it is not much.   There is an interesting twist at the end, a sad one as is often the case in the short stories of Manto.   

You can find the story online in English HERE

I will be posting on more stories by Manto.   

I offer my great thanks to Rohan of Rest is still unwritten for the link to this story and several other ones by Manto. He lives in Mumbai and his blog is very interesting source of insight into the culture of the country. I follow it and find it very insightful.

Mel u


CHE said...

Manto really surprises you with how modern and incisive he is. Have you read any of his flash fiction? 2 or 3 sentence stories that just blew my mind. Also, have you read his letters to uncle Sam? I'm posting a link in case you'd like to read it, they're hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Manto was a tremendous writer who wrote nothing but true..the reality. He suprises the reader with his sad endings but unfortunately they were real...Thanks to him for showing us live scenes of those words to talk about his writings...just commentless..