Victory though verse in Lahore and Delhi

Lahore and Delhi are sister cities on each side of the border. Both are cities of art and culture. In the center of Lahore, Delhi-gate leads east toward that great city. And in Delhi, Lahori gate leads to Lahore. Both cities house two major religious shrines, the Dargah of Nizammudin Aulia in Delhi, and Data Darbar in Lahore.

The cities also house two literary shrines. In Lahore, Urdu Short Story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto is buried. And in Delhi is the mazar of the father of Urdu poetry, Mirza Assad Ullah Khan Ghālib. They lived in different times but they are connected by the words they wrote.

Victory in death

On May 11 1955, Sa’adat Hassan Manto, died in a mental institution in Lahore. He is buried in the Miani Sahib graveyard in Lahore. His epitaph, which he wrote himself, reads:

Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto who still believes that his name in this world will not be repeated.

Head stone of Manto
“Sa’adat Hasan Manto” by meemainseen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Like all great writers, he borrowed from a predecessor. He chose the words of the poet who shared his temperament: Mirza Assad Ullah Khan, who wrote as Ghālib (غالب), an arabic word meaning victor.

Neither Manto nor Ghālib felt victorious in their lifetime. Victory came after their death. Both believed the world was not prepared for their greatness. They didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

They are correct in this assumption. However, since their death, generations of writers, film-makers, and artists have been inspired by both.

Written twice in error: harf-e-mukarrar, हर्फ़-ए-मुकर्ररحَرْفِ مُکَرَّر-

The phrase that Manto chose is from this couplet from one of Ghālib’s most famous ghazals:

یا رب، زمانہ مجھ کو مٹاتا ہے کس لئے؟لوحِ جہاں پی حرفِ مکرّر نہیں ہوں میں

या रब, ज़माना मुझ को मिटाता है किस लिए?लौह ए जहाँ पे हर्फ़ ए मुकर्रर नहीं हूँ मैं -ग़ालिब

Oh Lord, why is the world bent upon erasing me/In the text of the universe, I will not appear again.

Ghālib‘s mazar is an homage to his poetry and carved in marble is the verse in which he resents having been born. Existence, he suggests, prevents being god-like:

When there was nothing, there was God, when there will be nothing, there will be God/My existence prevented me from being what I could have been.

نہ تھا کچھ تو خدا تھا کچھ نہ ہوتا تو خدا ہوتا/ڈبویا مجھ کو ہونے نے نہ ہوتا میں تو کیا ہوتا

A scene from the TV series on Ghalib and muscal rendition of نہ تھا کچھ تو خدا تھا

For more on Manto read the following posts by Selma

Manto’s Short Stories and his Obsession with Obscenity

Manto’s own words about his Urdu short stories were my first introduction to his writing:

“-اگر آپ میرے افسانوں کو برداشت نہیں کر سکتے تو اس کا مطلب ہے کہ زمانہ ناقابل برداشت ہے”

If you find my stories intolerably obscene, it is because the society you live in is obscene.”

Charming Booksellers in the Chaotic Bazaar of Lahore

A labyrinth of narrow winding streets just outside the old walled city of Lahore. Horns blaring, cars squeeze past donkey and camel carts loaded with printed material. Books spill out of overstocked stores onto barely visible sidewalks. University students hunt for required reading material – or for used copies of Sidney Sheldon novels and Playboy magazines. Children clutch onto newly purchased textbooks just as firmly as their mothers hold on to them. A moment of distraction in this crowded Urdu bazaar and one’s prized possessions could disappear forever.

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art

Five kilometers from the Miani graveyard, where Manto is buried, at the shrine of Data Sahib, Nida, Sasha, and Bhangi from This House of Clay and Water meet. There their story unfolds. Faiqa Mansab chooses Lahore as the city of her debut novel.

Like generations of writers, Faiqa Mansab is inspired by Ghalib. Read more about her here.

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