Saturday, 2 August 2014

A summary on 'Toba Tek Singh'

Submitted by:
Muktaparna Boruah (A6429713002)

Satire has always been a powerful tool to provoke or prevent change in any situation. Toba Tek Singh is one such outstanding example of a satirical work. Published in 1955, Toba Tek Singh was written by Saadat Hasan Manto. Originally written in Urdu, this short captivating story has since been translated in English and Hindi. More recently in 2005, a film based on a play adaptation was made by Afia Nathaniel.
The story follows lunatics in a mental asylum in Lahore of present day Pakistan and is set two to three years after the partition of India. Mostly, the story revolves around a Sikh inmate, called Bishan Singh, of the Lahore asylum.  Bishan Singh had been living in the asylum for more than 15 years. The guards at the asylum used to say that he had not slept a wink for all these years. He used to be a zamindar in his hometown Toba Tek Singh. When he heard about the partition he became anxious to know whether Toba Tek Singh would be in the newly formed Pakistan or Hindustan. He used to go around asking the other inmates and guards about it but no one could give him a satisfactory reply. Soon his fervor with his hometown earned him the name Toba Tek Singh.
On the day of the exchange, lorries from both sides, full of lunatics arrived at the Wagah Border. Most of the lunatics refused to budge and had to be forced out of the trucks. When it was Toba Tek Singh’s turn to get his name entered in the register, he asked the accompanying officer the same question that had been bothering him for so many days- “Where is Toba Tek Singh? In Pakistan or Hindustan?” The officer laughed and replied that it was in Pakistan. Toba Tek Singh was appalled and rushed towards the other side and stood his ground. No amount of pleading or force could make him budge from his place. Soon the others left and let him be. At pre-dawn the next day, there emerged such a blood curling cry from Bishan Singh’s throat that a number of officers came running towards him. The sight that met their eyes was deplorable, for the man who had stood prostrate for fifteen years was now lying on the ground. And no other words could do justice to the lines with which this story ends:

 “There, behind barbed wire, was Hindustan. Here, behind the same kind of barbed wire, was Pakistan. In between, on that piece of ground that had no name, lay Toba Tek Singh.”

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