Thursday, February 11, 2010

Toba Tek Singh

The whole story highlights the confusion and chaos of the partition. The partition is perceived as an abnormal situation and is considered unnecessary by the author. The story is based in mental hospital and revolves around characters who are mentally unwell.
It’s full of symbolism, every character and incident depiction of some event or character. The main theme is that of forced migration. The people have been in the madhouse for many years , even during partition and are now wondering where Pakistan is. How can they be a place India become Pakistan in a matter of days. Where is India now? What is the whole India becomes Pakistan or vice versa. Where are Sialkot and Lahore? What if they end up in India? Confusion and chaos.
The first incident is of a madman shouting “Pakistan zindabad” and sliping. He is passionate and emotional and slip in the process. This happened in India during the struggle to free India from the Brit. The people became emotional , prejudiced and violent.
Then a onepatient becomes so confused that he climbs a tree and refuses to come down , saying he doesn’t want to live in India or Pakistan, he wants to live on this tree. Indo-pak were insecure those days, and this guy wants to escape that insecurity and wants to seek asylum on this tree.
When he comes down from the tree, he hugs his Hindu and Sikh friends and cries because he thinks they will desert him now. Many Mslims and Hndus were separated from their friends
due to this divide. Also, the author wants to remind us of that the hindu-muslim divide was created by the politicians.
iginally, on a personal level, they had been living together for centuries and were happy.
Another patient , who was quite and a loner , now started roaming around nude. This shows things out of the ordinary start happening. Plus it can also mean that people were leaving their human, civilized side which required them to abide by certain rules, just like people did during the massacre. In Punjab the massacre was savagely and barbarous, just like the act of roaming around nude.
Now comes a critical part. A Muslim claims himself Quid-e-Azam and a Sikh claims himself Master Tara Singh( the leader of Sikhs during Partition). You can see which leaders these two are symbolizing. And these two are rated as “khatarnak Pagal” and locked up in separate cages!!!!! Manto is blaming the leaders for creating this chaos.
Then there is a Hindu from Lahore whose lover is now in Amritsar and her nationality is different from him now. He is separated from her for eternity. His companions tell him he can move to Amritsar but the lawyer thinks his practice wont be successful there. Now this was the central conflict in many people’s life. Love versus finance. They were required to make the choice between joining their loved ones across the border or staying where they are and preserve the comfort. Many people choose comfort.
Now comes the central character of the story. Bishan Singh has been in for 15 years and has forgotten every worldly matter. He keeps standing and doesn’t even take a bath except when his relatives come to see him. Now they don’t come to visit him and he misses it.
They don’t comes to see him because they have migrated to India.
He is suffering because of the separation caused by partition. Now bishan singh is wondering where Toba taik Singh is, the land to which he and his family belongs and where they own property.
Now there is a madman who claims to be god. When Bishan Singh inquires from this god, the god says he has yet to create Toba Taik Singh. On being disappointed Bishan Singh shouts his usual saying.
Manto suggests that what Bishan Singh meant by this slogan was that this is the god of Muslims , had he been the god of Sikhs he would have agreed with him. Now this is prejudice against Muslims that arose during the partition. The nations which had been living together for centuries now had a divide between each other.
Now a friend of Bishan Singh comes to meet him after a long time. This friend happens to be Muslim, again reinforcing the Hindu Muslim pre-partition unity. He informs how he safely sent his family to India and send them greetings. But being a simple villager, even he gets confused on where Toba Teik Singh is.
Bishan Singh’s companions at the mental hospital name him Toba Taik Singh because of his consistent inquiries.
He is man who has forgotten everything, his relatives, daughter, property and even himself. All he remembers is his district – the ultimate form of patriotism.
And now he is trying to find where his identity is and cannot find it. Many people where forced to migrate to and fro Pakistan and this was their crisis. In the end Toba Teik Singh dies on land that belongs to no country- the No Man’s land. He dies as a man in search of his identity.


  1. Someone asked me the following questions so I am replying...
    Toba Tek Singh is the short story by a very famous Urdu author Manto. Toba Tek Singh is also a constituency in Pakistan-- and it on this place that the title of the short story is based.

    Here is an english translation of the story:

  2. Hindi version of Toba Tek Singh

  3. Nice...a very serious topic expressed in a very different way. No one like partition or leave the place where he was born or has a lot of attachment to it but thats life...nothing is permanent, life moves on. Change has to happen and one has to accept it.

    Interesting it was :))!!

    Take Care!!

  4. First time here. I would say very very interesting and thought provoking post. And, the partition is heartbreaking. So many parititons, India and Pakistan, division of Berlin, and so many other partitions bring tears.

  5. Just wrote my comment for your Feb 6th post. Please read. Thanks.

  6. Post my visit to Lahore a year ago, I was filled with a lot of curiosity abt the partition. the only rationale I ve come to is that , when the Brits left , the spoils of war were up for grabs. The Congress , Jinnah , Tara Singh , The princely states all wnated a piece of the pie. That is why we have a Pakistan and we have an India and a Kashmir issue because the King/Pak/India couldn't grab this piece. It was only a 'lets grab power' game. The partition is generally seen as a 'devastating' moment in the country's history inIndia. In Pak I found the interpretation the opposite. The partition is seen as a struggle of the people of Pakistan that gave them a unique political and cultural identity.




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