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Module 1: Great Literary Works and Great Historical Moments

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Partition and The Restoration Times

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Here we have a reliable narrator telling us a story but he is not an omniscient narrator, he speaks as a Pakistani and his asylum is situated in Lahore and if you have noticed the tone is the quite deadpan very fact it is a non-judgmental presentation of entire series of events there is mock seriousness to it and it is very suggestive and it does not necessarily commit to anything it is very difficult to know what the leanings of this particular narrator is and this tone of a newspaper reportage of mock-seriousness it reminds us of Jonathan swift’s A Modest Proposal and when you read through the entire story you would also know that he is actually. Manto is actually employing a lot of techniques from swift by presenting a very serious matter in a mock-serious way and also providing certain suggestions which are outrageous in a nonjudgmental detached non-committal way to make it look to the audience that it is such a grave situation and this presentation of an extremely serious situation extremely violent and horrific situation in this tone of the detached cold narration is a technique that Manto deliberately uses. and as noticed the narration begins by referring to the present moment. When the decision has already been made to exchange the lunatics and when the narration begins we get to know that the lunatics have already arrived in Wagah Border and then there is an abrupt and long flashback documenting from the time the inmates learn about the exchange and about the various kinds of opinions that they have about this proposal to exchange the lunatics and finally towards the climax of the story we are again back at Wagah border where this exchange is about to take place. (Refer Slide Time: 16:14) Madness is used as a Metaphor in this story the asylum is being used very suggestively and figurative to mirror the world outside there is sheer madness happening outside Manto himself always believed that this event of partition this exchange of population along the lines of religious faith along the lines of religious identity it was an insane and arbitrary and a senseless affair and the story also leaves us with this questions whether Bishan Singh insane or is he the only sane one in this story. (Refer Slide Time: 16:58) To accentuate the madness of this situation of the dividing of population along the lines of religion he repeatedly uses terms such as Muslim lunatic a Sikh lunatic again a Muslim lunatic. (R together Slide e lunatics their identity is referred along with their religious identity which the absurdity of that begins to strike us and we also realize how utterly absurd it was to divide the population along these religious lines as well and Manto uses the metaphor of madness to say what he wants to say and this is how Manto makes one of his characters talk about what Pakistan is the name of a place in India. Where cutthroat razors are manufactured, we have a set of people in this asylum who are clueless about where India or Pakistan is we have a set of characters in this short story within this asylum who are clueless where in India is or where Pakistan is and frankly they do not care until it comes to this life and death situation where there about to be moved and the moment they are about to be moved they begin to realize that their identity can not be defined in terms of religion in terms of nationality but it is something else altogether. We find the protagonist Bishan Singh opting for a more local identity of his village of Toba Tek Singh and he holds on to that identity refusing to let any other identity to supersede it neither religious nor national and the story also tells how everyone is clueless about what is happening neither the inmates nor the prison guards nor what the newspapers are writing about nothing else can give them clarity about where what is and there is also this interesting episode where a man by the name Mohammad Ali Jinnah or the Quaid-e-Azam who had set up a separate country for Muslims called Pakistan, and there are these political details which have been given to us, we have been made privy to it but the tone with which the story tells us about these things are in a very matter of fact in a way as if to even indicate that it is no big deal and there is one a person who declares I wish to live neither in India nor in Pakistan. I wish to live in this street there is a Muslim radio engineer there is another Muslim lunatic from CHARIOT there is another Sikh inmate who declares himself as master Tara Singh another one who declares himself as Mohammad Ali Jinnah and we find that through this metaphor of madness again Manto is suggesting that not just this inmates but all this political leader who are insinuating the public and who are instigating these various kinds of divisions they are all equally mad and he can use madness as a convenient trope to say what is otherwise perhaps impossible to say. (Refer Slide Time: 20:16) We continuously find that the lunatics are being referred in terms of their religious identity a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore and there are two Anglo Indian lunatics then this is a very interesting detail there are these two Anglo Indian Lunatics who were more worried about whether there will be a European ward in wherever they are going to be transferred and also about would breakfast continue to be served or would they have to subsist on bloody Indian Chapati. And these concerns these trivial concerns also accentuate the absurdity the of the political drama which is happening outside and now we come to in page 4 toward the end we come to focus on this protagonist Bishan Singh he is a Sikh who had been confined for the last fifteen years whenever he spoke it was the same mysterious gibberish upar de gur gur de annexe the bay dhyana the mung the dal of the captain so he keeps uttering this nonsensical language and this is extremely important because the protagonist Bishan Singh he also suggests the breakdown of communication the total lapse language. And how it stops being an important means of communication this language which is otherwise used for communications has not been useful for negotiation or for any kinds of negotiation which could take away the gravity of this violence and here we find of Bishan Singh simplifying that because whenever he talks he just utters nonsense and this exemplifies the total breakdown of total communication during the time of partition and during the month and years after that the story tells us about how he begins enquiring where Toba Tek Singh is and nobody is quite sure whether it is in Pakistan or India. And let us read this short excerpt from page five together those who are trying to solve this mystery had become utterly confused when told that Sialkot which used to be in India was now in Pakistan it was anybody’s guess what was going to happen to Lahore, which was currently in Pakistan but could slide into India any moment, it was also possible that entire subcontinent of India might become Pakistan and who could say if both India and Pakistan might not entirely vanish from the map of the world one day. Through this logical construction of the argument, Manto is further mocking the entire series of political events and whatever that followed and he is showing us there is no logic there is no rationale however hard you try to justify this act of partition this act of division along these lines also given a background of this man Bishen Singh and some say he used to be a landlord Toba Tek Singh and he lost his mental stability 15 years ago and was brought to the asylum. (Refer Slide Time: 23:12) And we are also made to understand that his family visits him quite regularly and he also has a sixth sense which tells him in advance when he would get visitors and during this time of partition we realize that the visits stop because his family had moved they are no longer able to visit him in page 7 there is a way in which Manto brings in a God figure he talks about there is a mad man who pretends to be God and Bishan Singh is upset that he still has not responded he still has answered where exactly Toba Tek Singh is and this mad man then says and then the mad man who is posing as God he is preoccupied with the other things and he does not respond adequately Bishan Singh grows impatient. And he says you do not answer my prayers because you are a Muslims God had you been a Sikh God you would have been more of the sport, of course, he communicates in that nonsense gibberish language it is translated by this omniscient narrator it is translated by this reliable narrator and this form it again exposes the utter absurdity with which God’s religions and everything divided the story halfway through tells that Bishan Singh’s family had has migrated to India his daughter also has left for India and they are waiting for him in India. So the inevitable is soon to happen Bishan Singh will be made to move to migrate to India because his family has already left for India but still we do not get to know where exactly Toba Tek Singh his village is. (Refer Slide Time: 25:07) And from now from on the plot moves rather quickly thee date of transfer fix Bishan Singh is still clueless of where Toba Tek Singh is and there is a description in page 8 about what happens at border when they are trying to exchange this population of lunatics when they are trying to send some of them to India and we realize that Manto is mocking the entire process through which this exchange of population is planned that it was impossible to plan and execute such a thing of such grave proportions without expecting any kind of chaos. It was quite a job getting the men out of the buses and handing them over to officials, some just refused to leave, those who were persuaded to do so began to run pell-mell in every direction, some were stark naked, all efforts to get them to cover themselves had failed because they could not be kept from tearing off their garments, some were shouting abuse or singing, other were weeping bitterly, many fights broke out, in short, complete confusion prevailed how much more graphic can Manto get he is suggesting the madness the confusion and the total inability to control the situation. When such a thing is happening here we find that madness is working as a metaphor very well because Manto can say many things which would perhaps which he perhaps would not have been able to say otherwise and as we come toward the end of the story we realize that Bishan Singh has still not figured where Toba Tek Singh is neither the guards nor anyone around seems to know the whereabouts of Toba Tek Singh and finally he refuses to move and the guard and the officials also they stop forcing him because it is pointless they begin to see and toward the end, we see that we see that there he stood and no man’s land on his swollen legs like a colossus. (Refer Slide Time: 27:17) And towards the end there behind barbed wire on one side lay India and behind more barbed wire on the other side lay Pakistan in between on a bit of earth which had no name lay Toba Tek Singh, we do not know whether narration referring to Bishan Singh collapsing and perhaps even dying on that ground which is a no man’s land or is the story suggesting that is where Toba Tek Singh is it is in between no man’s land which nobody can now claim therefore no identity can be attached to that place either the story is ambiguous in that sense. We do not get to know how he how Manto wants the readers how he wants us to read and interpret the story but the chaos that he manages to convey the absurdity of this situation that comes across is very-very clearly the wonderful about this story is that it resonates with the reader even today the idea of this fluent kind of identities and the impossibility to attribute concrete meanings to them they remain as a true is even today. (Refer Slide Time: 28:28) The story has been analyzed different ways and this is definitely a political satire and as we have noted a madness works very well as a metaphor to critique the agents who have part of this event the governments which were planning and executing this and commoners who were also sympathetically present the civilians the commoners the citizens who were caught in-between the total confusing situation we see that Manto is reducing the deliberate possibility of language as a means of communication as a means of negotiation. He also shows this through this character of Bishan Singh who is unable to say anything coherently except for this the name of this village Toba Tek Singh all the other things that he says has been reduced to nonsense it just not make any sense but despite that, he comes across as the only one in this story who is sane who is clear about what he wants and who refuses to give in to this sort of division and external attributes the question of identity also looms very large throughout this story it is difficult to understand the story in multiple ways is trying to tell like that. It is on the one hand difficult to tie a person to a single kind of identity it remains as a fluid category but never the less there are also situations where identity itself becomes the reason for forced migrations for forced exiles or even for losing one’s own life this has been simplified in Manto’s life itself where he was forced to migrate out of despite himself despite the convictions that he held on to and the also find that. (Refer Slide Time: 30:34) Manto has the final word as far as this story and it’s sympathetic and political spirit is concerned Sukrita Paul notes this about this story fine perception of the thin line between what is regarded as lunacy and sanity that is what Toba Tek Singh successfully achieves we are difficult to judge whether Bishan Singh is the lunatic or whether the ones outside who are promoting this kind of divisions are they the insane ones we will wrap up this discussion by referring to Manto’s analysis of his own life and his own identity. Manto had migrated from Bombay to Lahore against his own will and he wrote and spoke about it for the rest of his life and this is what he wrote in one of his essays, “I lived in Bombay for twelve years, and what I am, I am because of those years, today I find myself living in Pakistan, tomorrow I may go to live elsewhere, but wherever I go I will remain what Bombay made me, wherever I live, I will carry Bombay with me. So this is what Manto made Bishan Singh do as well there is an identity which Bishan Singh manages to carry with himself it is a provincial local personal identity which cannot be superseded by religious identities or national identities it cannot be dictated by any powers that are from without Toba Tek Singh continues to be one of the best-known stories of Manto one of the best-known stories of partition and one of the best-known work from this sub-continent itself and even after these many decades we continue to note that this is a kind of stories which accentuates its relevance as time goes by. I hope you enjoy reading this short story I encourage you to be more attentive to the many critical perspectives within which this story can be further placed I thank you for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next session. Hello and welcome to today’s session. We are today looking at one of the 17th-century works titled Oroonoko which also has an alternate title or the Royal slave written by Aphra Behn. (Refer Slide Time:0:29) Oroonoko is considered as a short work of prose fiction more like a proto-novel type which is published in 1688 towards the end of the 17th century. This work has an Eponymous hero, an African prince from Coromantien who is tricked into slavery and then sold to British colonists in Surinam and it is there as per the text it is there in Surinam that he meets the narrator. The narrator who happens to be the author Aphra Behn and this work is considered as extremely important in the history of English language and literature. Though this is a 17thcentury text we find a lot of critique of colonialism in this. We know that as far as Britain is concerned Britain had reached the zenith of its colonial glory from the end of the 16th century onwards. And we find that there is a lot of ways in which the spirit of colonialism is celebrated in several English texts but contrary to those texts Oroonoko is one text that too written by a female author where a strong critique of colonialism can be found where a strong current against the value system and the social fabric of England can be found there. Oroonoko this proto-novel is a first-person account of Oroonoko’s life, love, rebellion and execution. And this is also considered as one of the earlier novels though the form per se may look a little different when we look at it from the contemporary. (Refer Slide Time2:07) Aphra Behn is the first known professional female writer who lived from 1640 to1689. The dates we do not have, too many certain details about her date of birth or the other personal details it’s all by way of conjecture that some dates have been found by historians. She lived during the Restoration period. And during that period she wrote dramas and prose fiction extensively and if you’re familiar with the history of the English literature you also know that during the Restoration period plays were extremely popular it was one of the easiest means to get livelihood as far as writers and artists were concerned and the Restoration period happens after a 40-year break in English history where the theatre was shut down where there were no forms of entertainment that were the puritan rule. And during this time, during this Restoration phase that Aphra Behn gains significance and visibility. She could be considered as a playwright, a poet, translator and an essayist all found in one. Interestingly, she turned to prose writing when revenue from the theatre diminished and she also had started her career as a dramatist in the first place because she was not really being taken care of well by the state despite being a spy for Charles II government. It’s a very very interesting trajectory that we find in her career in her life given that she was a woman who was leading a life in the 17th-century. In the 1660s there is enough evidence to show that she worked as she spies for Charles II government in Antwerp the Surinam historians suspect but very little is known with certainty about her life that is also enough evidence to show that she was married to a Dutchman for a while who also is supposed to have died during one of the plagues. But we find her leading an extremely individualistic life very successful life given that the society of those times was more male-centric and there was hardly any place for women in those public spaces whether it is be anything related to art or whether it is related to war and spy work and we find it is in such a male-centric society that Aphra Behn manages to carve out space for herself. (Refer Slide Time4:51) In July 1666 it is said that during the Anglo-Dutch War she was sent to Antwerp in Belgium as an intelligence agent and she had to stay there, she was required to stay there till the end of the year till December. And Area was the codename that she used as an agent and it is very interesting to read about these accounts and to know what a fascinating life she led in the 17th century. And how different her articulations were as an artist but despite this in incredible spectacular very different kind of work that she undertook she was left to fend for herself. And this in fact was the fate of many other agents of Charles II if you know your English history you would also know that it was turbulent. A very interesting period in English history where we also find the equation between the Parliament and the crown the Parliament and the monarch radically changing. And a lot of political changes coming into being totally redefining and reshaping how British history gets to be shaped. And during this period once she returns from Antwerp it’s also significant to note that she gets imprisoned for debt. She hardly gets paid for any of the work that she did like many other agents. d said that some member from the royalty from the Royal Council they tried to rescue her out of the debt and she is out of imprisonment but then she turns to write as a means of earning a living and he, therefore, is now considered as a first female writer could make a career out of writing. And this is extremely significant that she is not writing as a means of self-expression, she was not writing as to offer a counter-narrative in the male-centric society she was writing as a professional and that makes it all the more different. That makes Oroonoko special work to talk about in the context of our literature that it marked the beginning of a woman’s professional journey as a writer. And it is in this context that we shall be looking at Oroonoko and evaluating its historical significance not just in England but also in the larger context of world literature in the context of the traditions that writers both male and female had set in place. (Refer Slide Time:7:28) If we take a look at Behn’s writings, she wrote prolifically. it’s said that she wrote 15 plays or even more there is no exact number which is available because some of the works which do not bear her name are also attributed to her and most of her plays were very very successful. And if you’re familiar with the scene of Restoration drama, it is mostly Restoration comedy that the bawdy kind of comedy that Charles II’s courtiers preferred. It’s in such a setting and that is linked, it’s from such a social context that Behn emerges as a very different kind of an artist doing practising the kind of politics that she believed in and manifesting that in her writings in a very powerful way and her plays were also noted for performance by well-known and talented actors of the time and Anthony Leigh, James Nokes, Charles Hart, Elizabeth Barry and Anne Bracegirdle were some of the famous actors of those times to also act in most of Behn’s place that also added to the appeal of her works being staged. During her time when most writers were trying to avoid getting into any kind of political trouble were trying to stay away from the centre of political affairs, we find Behn taking the lead and she is not holding back anything when she is doing her satire “Roundheads: or the good old cause” is one of the satires targeting the King’s Whig opponents. And it’s important to know that during the duration time the writers had led a very precarious life. They ran into many troubles with the rulers of those times if they had any political controversy brewing about their careers or their lives. It could ruin their career and even their life and so we find most of them staying away from any serious matters and just focusing on some mindless comedy, mostly focusing on the man-woman relationship and trying to make it as bawdy as possible. If you recall the way Henry Hudson the history of English language and literature when he talks about this section on Restoration comedy, he makes this point that it is not even worth our time to spend time discussing the Restoration drama because it is not really worth it at all. We find Aphra Behn emerging as a very different kind of an artist during this time with a conviction. And were some kind of powerful stance that is hard not to notice in most of her works. So Behn also did face this right or falling into financial hardship if she did not toe the line, she did not always manage to place the ones who were supposed to be pleased. So we find her, however, leading a tough life because she had her unswerving loyalty to two Stuart kings but still her safety is not assured. In fact even after having got the hint of appreciation from King Charles for being a spy and an excellent one at that at Antwerp and possibly in Surinam. We find her getting imprisoned for satire against the Duke of Monmouth who is also king Charles II’s illegitimate son. So as you know King Charles II’s court was well-known for the kind of promiscuous activities that the king himself was indulging in and it was being seen as the most in vogue to do then. And he also had a lot of illegitimate children and we know the kind of politics and the kind of political drama which was happening in the background. So we find taking a stance when she is trying to write about these things and expose these things before the public. We find her coming across as a very fearless woman. She died on April 16, 1689. (Refer Slide Time:11:52)