Critically analyse the character of Bishan Singh in Manto‟s

Sadat Hasan Manto’s Toba Tek Singh. The story is about Bishan Singh and some other lunatics who live in the Lahore Mental Asylum. The story starts two or three years after the Partition. The Government of India and Pakistan decided to exchange their lunatics from country to other. Muslim lunatics from India would be sent to Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan would be sent to India. The lunatics were totally confused when they came to know about the decision as they don’t know anything about Pakistan. They were unaware of where it was situated and wanted to know whether they were in India or Pakistan. They wondered that if they were in Pakistan how come a little while ago they were in India. One of the lunatics climbed up a tree and decided to live there saying he would go to neither Pakistan nor India. Another lunatic whose name is Mohammad Ali declared himself as Mohammad Ali Jinnah. A Sikh lunatic called himself as Master Tara Singh and another young Hindu lawyer from Lahore did not wish to go to India.

Bishan Singh is one among the lunatics of Lahore Asylum; he is the protagonist of this story. He is a harmless old man came to the asylum fifteen years ago when he went mad. Toba Tek Singh is his hometown where he had some land and property. His family members came to visit him once a Month, but after the riots broke out they stopped coming. It is later through Fazal Din, a friend and neighbour of bishan Singh’s family we came to know that Bishan Singhs’s family left for India and were safe there. Finally, the day of exchange came and the lunatics were taken to the Wagha border. The exchange procedure started after the formalities had been done by both sides but it proved to be a very difficult task. The lunatics were out of control, they were screaming, laughing, crying, running here and there making the task all the more complex. After many lunatics Bishan Singh’s turn came for the exchange, he asked one officer where Toba Tek Singh was. When he learns from the officer that his homelanf is in few second all heard a sudden scream from Bishan Singh, who was lying flat face forward o the fround. And the piece of land where he fell belonged to neither India or Pakistan.

 

In Toba Tek Singh by Saadat Hasan Manto we have the theme of confusion, iden tity, separation, change, control and ignorance. Taken from his Kingdom’s End and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Manto may be exploring the theme of confusion. None of the characters in the story know where they are to go. Their nationality is in question. Which may be the point that Manto is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that after the partitioning of India bureaucracy was so slow or unorganized that many people had to wait to discover if they were to resettle in India or Pakistan. If anything Manto may be ridiculing both governments over their handling of repatriation. It is also possible that Manto is exploring the theme of identity. Each man mentioned appears to identify with one country or another. It is as though they view either India or Pakistan as part of their make-up and the changes that are being imposed on them are unnerving. It is also interesting that nobody appears to understand the results of the changes.

The character who appears to be mostly effected is Bishen Singh who wants to know what country Toba Tek Singh is part of. This is the most important question on Bishen’s mind. But more importantly Bishen represents those in India and Pakistan who remained without a state when it came to people being relocated. Something that is symbolically noticeable when Bishen collapses on neutral ground between the barbed wire of India and Pakistan. It is though Bishen is making a statement at least symbolically. While others might be pleased to be returning ‘home.’ This is not the case for Bishen. Such are the extremities felt by Bishen that he lies on the ground lifeless. He has been given no security as to what country Toba Tek Singh is in (it’s in Pakistan) and his family have been moved to India. So in reality Bishen is separated from his

family. His only real source of normality. Though it is noticeable that his family at the later stages of the story find it difficult to visit him. Perhaps out of an overpowering sadness (Bishen’s daughter) or perhaps because they now live in India and as such are unable to visit Bishen.

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