Maharashtra and Manto

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I visited Delhi’s New Maharashtra Sadan recently and it brought back to mind the state I had been living in till just over a month ago. It also made me wonder about the duality that is Maharashtra. A place that gave birth to both Ambedkar and Phule and Godse and the RSS. A state at once prosperous and glut with sugar and yet one where cotton farmers can’t find reason to live one more day. From Maratha warriors to a language whose writers can write as if they’re swordfighting. There are pieces of its history that both the Left and the Right can get nostalgic about. The state that means ‘great state’ is certainly a study in contrasts. And then there is Mumbai, again despised and coveted at the same time.

How does the same city nourish both Manto and the likes of Thackerays, Memons and Dawood Ibrahims of the world (the last is famously sleeping as I type this). And what would Manto have said of the turn of events that the country he moved to sent a bunch of boys to wreak havoc on the very city he loved and lived in?

But if I am thinking of what Manto would say about X event in his old home, I will need to go further back. I will need to start with the riots, the ’93 blasts, the many blasts since and the persecutions that led to the creation of a Shahid Azmi. Or perhaps I would have to go back even further to the underworld of the 70s, the making of the Haji Mastans and Dawood Ibrahims and the shootouts and encounters of the past years?

I think I’m beginning to see how the city that nourished Manto also created the Thackerays and the Dawoods… After all, what would Manto write about if both his countries weren’t such absurd places?

PS: Food (drink?) for thought. What would Manto have thought of Old Monk? Both cheap and safe at the same time


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