The Heartbreaking Summary of Toba Tek Singh by Sadat Hasan Manto
The short story ‘Toba Tek Singh‘ By Saadat Hasan Manto takes place a couple of years after the partition of India-Pakistan when governments decide to exchange their lunatics. The short story is about an inmate of Lahore asylum named Bishan Singh or Toba Tek Singh. The story shows the horror of partition.
- First published in 1955
- Original Language: Urdu
- Genre: Satire
- The short story takes place after the partition of India-Pakistan
Summary of Toba Tek Singh:
The story takes place a couple of years after the partition of India. The government of India and Pakistan decides to exchange lunatics like prisoners. Muslim lunatics should be Transferred to Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh lunatics to India. The higher officials made many conferences and finally come to this decision but those Muslims whose families still live in India will not be transferred and the same for the Pakistani lunatics.
The news of the lunatic’s exchange spread on the winds. The story takes place in a mental asylum in Pakistan, Lahore. We see a Muslim lunatic who is a regular reader of the newspaper “Zamindar”. He was asked about what Pakistan was. He replied after a deep thought, “The name of a place in India where Cut-throat razors are manufactured.” We see many lunatics like a Sikh who says about the language Hindustan and another Muslim lunatic who raised the slogan of Pakistan and fell on the ground.
Not all lunatics were mad. Some were normal but they were murders. Their family bribed officials to spare from the charges. They were also clueless that why India was being divided. Some said the man named Muhammad Ali Jinnah set up a new country called Pakistan but inmates didn’t know exactly where Pakistan was located.
One inmate decided to climb on the tree and declared He doesn’t want to live in India or Pakistan instead he will live in that tree.
A Muslim radio engineer with an MSC degree was affected so much that he took off his clothes and ran into the asylum garden.
Another Muslim lunatic from Chiniot declared himself as Muhammad Ali Jinnah. A Sikh inmate also declared himself Master Tara Singh, the leader of the Sikhs. They were separated and locked up in the cells.
There was a young Hindu lawyer who lost his mind after an unhappy love affair. When he got to know that Amritsar had become a part of India, he went into depression because his beloved lived in Amritsar. He received the news of exchange that he will be sent to India and congratulated him but he was not happy because he believed that his law practice will not flourish in Amritsar.
There were two Anglo-Indian lunatics in the European wards. They were unsecured of their status because Europeans decided to grant independence to India. They thought that their Ward would be abolished or have to eat Indian Chapati.
There was a Sikh inmate, Bishan Singh who has been confined for 15 years. He said nothing without some mysterious gibberish “Uper the gurgur the annexe the bay dhayana the mung the dal of the laltain”. According to the guards, He had not slept for a moment in fifteen years. Sometimes, He could be seen leaning against a wall but most of the time he was standing. His legs became swollen. He also got to know about the news of the exchange of inmates.
Bishan desperately wanted to know about his home town Toba Tek Singh whether it was going to be a part of India or Pakistan. He asked everyone about that but nobody could solve his queries.
Bishan Singh was a harmless person. Older attendants of the asylum said that he was a wealthy landlord of Toba Tek Singh. Everyone called him Toba Tek Singh. He was living in Lahore asylum for fifteen years and had no idea about weeks, days, months, and time but he had developed his sixth sense when his relatives came to visit him, he used to clean himself, soap his body, oil and comb hair and put on clean clothes. He never said anything except that gibberish.
Bishan Singh left an infant daughter when he was first confined. She also came to see her father and cry in front of him.
Bishan’s relatives were not coming after the partition of India-Pakistan. He missed their gifts. He also lost his sixth sense which used to give him a massage of visitors.
One inmate declared himself God or Khuda. Bishan asked him about Toba Tek Singh. The man said neither in India nor in Pakistan, and the order hadn’t been issued. Bishan urged him to release the necessary orders.
One Muslim friend of Bishan from Toba Tek Singh came to visit him. He brought a message to his family that they had gone to India safely. Bishan asked him,
“Where is Toba Tek Singh”
He replied ” it is where it has always been,” Bishan left him and murmured gibberish.
The exchange of lunatics rapidly finalized. Lists of lunatics had been exchanged between governments.
Lunatics were moving out from Lahore to Wagha. Senior officials met and signed documents. Lunatics were not happy, some refused to leave. Some were shouting abuse or singing. Female lunatics were also shouting.
Lunatics could not understand why they were being transferred to a different land. Bishan was brought and asked for his name to record in the register. He asked the official “where is Toba Tek Singh? In India or Pakistan?” The man replied, “Pakistan.” Bishan tried to run but failed. Everyone try to console him that Taba Tek Singh would be moved to India. But he didn’t move.
He stood in no man’s land since everyone knew he was a harmless fellow they did not use force to move him. The exchange continued the full night.
Before sunrise, Bishan Singh the man, who had stood on his legs for 15 years, collapsed to the ground. He lay on earth which had no name. In this way, the story ends
Well explained 😄