Manto’s writing exhibits pure talent and precision. His ramblings were really fun and enlightening to read. He clearly loved Bombay and its people. His portrayal of the city’s streets, its gangsters, the prostitutes is very engaging and flawless. It paints a very realistic picture in your head. However, at several instances, I got the feeling that Manto suffered from internalised misogyny.
It is very subtle and you can pick it up from here and there in his stories. For instance, one of the lines from his short story “Hamid’s baby” says: “Hamid thought the girls looked dirty and vulgar in their make-up and wore the expression that all prostitutes share. This disgusted him. He wanted all women, even prostitutes, to maintain their dignity, and he didn’t want whores to lose their feminine modesty just because of their job.”
This passage really irked me. I wonder what feminine modesty means here. It reiterates the false stereotypes women are supposed to uphold in everyday life. And in one of the other stories, he talks about a character and how ugly she looks because of her “deceptive” makeup. Although his writing is very inspiring and progressive in many ways, I couldn’t help but ponder upon his flaws. Reading him made me feel like I am reading an Indian Bukowski.
And alcoholism doesn’t qualify for a personality trait. Maybe I expected more from Manto since he is so well praised. Maybe I couldn’t understand something that other people can.