Uper the gur gur the annexe the bay dhayana the mung the dal of the laltain

In this short essay, Yanis Iqbal analyses one of Manto’s (Saadat Hasan Manto) most searing short stories, on Partition, Toba Tek Singh.

The headline above is a phrase used by his protagonist, Bishen, also known as Toba Tek Singh, after his beloved village, to satirise the dealings of the departing colonialists, while perfectly twisting 3 popular languages, English, Hindi and Urdu, metaphorically into what is ostensibly a bit of nonsense, but in fact a bitter comment on what is taking place in 1947.

Referencing (Rene) Descartes and (Jacques) Derrida, Iqbal describes how Manto drew an uncanny parallel between clinical madness and the madness of a political construct that divided a people (a divide that continues to this day) with imaginary boundaries, made real (in the short story) by fences of barbed wire.

This reality continues to be maintained today by feeding a narrative of strife, one that handily fuels actual strife, realised in several armed conflicts, and the drawing of more artificial boundaries, fed by ever more bloodshed.

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It also reminds one of the documentary (& the feature film) Our Brand is Crisis where you keep perpetuating one crisis after another on people and then bring in a ‘stable’ leader. The documentary is on the 2002 Bolivian presidential elections.