Black Milk

Saadat Hassan Manto (1912__1954) was born in Sambrala (now part of East Punjab) on the 11th of May, 1912. He himself gave birth to ‘Manto’ as he neared the end of his schooldays. The first page of the book contains the following lines entitled as

” In memory of a conversation”:

“The milk of human kindness… if

you’ll pardon the cliché… flows in

the breast of every Manto character …”

“Its colour will have to be black if society

is to accept that verdict…”

Manto is known for writing unspeakable truths, hidden and dark tales of mankind augmented with pessimism, reality and bleak side of life, depicting sociopolitical and historical events along with the shades of gender and racial discrimination, injustice, violence, and all that one could feel. He gives the voice to all such emotions and pent up feelings that everyone wants to express but is unaware of the channel to express, this is the reason his words coincide with thoughts of all folks irrespective of their social strata, language and culture. Most of his stories entails stream of consciousness, discovers all that runs through the mind of every human being.

He had strong conviction over his art of story telling as his own epitaph contains lines:

“Here lies Saadat Hassan Manto along with his art of story writing… even now under tons of earth he is wondering, who is greater story writer… he or God.

Most of his short stories have been written in the background of partition between India and Pakistan, cover numerous socio political issues in such a subtle and pithy manner that no one can math his mastery of weaving words within a tapestry.

“Sakina” is the story that unfolds grim picture of Indo-Pak partition (1947), along with the shattered drams and expectations associated with new land of freedom. This story reveals how trust of an elderly father is broken by his own companions, whom he thought of his saviors and confidants. In the opening lines we are told that the special train carrying refuges from Amritsar has arrived after eight hours at Mughalpura , beyond the new international border, first paragraph depicts the scene depicts the scene of looted, wounded and brutally killed people during the riots.

An old man Sirajuddin wakes up and finds himself laying on the cold damp ground of the refugee camp. All around him, he sees an agitated sea of humanity, men, women and children. He wants to think and recollect but his memory fades away. Images begin to form on the screen of his mind rioting, looting, fire, running, the railway station, gun fire, the dark night and… and Sakina. At once sirajuddin rises up to his feet and like a madman rushes into the masses of people around him.

Dejected by his missing daughter, he looks for someone to bring his daughter back. After some days he meets with a party of young men, who possess guns and a lorry. They after having got the description regarding Sakina promise him to locate her and bring her back.

But after locating Sakina they prove otherwise, instead of handed her to Sirajuddin, they ruthlessly use her and then caste her away near the rail tracks, where she is found lying unconscious. When she is brought to the refugee camp hospital, Sirajuddin recognizes her by the black mole on her pallid lifeless cheeks and creams with joy “Sakina…. Sakina.” But quite shocking to the readers, when doctor examines the pulse of girl, looks at Sirajuddin and nodes his head towards the window “Open it” he says, the girl on stretcher i.e Sakina stirs, her hands move slowly and she opens the knot of her shalwar and pushes the garment down her thighs…

Old Sirajuddin face lights up with joy, “She’s alive…” he shouts, “My daughter’s alive…”

The doctor begins to drip with sweat.

The plight of helpless people migrating from one land to another is conveyed through a hair-raising event that leaves a lasting gloomy impact on readers. How human beings get turned into wild animals during any situation of chaos, when things fall apart and center cannot hold. One shudders deeply on looking through the windowpane opening into the time when a blood stained line was drawn between two civilizations and religions at the cost of several lives, sanctities and honors. When so many fathers lost their daughters and got their embodiments only, devoid of souls.

The usage of word “open it” entails symbolism and leads towards so many connotations and interpretations. Earlier this story was entitled as “Khol Do” while it was written in Urdu version, but when translated, its title was changed into “Sakina”. This story is an index of how social fabric is destroyed when anarchy and disorder is prevalent in society, History discloses that aftermath of any war gives birth to lost generation, who have aimless lives and are subjected to agonies, immorality, dissatisfaction and anxiety.

This short story reflects the socio political and geographical condition of migrated people at the time of partition, religious and cultural differences that became the root cause for two separate realms. The naïve and simple attitude of people, their blind trust on others, expectations and dreams regarding new liberated land, their capacity to sacrifice and sufferings. Then their exploitation and manipulation at the hands of authorities and people around them.

Title: BLACK MILK (an anthology of short stories)


Translated from Urdu by: HAMID JALAL

Genre: PROSE

Publisher: Sang_e_Meel Publications 1996

Pages: 187

Language : ENGLISH

Title of short story: SAKINA