From the Archives: Trading Maniacs

By Susan Harris

If you're reveling in this month's Urdu issue, do check out Saadat Hasan Manto's 1955 classic "Toba Tek Singh" from September 2003. Just after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India decide to exchange lunatics: "Muslim lunatics in Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India." At the border, a Sikh known as Toba Tek Singh after the town he comes from lies down and refuses to move. Told first that his town is in Pakistan, then that it's in India ("if by some chance it wasn't they would send it there directly, they said"), the resolute Toba Tek Singh will not budge, and the story ends with him face down—India on one side, Pakistan on the other—"on a piece of land that had no name."


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