Bearing the agony of Partition

Dramatics

Bearing the agony of Partition

Considered one of the most prominent and prolific storytellers that India has produced Saadat Hasan Manto’s tales primarily revolve around the dark realities of pre and post-Partition era.

Toba Tek Singh, one of Manto’s finest and amongst the most evocative short stories based on the exchange of mentally challenged persons between India and Pakistan was recently staged by Sunil Rawat, where the director chose to highlight characters other than Toba Tek Singh – the main protagonist.

With Partition as its backdrop, the government of India and Pakistan decide to exchange inmates of their mental health institutions and the news excites the inmates. Bishan Singh is a Sikh, and the most well-behaved inmate who constantly speaks meaninglessly – primarily enquiring about a village named Toba Tek Singh, which results in Bishan Singh being called Toba Tek Singh.

The play throws light on each of the lunatics who include a radio engineer (played by Dharmendra); a poet (played by Praveen Yadav); a singer (Aryan Chaudhary) and other characters. One of the most biting satires of its time, Toba Tek Singh brings to life the debate on Partition. The characters take on the roles of Mohammed Ali Jinnah,

Tara Singh, Lord Mountbatten and even Allah to face the trial for the crime of Partition.
As the play progresses, a trial is conducted by a lunatic lawyer (played by Vikramaditya) in the asylum, who has turned mad because Partition separated him from his lover.

An Anglo-Indian patient (played by Himanshu Dabgotra) is declared Lord Mountbatten while the poet is made a judge! Disgruntled inmates decides to chop Lord Mountbatten into pieces for dividing the country. The inmates foolishly believe that this would take care of their troubles but in fact, it only reflects their rage and hopelessness.

As a part of the exchange, the Lahore-based Bishan Singh has to be sent under police escort to India, but after being told that his home town Toba Tek Singh actually lies in Pakistan, he refuses to go.

However, the play ends with Bishan Singh lying down on the line dividing the two countries, symbolically stating that he belongs to neither land. In the words of the author, “There, behind barbed wires, is Hindustan. Here, behind the same kind of barbed wire is Pakistan. In between, on that piece of ground that had no name, lay Toba Tek Singh.”

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