Khol Do

Originally written in Urdu,Khol Do is one of the most striking and extraordinary piece of work by Saadat Hasan Manto in which he describes the pain and helplessness of a father in the most heart rending fashion that will make even the coldest of hearts shudder with pain and shock.This story explores one of the most important yet ignored aspect of our society:The horrors of war and the demons inside us.It is but a small effort to translate the story from Urdu to English so that more people could discover stories that tug at the strings of our heart.I hope that I am able to recreate even a small fraction of the shock that the original story delivered. Pardon me if the story contains too much darkness or explicit intent but they are important to portray the horrors of partition that the common people went through.

The special train from Amritsar left the station at two in the afternoon and reached MughalPura after eight hours.Many passengers were killed in between.Numerous people were injured and some were scattered on the route.

At ten in the morning,on the dew laden grass of the refugee camp,as Sirajuddin opened his eyes and saw a immense crowd of men,women and children all around him,his attempts to think and understand became more feeble by the minute.For a long time,he just kept staring at the smoke rising from the camp and vanishing into the sky.There was a lot of commotion in the camp but old Sirajuddin was oblivious to all of this.He could hear nothing.People saw him and thought he is probably drowned in his own sorrow,but Sirajuddin was perfectly in his senses.

Watching the hazy sky without any intent,his gaze met the sun.The bright sunrays sent a searching spear of light into his eyes and he woke up.Numerous images started running over his mind:Loots,fire,rapes,people running,station,gunfires,the night and Sakina!

Sirajuddin woke up with a jerk and started searching the immense ocean of people around him like a madman.

For the next three hours,he just kept calling out “Sakina,Sakina” and raked up the camp in search of her.But he could not find his young and only daughter.There was a loud commotion all over the camp.Someone was searching for his child,someone was searching for his mother.Someone his wife and someone his daughter.A tired Sirajuddin sat in a corner and tried to remember how and when Sakina was saperated from him.But each time,his mind returned back to the images of the stiff corpse of Sakina’s mother.Her stomach was cut open and her guts spilled out blood on the floor.The rest of the images were too disturbing for him to think about.

Sakina’s mother was dead.She died in front of Sirajuddin and he could do nothing to save her.Writhing in pain,dying slowly,Sakina’s mother asked Sirajuddin to leave her and get out of Amritsar safely with Sakina.

Sakina was with him when they left.They were running barefoot.Sakina’s dupatta slipped down her shoulder.He stopped to pick it up but Sakina had screamed “leave it Abba and run!” but he still picked up the dupatta.Thinking about this he felt his bulky pocket and took out a dirty cloth.It was the same cloth but Sakina was nowhere to be found.

Sirajuddin pressed hard on his tired brain and tried to remember but he couldn’t remember anything.Did he bring Sakina with him to the station?Did she board the train with him?Did the rioters took her away when the train was stopped in between?

Sirajuddin’s mind was riddled with questions but no answers appeared to any of them.He was in need of empathy but every other person around him needed the same thing.Sirajuddin tried to weep but his eyes too,couldn’t help him.His tears had dried up a long time ago.

After six days,when Sirajuddin came back to his senses,he met some people who were ready to help him.They were eight young men with trucks and guns for safety.Sirajuddin thanked them endlessly and described Sakina’s appearence to them “She is white and very beautiful.No,no.She was like her mother,not me.Her age is around seventeen years…Big black eyes,dark hair and a mole on her left cheek.She is my only daughter.Please find her.The almighty will bless you”.

The young volunteers declered very enthusiastically to Old Sirajuddin that if his daughter was alive then they would bring her back to him as soon as possible

The eight young men tried hard.They went to Amritsar,risking their lives.They saved many men,women and children and transported them to safety.Ten days went by but they couldn’t find Sakina anywhere.

The next day they were driving to Amritsar for the same purpose when they noticed a girl on the highway.The girl,upon hearing the sound of the engine,started running away from the highway.The volunteers stopped the lorry and went after her.Finally they caught her in a nearby field.She was beautiful.She also had a mole on her left cheek.One of the men asked her “Don’t be afraid.Is your name Sakina?”.

The girl went white in the face.She didn’t respond.After much consolation and convincing,she admitted that she was Sirajuddin’s daughter,Sakina.

Those eight young men tried their best to comfort her.They gave her food and milk.They made her sit in the lorry and one of them gave his coat to her beacause she didn’t have her dupatta for cover.Again and again,she tried to evade the piercing gaze of those men and tried meekly to cover her chest with her feeble and trembling hands.

Many days later,Sirajuddin still didn’t get to know the whereabouts of his daughter.Everyday he would roam around numerous camps and offices but he couldn’t find anything about his daughter.In the lonely nights,he used to pray for those young men to succeed in their quest of finding Sakina.The men who promised him that they will bring back Sakina to him if she was alive.

The other day,Sirajuddin saw those men in the camp.They were sitting in the truck.Sirajuddin rushed to them.Just as the truck was about to leave,he asked them “Beta,did you find anything about my daughter Sakina?”.The volunteers went pale in their faces.One of them replied in a hasty tone “We’ll find her,We’ll find her” and they drove away.

Sirajuddin once again prayed for them to find Sakina and this gave him solace on those sleepless nights.

In the evening,where Sirajuddin was sitting,a small commotion ensued.Four men were bringing a corpse.When he enquired from the people around him,they told him that a girl was found unconcious near the railway lines.They picked her up and brought her to the camp.Sirajuddin started following them.They handed over the body to the hospital and went away.For some time,Sirajuddin just stood beside the wooden pole in front of the hospital and then trudged inside slowly with trembling steps.There was no one in the room.The corpse was kept on the stretcher in a corner.Sirajuddin moved closer to the corpse with small steps.Suddenly the lights in the room lit up.Sirajuddin saw the pale face of the corpse,a mole on the left cheek and cried “Sakina!”.

The doctor who switched on the light asked Sirajuddin “What is it?”.Sirajuddin’s dry lips could only shape up the words in a painful fashion “Sir…Sir…I am her father”.

The doctor looked at the corpse laying on the stretcher.He checked the pulse of the body and told Sirajuddin “Open the window(खिड़की खोल दो)”.Sakina’s lifeless body trembled.With feeble hands,the girl unfastened her salwar,slipped it down and just lay there on the stretcher.

Old Sirajuddin screamed with joy “She is alive!My daughter is alive!”.The doctor broke into a sweat of shame and embarrassment.



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Confronting the absurdity of it all.