Immigrant’s Postcard: Manto and a Car

A series on my experiences as a new immigrant in Canada.

B, my husband, and I go to buy our first car since landing in Canada. The finance guy is a young man with Javaid as his second name. His first name sounds like an Americanized version of his original name.

J: So sir, where are you from?

B: We’re from India.

J: Oh great, where in India?

B: She is from Delhi, I am from Chandigarh, Punjab.

J: Oh that’s wonderful. Actually I’m also from Punjab. I was born in Lahore…our family came to Pakistan from the Indian side of Punjab.

“I see,” I say with a slight smile.

J: Yes, they moved to Toba, you know Toba Tek Singh?

Manto’s invisible presence is suddenly felt in the cramped cubicle.

“B’s father is also from Lahore,” I say.

“He was born there, too,” B adds.

J: Oh, good, good. See sir, it’s always good to come here and find Pakistanis, Indians…your own community.

Yes, in the land of immigrants, it helps to be one community if you are from India or Pakistan.

Sometimes, it also helps seal car deals.

PS: Listen to a superb telling/reading of Toba Tek Singh by Zia Muhiuddin.




11 thoughts on “Immigrant’s Postcard: Manto and a Car

  1. Bhaswati, Welcome to the west. I clicked through your link and love this musical sound of Punjabi (right), having enjoyed that sound when I visited Punjab in 1975. However, i don’t understand a word of it. I hope you will share some more of your cultural background so that we English speakers can understand more.

    1. Hi, Jerry, thanks for your observations on the post. Interesting to know that you’ve actually been to Punjab! I would love to learn more about your experiences.

      The video I posted is an oral rendition of Saadat Hasan Manto’s famous short story, “Toba Tek Singh”. The link preceding it (“Manto”, hyperlinked) is an English translation of the same story. The original story is in Urdu, the language Manto wrote in. Here’s another translation, should you be interested:

  2. Dear Bhaswati,

    I returned to blogs after a long time and read your immigrant’s postcards and some other stories that I had missed. Anyway, as usual I liked your postcards for two reasons: 1-You have an observant eye….eye for detail. 2- You write in an a very engaging way.

    Anyway, I have a proposal for you. Perhaps, you may be aware that the Telegraph is coming out from Patna also. It has its Bihar edition now. We bring out a special supplement on Chhath festival that is very popular in this part of India. I believe that many NRIs/NRBs might be celebrating Chhath in U.S and Canada too. It will be nice if you make up your mind to write a piece on Chhath celebration in Canada/ US. We will use it.

    You still have ample time. I will tell you the date of submitting your story if you agree to write for us on Chhath. You are welcom if you write me on my e-mail.

    Best wishes


    1. Dear Nalinji,

      I am so glad to see your comment to my post. I highly value your writing and journalistic sense. Thanks for your proposal; I will be more than happy to take it up. Will also email you.

  3. Bhaswati, if ever you have the opportunity, you must see our theatrical production of his short stories based on partition “SIYAAH HAASHIYE” . Enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you Nivedita. Esperanto !

  4. Vinay, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. The production you mention sounds too interesting to miss. Can you please come to Toronto sometime?

  5. It came a little too late, one would think, Rahul, considering the ignominy he had to undergo in his lifetime. Even so, it’s good to see a writer of his stature and significance getting this recognition at last.

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