Retired professor Shamsul Haq Usmani lives in a narrow alley of Galli Chowkidar, in old Delhi. Mr. Usmani is a self-confessed ‘Manto Walla’ a species (that’s what he calls it) that is intimate with the entire oeuvre of author Saadat Hassan Manto, the author who so memorably chronicled the human cost of partition in his short stories.
70-year-old, Usmani is working on his grand project ‘Poora Manto’, a definitive edition of everything Manto ever published.
HT has quoted Usmani as saying ‘Most of the Manto material that has been floating around is not completely accurate. Lots of publishers printed Manto’s stories and novels without his authorization and those works, riddled with errors, acquired a lasting life through translations into other languages”.
Usmani had to take round of public and private libraries across the subcontinent to get access to original writings of Manto. The first three volumes of his project have already been published by Karachi-based, Oxford University Press Pakistan. And he is now working on the fourth volume.
As reported by HT, the first volume was originally published by the Delhi-based National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, but that organization’s bureaucracy disoriented Mr. Usmani so extensively over ‘pointless details’ that he decided to publish the later volumes on his own.
The septuagenarian works overnight from 11 pm to Fajr prayer. He goes to sleep after offering Namaaz.
Usmani, an ardent fan of Manto, says, ‘Manto flows in my bloodstream.’