Manto: The Seer Who Knew Every Prostitute and Pimp in Town

Culture

Manto: The Seer Who Knew Every Prostitute and Pimp in Town

Illustration: Akshita Monga

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couple of years ago, while walking alone in a bylane along Chennai’s Tharamani junction I bumped into an alien world. A canal ran along my left and a cluster of educational institutes on the other side. The sun had set, and the roads, had started to look chequered with shadows spliced by the street lights. The evening felt calm, until a woman emerged from behind a pillar. Our eyes met, and she, without warning, bared her bosom at me.

Instinctively, I recoiled toward the divider and plunged to take the pavement on the other side. Unsettled, I walked the rest of the way without looking back. As with life, I’d taken the middle-road, confusing provocation with violation, hamstrung by the way the world of my fantasies suddenly found itself pressed against reality. That night I watched porn for hours. The hypocrisy notwithstanding, I’ve always tried to remember that vaguely unnerving moment through the woman’s eyes, instead of the infringement it would normally be considered by everyone.

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