Toba Tek Singh (short story)

"Toba Tek Singh" (Urdu: ٹوبہ ٹیک سنگھ ALA-LC: Ṭobah Țek Siṉgh IPA: [ʈoːbəh ʈeːk sɪŋɡʱ]) is a short story written by Saadat Hasan Manto and published in 1955. It follows inmates in a Lahore asylum, some of whom are to be transferred to India following the 1947 Partition. According to a personal essay hosted at Columbia University by a scholar-in-training of Urdu literature, the story is a "powerful satire, and also a bitter indictment of the political processes and behavior patterns that produced Partition".[1]

"Toba Tek Singh"
Short story by Saadat Hasan Manto
Publication date1955

Plot summary


The story is set two or three years after the 1947 partition, when the governments of India and Pakistan decided to exchange some Muslim, Sikh and Hindu lunatics, and revolves around Bishan Singh, a Sikh inmate of an asylum in Lahore, who is from the town of Toba Tek Singh. As part of the exchange, Bishan Singh is sent under police escort to India, but upon being told that his hometown Toba Tek Singh is in Pakistan, he refuses to go. The story ends with Bishan lying down in the no man's land between the two barbed wire fences: "There, behind barbed wire, was Hindustan. Here, behind the same kind of barbed wire, was Pakistan. In between, on that piece of ground that had no name, lay Toba Tek Singh."[2]

Bishan Singh's mutterings


In the story, whenever Bishan Singh gets irritated he mutters or shouts a mix of Punjabi, Urdu and English which, though nonsensical, is indirectly pejorative of both India and Pakistan. For instance, "Upar di gur gur di annexe di bedhiyana di moong di daal of di Pakistan and Hindustan of di durr phitey mun", which means: "The inattention of the annexe of the rumbling upstairs of the dal of moong of the Pakistan and India of the go to bloody hell!"[3][4]



A film based on a play adaptation of this story was made in 2005 by Afia Nathaniel.[5] A short film named Toba Tek Singh was released in 2018 in India. This film is directed by Ketan Mehta.[6]


On the 60th anniversary of Partition, the Pakistani theatre group Ajoka, as part of a series of plays and performances, performed a play adaptation in India. It was described as a "commentary on the state of affairs between the two countries, where sub-committees, committees and ministerial-level talks are the panacea for all problems".[7]

In 2017, Naatak, America's Biggest Indian Theater, staged[8] a grand musical based on the story. Staged at the Woodside Theater, with original music composed by Nachiketa Yakkundi of the RSV School of Music and dance choreographed by Shaira Bhan and Snigdha Singh of Dance Identity.[9] The musical was written and directed by Sujit Saraf and is available to stream anytime.[10]

In 2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation named the work among the 100 stories that shaped the world, alongside works by authors like Homer and Virginia Woolf.[11]

The 2018 biographical film Manto featured the popular rant of the main protagonist in Toba Tek Singh. It is one of the five short stories by Manto that are featured in the film.[12]

In 2020, British Pakistani rapper Riz Ahmed released a song titled "Toba Tek Singh" on his album A Long Goodbye, and there are multiple references in his film Mogul Mowgli.


  1. ^ Toba Tek Singh – About the (Columbia University). Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  2. ^ Saadat Hasan Manto (2006). Arif, Iftikhar; Khan, Mohammad Anwar; Siddiqui, Khurram Khiraam (eds.). "Toba Tek Singh". Pakistani Literature. 11 (2). Frances W. Pritchett (trans.). Islamabad: The Pakistan Academy of Letters: 83. (Translation available on-line on Pritchett's website)
  3. ^ Clifford Chanin, Aili McConnon (January 2008), Blooming through the ashes: an international anthology on violence and the human spirit, Rutgers University Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8135-4213-3, Bashan Singh walked away muttering: 'Upar di gur gur di annexe di bedhiyana di mung di daal of di Pakistan and Hindustan of di durr fitay munh!'
  4. ^ Saadat Hasan Manto (2008), ٹوبہ ٹیک سنگھ (Toba Tek Singh), Four Corners, 2008, ISBN 978-81-907633-5-6, اوپردی گڑگڑدی اینکس دی بےدھیانادی منگ دی وال دی پاکستان اینڈ ھندوستان آف دی درفٹےمنھ
  5. ^ Toba Tek Singh at IMDb
  6. ^ Sudipta Datta (4 January 2020). "'Mottled Dawn' by Saadat Hasan Manto: The absurdity of violence". The Hindu (newspaper). Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  7. ^ Sangeetha Devi Dundoo (13 August 2020). "Manto's musings on Partition". The Hindu (newspaper). Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  8. ^ Toba Tek Singh (stage show)
  9. ^ "Discover the dancer in YOU!". Dance Identity. Retrieved 26 June 2023.
  10. ^ Toba Tek Singh (stage show) on YouTube, Published 22 September 2017, Retrieved 2 June 2021
  11. ^ Stories that shaped the world | Literature: The 100 stories that shaped the world BBC CULTURE website, Retrieved 2 June 2021
  12. ^ "Look who's playing Nawazuddin Siddiqui's friend in Manto". DNA. 25 February 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2021.