The New Constitution by Saadat Hasan Manto
In The New Constitution by Saadat Hasan Manto we have the theme of imperialism, hope, freedom, change, arrogance and optimism. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Manto may be exploring the theme of imperialism. Mangu takes the utmost displeasure in the fact that India is ruled by the British. He feels as though the British treat Indian people as being subservient to them. He believes that the British think they have a right to be in India and rule India despite the fact that the majority of Indian people at the time would have preferred independence from British rule. It is for this reason that Mangu gets excited about the fact that there is going to be a new constitution. At least this is what Mangu thinks. However Mangu’s information is based on small segments of some of his passengers conversations. It is as though Mangu has a little bit of knowledge and believes more than is appropriate. Which may be the point that Manto is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing if it is misunderstood. Something that Mangu is clearly doing.
With his belief in a new constitution comes hope for Mangu. He feels as though he will finally be free of British rule and that his life will improve. In fact so excited is Mangu that he drives around the city on April 1st excepting to see dramatic changes. However everything remains the same. This may be important as the lack of change should act as a warning sign for Mangu but instead he seeks to get revenge on the British soldier who he encountered the year previously. If anything Mangu believes that his actions of beating the soldier up will be tolerated under the new constitution. That the soldier will no longer have the rights that he had. However it is clear to the reader that Mangu’s actions are no more than an assault on the soldier. The police have no option but to arrest Mangu. Rather than being free under the new constitution Mangu loses his freedom. Something that some readers might find ironic. It is also noticeable that Mangu at no stage in the story verifies the information that he hears from his passengers. So overwhelmed with excitement is Mangu that he does not consider it important to double check with others that the information he has overheard is correct.
If anything Mangu may be arrogant and believe in his own importance. Though he is blinded by excitement. How arrogant Mangu might be is noticeable by the fact that factually some of the information he relays to others is incorrect. Mangu seems to take pieces of information and manifests them into something that is palatable to himself. Accuracy does not seem to be important to Mangu. It is also possible that Manto is suggesting that Mangu gets so excited about the new constitution that facts become an irrelevancy to him. The fact that Mangu is up so early on April 1st might also be important as he may consider it to be the first day of the rest of his life such is his dislike for British rule. No man or nation wishes to be ruled by another man or nation and Mangu senses that with the new constitution there will come a freedom that he himself has never experienced before. However Mangu is looking at life very simply. Expecting India to change overnight when the reality of such a transition is not as simple as that.
It may also be important that others do not have the same sense of optimism as Mangu does. For them life will continue as it normally does. They will still have to work. They will still have to provide for their families. There will be no real change in people’s daily life. Something that Mangu himself does not see. Mangu has so much hope in the new constitution that he is blinded and his judgement is affected. Something that is clear to the reader by the fact that Mangu attacks the soldier. In reality Mangu has been let down by those in power. The new constitution that Mangu believes in is actually the Government of India Act of 1935. Something which changed very little for people in India. Which may be the point that Manto is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that ordinary Indians at the time were let down by their politicians and Mangu is an example of what can happen when a person’s aspirations do not materialise. Mangu is as much a victim as the soldier that he attacks. However unlike the soldier who will recover. Mangu has lost his freedom because he believed in the abilities of others to change the way that ordinary Indians lived there lives.