The story is set in the background of the biggest tragedy and episode of violence in the history of independent India. The communal venom and bloodshed marred the whole event and had consequences for the entire populations of the two countries.
The tragedy and its note are loud and clear all through the text of the story. We recapitulate the event through the perspectives of different people, be it the authority or the prisoner.
Partition brought separation of families and nationalities. People became stranger in their won houses and land overnight. This was particularly true for Bishen Singh who could not even find his town of Toba Tek Singh because no one knew in which country it would end up.
He had his house in Pakistan but his home was in India as his entire family had relocated to India. This conundrum and conflict is something that generations after Independence had to counter and heal from.
Bishen Singh was a Sikh who was born in Pakistan belonged to India. This was an example of the crisis of identity that resulted from the 1947 partition. There were millions like Bishen Singh who either lost their land, their families, their religion or their life, just in the name of political independence and declaration.
The partition itself was based on religious identity but it was never justified by religion itself. The political war demolished the natural identities of millions of people and made them refugees in their own countries in matter of seconds.
Manto plays cleverly with the idea of sanity in this story. The world outside the asylum is represented as chaotic and insane whereas the world inside it is made out to be calm and rational.
The clinical insane seemed to be more receptive of each other’s differences and difficulties whereas the bright minds on the political stages seemed to be baying for blood of the ‘other nation’. Arguably, it is their ideology which is often arbitrary and expedient.
The idea of madness and sanity is something that is often not discussed as it seems so clear and well defined but in fact it is anything but that. Sanity and rationality are determined by perspectives.
Hence, to a mental patient like Bishen Singh the blazing worlds of India and Pakistan seemed illogical and insane against the simple idea of peaceful home in Toba Tek Singh.