Indian Urdu language writer was known for her bold literary works that explored sexuality and feminity. Chughtai‘s work has been described as courageous and outspoken and her stories reflect how liberal and progressive she was as a person, writing about themes that were deemed “unwomanly”.
Ismat Chughtai talked about issues that were too close to reality — from toxic family problems to social subjects, from same-sex relationships to exploring the female body, a matter that used to be strictly handled by men alone.
Chughtai‘s short story ‘Lihaaf‘ (‘‘) became extremely controversial for its treatment of female sexuality. The short story formally established her as one of the greatest Indian writers of the time. is said to be based on a certain gossip about an affluent woman in Aligarh, rumoured to be having an affair with her female help.
One of the best characteristics of Chughtai‘s characters is that they are developed beautifully. Her characters are not the typical stock and go through a considerable amount of change which makes them so real and relatable. She captured the desires and dilemmas of humans in her tales and she wrote her dialogues in the simple, spoken Urdu, which makes her writing accessible all.
In 1976, Ismat Chughtai was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri, honouring her literary genius and her intrepid depiction of subjects less explored back then.
Chughtai‘s works brought a fresh new voice in Urdu literature and now, her language is considered a benchmark for modern writing in Urdu. Widely translated into English and other Indian languages, Ismat Chughtai wrote about class conflicts, middle-class gentility, and latent patriarchy found dangerously veiled over women.
She has also written scripts for several hit Bollywood movies, such as Arzoo, Faraib, and Sone Ki Chidiya.
Here are some fabulous quotes by Ismat Chughtai that‘ll resonate within you:
” My father realised his daughter was a terror and that there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.”
“She sat quietly in one corner of the sofa, the end of her sari drawn modestly over her hair. Like the motionless illusion of a madly spinning top, she was staring vacantly into space.”
“But after the moment of dying passes, I feel more energetic than before, my brain begins to navigate distant limits, the magical wave of life penetrates every fiber of my being, life is shortened by a few years. I have extracted a new peace from this storm. I laugh for no reason, my heart is filled with joy, my nostrils fill with the fragrance of moist earth.”
“Having married he tucked her away in the house with his other possessions and promptly forgot her.”
“I have always thought of myself first as a human being and then as a woman.”
“I wrote and do write as I speak, in a very simple language, not the literary language.”
“Amma always disliked my playing with boys. Now tell me, are they man-eaters that they would eat up her darling?”
“I do not think men and women are two different kinds of beings. Even as a child, I always insisted on doing everything that my brothers did.”
“Women cook food Ismat. When you go to your in-laws what will you feed them?” he asked gently after the crisis was explained to him. “If my husband is poor, then we will make khichdi and eat it and if he is rich, we will hire a cook,” I answered.
“At my age my other sisters were busy drawing admirers while I fought with any boy or girl I ran into.”
Ismat Chughtai: Google celebrates the writer’s 107th birthday with a doodle01:26
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