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Born in Badayun, UP, in 1915, Ismat Chughtai grew up largely in Jodhpur where
her father was a civil servant. Her brother Azeem Bai Chughtai was
a major early influence, and taught her English, history, the Quran
and Hadith. She avoided marriage
at fifteen only by getting engaged to a cousin whom she never intended
to marry. Similarly, she had to fight for her education before she
was allowed to obtain a bachelor's degree from Isabella Thoburn
College in Lucknow. She taught at a girls' school in Bareilly before
going on to teacher training at Aligarh Muslim University. She and her
other 6 women classmates had to sit behind a curtain at the back of
"If we could get what we wanted by sitting in purdah we would sit in
purdah. We were interested in studying. If they had told us to wear
burqas, we would have agreed."
In this period she started writing in secret. From 1939 - 41 she
taught at the Raj Mahal Girls' School in Jodhpur, and then was an
inspector of schools in Bombay. She married Shahid Latif, a filmmaker,
in 1941, and had two daughters. In this year she also wrote her story
Lihaaf (The Quilt). Its lesbian theme brought her both
notoriety and fame. She was charged by the British government with
obscenity, but won the case because her lawyer argued that the story
could be understood only by those who already had knowledge of
lesbianism, and thus could not be a corrupting influence.
In 1943 she turned completely to a
Rasheed Jahan, a leading writer and political revolutionary of the
time, was her most significant influence. She says that many of her
heroines have been modeled on Rasheed Jahan.
Ismat Chughtai died in 1991.
Biography largely taken from Women Writing in India Vol II, edited
by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita. An exquisite book, highly recommended --
the biographies are utterly fascinating.
- About Ismat Chughtai
beyond Lihaaf. Jaya Banerjee reviews Ismat: Her Life, Her
Times, in Biblio.
friend Ismat Apa, by Padma Sachdev in Katha.
- Writing Available Online
fragments. Excerpted from her autobiography, translated by
M. Asaduddin in Manushi.
- My Friend My Enemy: Essays, Reminiscences, Portraits
Kali for Women. (2002)
- Translated by Tahira Naqvi.
- Translator's note
gone awry. Review of My Friend, My Enemy, in the Hindu.
- Lifting the Veil
of Lifting the Veil in the Hindu.
- Quilt and Other Stories
- Terhi Lakhir (The Crooked Line)
of Terhi Lakhir (Tahira Naqvi's translation). In The South Asian.
- Ek Qatra-e-Khoon (A Drop of Blood)
- Chooi Mooi (Fragile)
- Kaliyan (The Buds)
- Ziddi (The obstinate)
- Ek Baat (A Point)
- Dil Ki Duniya (Heart's World)
- Do Haath (Two hands)
- Choten (Injuries)
- Bahroop Nagar (The Deceptive Town)
South Asian Women authors