Getting under the covers with Ismat Chugtai, author of 'The Quilt'

Written By: Zeba Khan WION
New Delhi Published: Aug 15, 2016, 01:48 PM(IST)

Chughtai was known for her reformist, feminist works like Angarey and Lihaaf (The Quilt). (Wikipedia) Photograph:( Others )

Ismat Chughtai contributed not only to Urdu literature but also to Indian cinema as a screenwriter, producer, and director. Many of her works have also been turned into movies.

On her 101st birth anniversary -- today, India’s Independence Day -- we take a closer look at the writer and feminist who was famous for her reformist works like 'Lihaaf' (The Quilt).
  • Born in Badayun, Uttar Pradesh, Ismat was the ninth child in a Muslim family of ten siblings. As most of her sisters were older and married, she grew up with her brothers.
  • Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, an already established writer, was Ismat’s elder brother. Her first teacher and mentor, Mirza, inspired Ismat to follow her passion for writing.
  • Ismat was the first Muslim woman to hold two degrees -- a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor's in Education.
  • She was one of the first outspoken writers to adopt a controversial style of writing, inviting bans on her works.
  • Her works started a revolution in Urdu literature when she introduced discussions around feminism, sexuality, social gentility and other important evolving conflicts in modern India.
  • In her initial years, Ismat started writing in secret as her education and ideologies were frowned upon by her relatives. She believed that Niqab, the mask worn by Muslim women, was regressive.
  • Ismat believed in religious unification. In her own words, she belonged to a family of “Hindus, Muslims and Christians who all live peacefully.”
  • Her prominent works like 'Angarey' and 'Lihaaf' were banned in South Asia owing to their forthright non-conservative language and style. Many of her books were banned right during their publication.
  • Ismat’s short stories have now been adapted into theatre. Prominent Indian actor and theatre artist Naseeruddin Shah’s theatre company Motley Productions stages her stories in the series ‘Ismat Aap Ke Naam'.


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