Ismat Chugtai

Other names of Ismat Chugtai: Ismat Chughtai

Ismat Chugtai was born in Uttar Pradesh, India on 15th August 1915. She was a writer by profession and is well known for her command over the Urdu language. Her father was a civil servant in Jodhpur. She received her education from Women’s College of Aligarh Muslim University and went on to complete her B.Ed. and B.A. She was the 9th kid in her family, and most of her sisters got married very early, so she spent most of her childhood with her brothers with whom she interacted and gave them credit for the openness in her writings and her different thinking.

Ismat did not follow the norms of the society; she believed in what she did. Her works reflect the social practices in India during that period specifying the caste and religious discrimination. She believed not only in the Muslim community but also in the Hindu and Christianity communities. She states that she not only reads the Quran but also gives equal importance to the Gita and the Bible and has read both the Holy books. Ismat is believed to have created new paths for the emerging female writers in India. Their impact through writings on the Indian society has forced people to change their orthodox thinking and focused on the status of women here.

Her views and ideas were a reform for Indian women but that also created many problems for her, many of her books and writings were banned, and many received rave criticism from the masses, but she remained firm and believed in her thoughts and even fought for it to make the system right. Her writings, mainly Angry and Lihaaf, received many criticisms and in many parts of the country they got banned. The book expressed her ideas over not wearing Niqab, the mask worn by Muslim ladies. Lihaaf reflected her views on homosexuality that was persistent in Aligarh during that period. She was accused for her views and dragged to court; her lawyer proved that the book did not have any blunt writing and did not harm the sentiments of the people. She won the case, and the charges against her were dropped.

She married Shaheed Latif who was a renowned film director and screenwriter who made famous movies like ‘ Ziddi Click to look into! >> Read More... Ziddi ’, ‘Arzoo’, etc. and they used to collaborate to solve the issues regarding the projects. Latif died in 1967 and later Ismat died in October 1991 in Bombay. She received many nominations and awards for her works and till date her works remain outstanding.

Another version of the Bio...

Popularly known for her bold and dramatic projection of characters dealing with topics such as female homosexuality in her works at a time when the world did not deign itself to accept realities such as this, Ismat Chughtai’s writings became the harbinger of an intellectual and social revolution bringing to light a feminist outlook.

Ismat Chughtai was born in the year 1915 in an orthodox Muslim family in Badayun, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Her parents had ten children, and she was the second youngest. Since Chughtai’s elder sisters were married off when she was still very young, she spent most of her childhood under the influence of her brothers, which she later attributed as a reason for her unswerving determination, and audacious attitude in life. A fighter from the beginning, she was the earliest Indian woman with a Muslim background to have a Bachelor’s degree in both Arts and Education. Her narratives bring out her desire to be educated and have an independent life and a career. Chughtai married Shaheed Latif, a film director, in 1941. They worked together on many films. Latif met his demise in 1967.

Chughtai began writing, though in secret, during her college days. It would appear that penning down stories was her outburst of emotions against an otherwise oppressive society where her perspective was not welcome. Chughtai’s first mentor and teacher in the world of writing were her elder brother Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, who himself was a noted writer in Urdu. Chughtai is best known for her short stories that dealt with themes of gender inequality, polygamy, divorce, religious bias and attitude towards girls’ education. Chughtai’s short story ‘Lihaaf’ presenting a third person account of female homosexual desires of the protagonist, established her as a rebellious writer, ready to take on the hypocritic society with her pen. The same short story also got her into trouble with the religious authorities for portraying obscenity and committing blasphemy, and she had to appear in a court for the same but later won the case. She also raises a question mark over the institution of marriage in many of her works. Some of her most celebrated works include the ‘Lifting the Veil,’ ‘Terhi lakeer,’ for which she won the Mirza Ghalib Award, ‘Kaghazi Hai Pairahan,’ and ‘Chauthi ka Jora.’ She also wrote the stories for movies ‘Garam Hawa’ and ‘Ziddi’ and was the screenwriter for some movies like ‘Sone ki Chidiya’ and ‘Arzoo.’

Chughtai was honored with the Soviet Land Nehru Award and the Iqbal Samman for her undying audacity and desire to challenge the established norms based on their logical approach. Ismat is renowned and remembered in the literary circles for her extraordinary and distinctive penmanship and otherwise for her indomitable spirit.