India

Know why Google is celebrating this Urdu writer’s 107th anniversary

Ismat Chughtai wrote on themes like female sexuality and femininity, middle-class gentility, and class conflict.

New Delhi: Google on Tuesday paid a tribute to Ismat Chughtai on her 107th birth anniversary by posting a doodle on their welcome page.

Born on August 21, 1915 Ismat Chughtai was an Indian Urdu language writer.

Ismat grew up with nine siblings, and described the influence of her brothers as an important factor which influenced her personality in her formative years. She considered her second-eldest brother, Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, a novelist, as a mentor.

Chughtai studied teaching at Aligarh Muslim University, becoming the first Indian Muslim woman to obtain both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor’s in education degree, according to a publisher’s bio. She first started writing in university, though she later recalled ripping up most of what she wrote at the time.

In the 1930s, Chughtai had begun attending meetings for the Progressive Writers Association, which eventually inspired her passion for human rights – a theme that appeared repeatedly in her works.

She garnered widespread attention for her short-story Lihaaf (The Quilt), which appeared in a 1942 issue of a Lahore-based literary journal. The story drew criticism for its suggestion of female homosexuality, at that time. But it later became a landmark for its early depiction of sex, still a taboo in Indian literature.

Some of her other famous short stories include Gainda and Khidmatgaar.

She wrote on themes like female sexuality and femininity, middle-class gentility, and class conflict, often from a Marxist perspective.

Chughtai’s style was characterised by literary realism, which made her a significant voice in the Urdu literature of the twentieth century.

Her writings can be mapped with realistic, challenging female characters. Chughtai’s enduring legacy has revitalised Urdu and brought a new culture into existence.

She was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1976. She passed away on October 24, 1991.

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