CURATED BY Arundhati Nag
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
‘I do not write about the farmer and the mill worker because I do not know their lives well enough. I empathise more with the travails of the middle and lower middle classes.’ – Ismat Chugtai
Selections from Ismat Chugtai's autobiography form the opening segment of our continuing tribute to one of the greatest short story writers of all time. The following three pieces (written between 1930 and 1950) are chatty ‘essays’ containing Chugtai’s views of womanhood in her time, played on stage. To underline the forthrightness of her writing and the courage of her opinion in an unapologetically chauvinistic age (and perhaps provoke some pondering on whether things are really all that different now!) we have retained references, which may sound dated, but which were considered close to blasphemous then. It is probably true that the charges of obscenity Chugtai faced were just a smokescreen for what truly riled the patriarchal orthodoxy—the dismissal of superstition, impatience with patriarchy, contempt for misogyny, mischievous lampooning of outdated religious practices and assertion of her identity and her rights as a woman. Her frankness about female desires, her wicked sense of humour and spunky sauciness were enough to rile the greybeards eager to sit in judgement on her ‘obscene writings’, and provided enough ammunition, they thought, to condemn and thus silence her. All in vain it turned out—not a single word she wrote was found obscene in a court of law. So, it is our good fortune that Ismatapa, duly acquitted continued on her merry way provoking, amusing, enraging, informing with her lacerating wit, her prescience and her penetrating, intuitive observations of life.