Ismat Chughtai

I first read Ismat Chughtai’s highly acclaimed and highly controversial “Lihaaf” as a teenager, relatively ignorant of the intricacies of gender and sexuality. I read it again several years later when I was not quite so innocent, or perhaps, ignorant, anymore. Chughtai’s work has a quality most young authors, including myself, would dearly wish their work to possess- each time a reader revisits it, they come away, absorbing something new, a hitherto unknown perspective in their mind.

One of the fiercest feminists of her time, Ismat Chughtai was an Urdu author who did not mince words when it came to writing about relevant social issues. An inspirational figure for women, many of her books were often banned at some point or the other. Her stories were incredibly honest about things usually kept under strict wraps, such as homosexuality, child abuse, and conflict in middle-class society.

How as a young girl, Ismat Chughtai convinced her father to excuse her from learning how to cook, and give her instead the opportunity to go to school and get an education:

“Women cook food, Ismat. When you go to your in-laws what will you feed them?” he asked gently after the crisis was explained to him.

“If my husband is poor, then we will make khichdi and eat it and if he is rich, we will hire a cook,” I answered.

My father realised his daughter was a terror and that there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.”
Ismat Chughtai

Facing harsh criticism to the point of having a law-suit filed against her for blasphemy (which she later won), Ismat broke the shackles of orthodoxy that conservative Islamic culture was associated with. She was an active member of the Progressive Writers’ Association, and a front-runner for politically conscious literature. She lent a unique woman’s perspective to issues like the Partition. “In Ismat’s hands, the woman became a flesh-and-blood creature, with all the flaws and failings of a human being but also thoughts and ideas that did not necessarily limit her to the zenana.”, writes Rakshandha Jalil.

Read the full text of Lihaaf here.

Advertisements

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

You know the story that we sell to young girls where the prince gets on his knee and whips out a ring, and then you start crying in gratitude? I think it’s ridiculous.

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Growing up in Nigeria in the early 1980s in an Igbo family, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an author who is unhesitating in calling herself a feminist. She calls herself “a happy African feminist who does not hate men, who wears lipgloss, and who wears high heels for herself and not for men.” Her characters are a mix of thinking, rational individuals with desires, ambition, with both vulnerability and strength. A recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, she was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for her book ‘Purple Hibiscus’ in 2005. Her second novel, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ was awarded the Orange Prize for fiction in 2007 and subsequently adapted into a film as well.

I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness, because I deserve to be. – Adichie at ‘We should all be feminists’, TEDxEuston 2012, 1 December 2012.

Adichie has delivered TED as well as TEDx talks on the themes of feminism as well as the under-representation of cultural differences and diversity. She is one of the young writers who through her work has been instrumental in bridging the disconnect between Africa and the world, highlighting the complexities within the African populace and society. Harper Collins brought out a written volume based on her TEDx talk ‘We should all be feminists‘. She was listed among the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2015.

“The educated ones leave, the ones with the potential to right the wrongs. They leave the weak behind. The tyrants continue to reign because the weak cannot resist. Do you not see that it is a cycle? Who will break that cycle?”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus

Read about her upbringing and works at-

http://www.cerep.ulg.ac.be/adichie/cnaintro.html

http://chimamanda.com/books/americanah/