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Ismat Chughtai's 107th Birthday: Google Doodle Celebrates 'Grande Dame' of Urdu Literature

One of the fiercest female voices of her times, Ismat's work revolved around themes like female sexuality and femininity, middle-class gentility, and class conflict, engaged often from a Marxist perspective. While her writing style suffused literary realism, her unapologetic stance on sensitive issues like sexuality and queer desire created considerable furore in society.

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Updated:August 21, 2018, 8:39 AM IST
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Ismat Chughtai's 107th Birthday: Google Doodle Celebrates 'Grande Dame' of Urdu Literature
Google Doodle celebrating Ismat Chughtai's 107th birthday
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Today’s Doodle celebrates Ismat Chughtai, the 'grande dame' of Urdu Literature, a woman who championed free speech, social liberation, and gender equality through her powerful and fearless prose.

Ismat Chughtai wouldve have been 107 today.

One of the fiercest female voices of her times, Ismat's work revolved around themes like female sexuality, feminism, middle-class gentility, and class conflict, often from a Marxist perspective. While her writing style suffused literary realism, her unapologetic stance on sensitive issues like sexuality and queer desire created considerable furore in society.

One such instance, is when she got arrested on the basis of obscenity charges for a short story Lihaaf, about a neglected Begum who gets involved in a romantic relationship with her masseuse. She was summoned to the Lahore Court, where she also faced pressure from other male Urdu writers from the fraternity who persuaded her to submit before the judge. However, Chughtai was unfettered and she chose to fight till the end.

There seems to be some uncertainty about Chughtai's birth date. According to Chughtai’s family, she was born August 21, 1911(contrary to most published reports, which cite her birthdate being four years later, in 1915). The ninth of ten children, Chughtai grew up in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. She began writing at an early age, inspired by her elder brother Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, a novelist known for his playful humorous works.

In the 1930s, Chughtai attended a meeting of the Progressive Writers Association. This in return, inspired her to use her talents to advocate for human rights. Raised in a Muslim household, Chughtai’s best-known works questioned prevalent hypocrisy in society and encouraged fearless liberation.This was the case for another of her famous stories, “Gainda” (Marigold), which told the tale of a domestic worker who falls in love outside the caste system.

Chughtai’s character defied societal norms and challenged rules prohibiting different castes from associating with one another. Through her writing, she also questioned other social customs like forbidding widows from pursuing a second love.

Chughtai was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1976 In recognition of her literary accomplishments and her fearless dedication to her beliefs

| Edited by: Zoya Mateen
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