In Her Own Words

letters & interviews

Contributed by Tahira Naqvi

Women Unlimited, New Delhi, 2023

Language: English

290 pages

Price INR 625.00
Book Club Price INR 500.00
“These days,” said Ismat Chughtai to Shama Zaidi, “national unity is being emphasised as though all the problems in the country are being caused by a lack of national unity… Bharat’s leaders denounce each other, call each other names… If those in power are seen as thieves and looters, why should stealing, looting, violence not be regarded as elements of the national character? The public learns from them… this is national unity!”

Ismat first rebelled at age five, when she threatened to “run away from home and become a Christian” if her mother didn’t let her go to school. She survived childhood “by writing about my failures and feelings of hopelessness”. She “fell in love many times”, just “not with my husband”. She “sought refuge in film heaven” to make money. And she was sure that “those who are incapable of writing themselves, become critics”.

This carefully curated, no-holds-barred collection, includes letters written by Ismat to her family, separated by Partition; notes to her daughters and her “darling grandson”; correspondence with editors of Urdu journals in India and Pakistan; and even a never-posted reprimand to film actress, Saira Bano. At the same time, the eight in-person conversations are marked by sparkling spontaneity, revealing Chughtai’s personal, literary, and political preoccupations.

There is no relationship, no ideology—be it feminism, socialism or nationalism—that Ismat Chughtai didn’t embrace with her quintessential irreverence and wit. Here, in this one-of-its-kind volume, Chughtai is truly outspoken, unapologetic, telling it like it is, in her own words…

INR 625.00
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Tahira Naqvi

Tahira Naqvi is a translator, writer, and Clinical Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, where she teaches Urdu language and literature. She has translated the works of Sa’adat Hasan Manto, Khadija Mastur, Hajra Masroor, and the majority of works by Ismat Chughtai, into English. She has published two collections of short stories, Attar of Roses and Other Stories of Pakistan and Dying in a Strange Country. The History Teacher of Lahore is her first novel. Naqvi grew up in Lahore.