Google on Tuesday celebrates eminent Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai’s 107th birthday with a google doodle. “The grande dame of Urdu fiction would have been 107 today” Google wrote in a blog post explaining the doodle. Often described as courageous and outspoken from assessment of one of her early controversial stories, ‘Lihaf’ (The Quilt) written in 1942 that has come to define her reputation.
Ismat Chughtai explored female sexuality with frankness and examined the political and social mores of her time. She wrote about the world that she knew, bringing the idiom of the middle class to Urdu prose, and transformed the complexion of Urdu fiction.Her writings boldly depicted the realistic world of scandals, feuds, gossip, families crammed into small houses in Uttar Pradesh in the first half of the twentieth century. Published at the outset of her career, Lihaaf was based on a well-circulated rumour about a begum in Aligarh who was said to be having an affair with a female help.
The ninth of ten children, Ismat Chughtai was mentored by her second-oldest sibling, Azim Beg Chughtai, who wrote short stories. In theatre circles across, Ismat Chughtai, from time to time enjoys what can be called a sporadic resurgence. In her writings, Ismat Chughtai managed to capture in an unmediated manner the lives and travails of all her characters, many of who were primarily women. Her dialogues were written in ‘begamati zuban’ – a form of Urdu spoken amongst women in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh – which was termed as uncouth. Her writings can be mapped with realistic, challenging female characters. She 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. Chughtai’s enduring legacy has revitalised Urdu and brought a new culture into existence.