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New Ismat Chughtai collection in English takes closer look at community dynamics

A new selection of stories from Ismat Chughtai’s formidable body of work takes a closer look at community dynamics through her personal and social bifocals.

Quit India & Other Stories, comprises humorous, heartfelt and real tales that reflect Chughtai’s insights into the loves and lives, as well as the shared histories and experiences of Hindus and Muslims in India.

Translated from the original Urdu by Tahira Naqvi, the stories reflect Chughtai’s insights into the loves and lives, as well as the shared histories and experiences of Hindus and Muslims in India.

Besides stories like Infidel (Kafir), My Child (Mera Baccha), Roots (Jarein), Quit India (Hindustan Chod Do), Fragile Threads (Kacche Dhaage) and Roshan, the collection, brought out by Women Unlimited, also has Chughtai’s famous play Green Bangles(Dhaani Baankein) on communal tension.

“Today is Gandhi Jayanti. Such hustle and bustle in the city. On the roads, cars decorated with flowers and flags are moving speedily, transporting brand-new millionaires. Dressed in snowy white khaddar, these ivory-black puppets create a black and white dappled concoction that is a real eyesore. And sitting beside them, their unsophisticated sethanis and disorderly children only heighten the effect,” Chughtai writes in Fragile Threads(Kacche Dhaage). “Wealth has overtaken them with no fuss at all. It looks like what they are wearing are not clothes at all; rather that someone has stuffed their cars with many unwieldy bales of cloth, and all the trappings, the powder and make-up, have jumped off dressing tables and landed on them...,”she goes on to write.

In Quit India, Chughtai tells about the 1942 movement at its height. “Travel from Grant Road to Dadar provided a brief but vivid example of the country’s restlessness. At the corner of Lamington Road, a huge bonfire had been lit into which ties and hats were being thrown, and when someone wanted to, pants would also be taken off and burned. The scene was somewhat naive but interesting, nonetheless.

“Crimped ties, stylish new hats and well-tailored trousers were being dumped mercilessly into the fire. Dressed in torn and tattered clothes, the men in charge of the fire were casually feeding the flames with new ones. Not once did it occur to any of them to consider covering their naked black legs with one of the new gaberdine pants, instead of throwing them into the fire,” she writes.

“Just then a military truck arrived and ‘goras’ with reddened snouts and lips, all toting machine guns in their hands, briskly leapt out of it with a loud thud...,”she describes the commotion.


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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 3:59:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/new-ismat-chughtai-collection-in-english-takes-closer-look-at-community-dynamics/article22391079.ece

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