The The Quilt Community Note includes chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis, The Quilt study guide contains a biography of Ismat Chughtai, literature. ‘Lihaaf’ or the ‘Quilt’ was written in and published some time later in in Adab-e-Latif. The story brought immediate notoriety to Ismat because the. SHORT STORY Lihaaf [The Quilt] O Ismat Chughtai Translated from Urdu by M. Asaduddin In the last issue of manushi, while reviewing Deepa Mehta’s Fire, we.

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The story brought me so much notoriety that I got sick of life.

Lihaafindisputably, remains one of her most in famous works and the controversy it sparked hung like a perceptible shadow over everything that Chughtai wrote since. The story was charged with obscenity and she was summoned to Lahore to defend it.

He was defending his story, Bu that faced similar charges. The story, narrated by a woman, is mostly recounted by her from the time when she was chughtzi child and was left with Begum Jan by her mother. Much like her other works, Chughtai in Lihaaf unabashedly wrote about female desires and wants and thereby even acknowledged them.

(Paper-2) 20th Century Indian Writing

But Chughtai places a lihaaf or a quilt of vagueness and euphemism over her writing as she explores the homoerotic iwmat in her story. Although veiled, the references were not missed by the readers.


Lihaaf gained Chughtai notoriety as well as the epithet of being a radical feminist author — almost putting her next in line to Rashid Jahan, who too had raised the ire of the general populace by writing about the oppression faced by women. The story, over the years, has emerged as a fitting example of the triumph of feminism and Begum Jan is often viewed as the champion of it.

Left alone in the zenana, she creates a world for herself. Once in there, she is no longer at the mercy of the Nawab to placate her urges.

The zenana then becomes a feminist utopia where women seem to be reliant only on each other and where desires can be voiced and satiated. Mohan, in her argument, departs sharply from the general accepted reading of the text.

Decoding the ‘feminist’ in Ismat Chughtai’s most (in)famous short story, Lihaaf

She has written about the same in an upcoming article. It is not hard to guess that reading the text just as a feminist narrative — one that glosses over the class divisions and the molestation faced by the child narrator— is what Mohan refers to as a selective reading.

They might be two different physical spaces but they mirror each other in the purpose they served. The relationship that Rabbu has with Begum Jan might be seemingly homoerotic but it is not equitable. Rabbu is dependant on Begum Jan and is situated in a social stratum much lower to hers.


The Short Stories: Ismat Chughtai: The Quilt

Their relationship is then akin to a transaction as Rabbu is reduced to a pair of hands and Begum Jan is transformed into a sexual predator, merely ismwt on her prey without reciprocating. Begum Jan is bereft of any maternal instincts and sees the narrator merely as a replacement of Rabbu.

Her de-formation as a predator is complete when she tries to molest the narrator, disregarding her age and the fact that the latter was left to her care. This, however, does not make Lihaaf any less of a feminist text even though it might challenge some accepted tenets of feminism.

Chughtai blurs the lines between the powerful and the powerless untill each resembles the other in their morbidity. Mohan believes it is not Hcughtai Jan but the child narrator who can be deemed be as a feminist. Her defiance results in her mother sending her to Begum Jan and the zenana, that was supposed to empower her, punishes her instead- imat and pacifying her. Mohan approves of such a reading.