New Delhi: Celebrated Urdu author Ismat Chughtai, known for her literary works exploring free speech, social liberation, and gender equality, was on Tuesday paid homage by search engine giant Google with a colourful doodle on her 107th birthday.
Padma Shri awardee Chughtai was critical of the common outlook towards women’s place in the society. Chughtai’s work faced criticism from conservatives and many of her writings were banned in South Asia because of their reformist and feminist content.
She began writing at an early age, inspired by her elder brother Mirza Azim Beg Chughtai, a novelist known for his playful humorous works. The author courted extreme controversy for her story, “Lihaaf" in particular, which touches upon the themes of homosexuality.
Narrated in the voice of a young girl, “Lihaf" was viewed as controversial given its portrayal of a relationship between an upper class woman and her servant. “This was also 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 violated the rules prohibiting different castes from associating with one another, as well as the social custom forbidding widows from pursuing a second love," Google said in a blogpost.
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Through her work she also talked about other sensitive topics such as middle-class gentility, partition, and class-conflict, among others. Her works included stories like “Kafir" (Infidel), “Mera Baccha" (My Child), “Jarein" (Roots), “Hindustan Chod Do" (Quit India), and “Kacche Dhaage" (Fragile Threads).
Widely translated into English and other languages, Chughtai also penned scripts for Bollywood movies and made her debut with the 1948 commercially successful drama film Ziddi. Later, she also tried her hand in direction and production with films like “Faraib" and “Sone ki Chidiya", respectively.