An emotionally deprived childhood with
siblings, ayahs, parents and servants convinces Shaman that she is destined to
remain unloved. She suffers a traumatic separation from her wet-nurse Unna, then
her older sister, Bari Apa. She grows up mutinous with no regard for
Shaman forms deep friendships in school and college, but is
unable to come to terms with her sexuality. By the time she marries an Irish Army
Captain her passionate nature has been corroded by years of denial and
In The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai, reveals the core of
female psyche. She exposes all. She draws upon all aspects of female
experience and tells her tale with incomparable skill. In her effort to seek and
define connections between culture and female experience, Chughtai dissects
custom and ritual with a keenly discerning eye and sharp turn of phrase.
"Long before feminism and Simone de Beauvoir were available to women writers
here, Ismat Chughtai had her finger on the Pulse of a changing cosmos.
About the Author
Ismat Chughtai was born in Badayun in
1915. She was the first Muslim woman in India to gain both a BA and a degree in
In 1941 she wrote and published The Quilt, a story about a
neglected housewife's erotic relationship with her maid. Charged with writing
pornography, she underwent a trial in Lahore which lasted two years until the case
was finally dropped. The Quilt has been published in one of her several
collections of short stories. Ismat Chughtai also wrote novellas, novels, plays and
essays. With her husband, Shahid Latif, a film director, whom she married
against her family's wishes in 1942, she produced and co-directed six films, and
produced a further six independently after her husband's death.
Line is he magnum opus, written in the early 1940s; it remains one of the most
important novels to date by a subcontinental woman writer.
She received a
number of literary awards, the last being the Iqbal Samman Award for Literature
Ismat Chughtai died in Bombay in 1991.
About the Translator
Tahira Naqvi gained a BA in English
Literature from Lahore College for Women in Pakistan, and an MA in psychology
from Punjab University. She has taught for a number of years, and since 1983 has
Adjunct Instructor of English at Western Connecticut State University.
translated a substantial body of work from the Urdu, including Ismat Chughtaia's
'The Quilt' and many of her other stories. As well as writing her own fiction, Tahira
Naqvi has also contributed academic papers on socio-cultural themes, and on
the challenges of translation.
In The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai, one of Urdu's
boldest and most outspoken writers, cuts to the core of the female psyche,
exposing it layer by layer in her searing, candid style as no other writer of the
Indian subcontinent, male or female, has done before or since. She leaves out
very little. Relationships of women with each other within the sphere of the
extended family, the dynamics of a nascent female identity as it reveals itself in
relationships between young girls grappling with sexual urges in an environment
dominated by a female presence, relationships between women and men, the
connection between women and their social and political milieu there is hardly
any aspect of female experience that Chughtai does not draw upon in The
Crooked Line. The narrative, drawing heavily on Ismat Chughtai's own
experiences of Shaman, beginning with her birth as the tenth and youngest child
in a middle-class Muslim family where traditional mores and cultural constraints
maintain an oppressive hold on the lives an behaviour of all its members. But the
narrative functions only as a vehicle whereby Ismat Chughtai exposes the social
cultural conflicts and the psychosexual determinants that govern the development
of female consciousness.
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