Book Review- Lihaaf: Ismat Chughtai

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If you’re looking for a short, yet deeply impacting read, you should definitely turn to Ismat Chughtai for the perfect dose. In Lihaaf (The Quilt), you can look through the domestic world and it’s dynamics through intricate relationships and constricting beliefs.
The story was originally published in the Adab-i-Latif in Urdu literary journal and the author faced serious allegations after this. The story is told by Chughtai from the perspective of a child and it is a deeply meaningful yet purely suggestive perspective. She brings forth her candid descriptions, and gives the story a sense of purpose and acknowledgement all the while using innocent language.
The story has been a controversial one, and not many have turned a blind eye to it. However, Chughtai won the case against the alleged obscenity. Chughtai blows new life into concepts such as lesbianism and sexuality through the events that happen in Begum Jaan’s house.
From the queer shenanigans Nawaab Sahab is up to and his wife’s resort to sexual games, every peak in the story shows that no two people can ever be seen in the same way and that everything that happens within the confines on the lihaaf be it metaphorically or literally should only be left to one’s imagination. A deeper delve into the story will pave your way into the widely misunderstood world of lesbianism and how much people confuse it with homosexuality in the present.
The reader is subjected to rich text and will have to remove personal bias when contextualising the book. Sometimes, the plot isn’t always the centre of a good story. Most times, it’s always about how the story is narrated. This is one of the most significant elements about Chughtai’s unique writing. It is an experience that isn’t in line with the societal norms that were in her time. This can be seen by the fact that most, if not all, parts of her writing, are still banned in different parts of the globe even today. The writings of Chughtai in Lihaaf puts a spark deep inside the hearts of her readers not just with possibilities but with the hope of there being something hidden in the domestic story sprinkled with side stories of an unjust marriage. The heart of this story brings to light the misogynistic nature of the time in a natural tone. Throughout numerous generations, women have experienced psychological and discriminatory social dismissal regardless of their age.
While Lihaaf has been able to bring to light norms and ideas entrenched in various cultures around the world to different degrees, not many writers have managed to expound on such experiences with the same amount of honest and justness. The text translated by M.Asaduddin, takes a turn into the sardonic tone with a slice of malice that almost manages to overpower the overall beauty of the original text. 
It does take someone with skill to artfully vindicate adultery with the pure view of innocence. Overall, this book is a must-read.

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