ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

AM The kind of fire the works of Chughtai and Krishen Chander and Saadat Hasan Manto kindled five decades ago and overwhelmed the emotions of a generation of young ones, cutting across linguistic and religious barriers, would not be lit again. The nation is splintered: we have ceased to understand one another IT is not simply that the literati constitute a bare scrappy fraction of the nation. Even within the literati, the chasms are deep and wide. Ismat Chughtai's passing received hardly any mention, even amongst the literature buffs, in the south and the east. In Bombay, where she died and which provided the base for most of her creative work in recent decades, the newspapers dutifully carried a couple of columns length obituary pieces. The Urdu press in the north had a little bit more to say. But it was all low kev. Stalwarts on the women's studies front did not bestir themselves. Ismat Chughtai belonged to a by-gone, burnt-out generation. She is now formally dead, there is little point in making a song and dance about her departure. Besides, did not she write in Urdu, the language of Pakistan, why should we then waste words on her? Even for those who are not exactly prejudiced against Urdu, the mood is of indifference. It is half-a-century since Chughtai set the river of orthodoxy on fire by her Lihaaf, why bother now with that particular turn of history? Of course she was one of the earliest campaigners for women's liberation in the country; she also innovated some exciting devices to cope with the officiousness of the fundamentalists. Purists will nonetheless discover enough reasons to record their reservations: her attitude towards women's studies was tainted by ideology, she would bring in the class question while analysing such serious themes as the social oppression of women; that was an unpardonable lapse. What, after all, wefe her credentials? Did she not degenerate into writing run-of-the-mill film scripts, is it not a fact that the likes of Ramanand Sagars had no high opinion of her? It is a fractured nation; the sensibilities too are fractured. Chughtai's passing would merely mark the obliteration of some left-over memories. How many, for instance, remember any more Saadat Hasan Manto

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