If the premise of death, and certainly of its politics, is to inaugurate finality, to establish in all essentials the grandiose end of thought, then death has eluded Ismat Chughtai.
For the force of her writing, although decades since have squandered, is still to be located in the interstices of the personal and the political, and in all those realms where the two are inseparable. Of what significance, then, is the performance of remembrance; indeed, how are we to remember Ismat Chughtai? Is there a way to memorialise the immortal?
Born to a “liberal” Muslim family of comfortable affluence, Chughtai was a child of modernity, or to borrow from Minault, a “daughter” of reform.
As a discursive subject of the aforesaid reformation, born out of colonialism and the historical encounter with modernity, she began, in appreciable earnestness, to read its chimera of emancipation. Faced with the prospect of wasting away the promising years of her life in Sambhar, where her father was transferred as a judicial magistrate, young Ismat expressed her desire to study in Aligarh, going as far as to threaten her family with the prospect of running away, or even converting to Christianity. Read more