Review, Summary And Analysis of Quilt By Ismat Chughtai
Main Theme: Homosexuality, sexual discrimination, marriage for money etc
Setting: 1941 India
Publication: published in Adab-i-Latif
Nawab Sahab: A well reputed Nawab and a homosexual
Begum Jaan: wife of Nawab Sahab and our story protagonist
Amiran: A little girl who is niece of Begum Jaan and she is narrating the story
Rabbu : Servant in Begum Jaan house
Some other servants, some children and mother of Amiran
Quilt (Lihaaf) is the most controversial and most popular work by well-known Urdu writer of Indian Sahitya (Literature) “Ismat Chugtai”, story of Quilt is about homosexuality, which is still one of most controversial issue in India. I would like to give some example of Bollywood movies which banned by censor board of India due to the intense scene of Homosexuality and other issues of society.
• Bandit Queen
• Kamasutra : The Tale of Love
So we can imagine that how much difficult it will be for Ismat Chughtai to write about the subject of Homosexuality on that time. The language which she used in Quilt is not very much vulgar because a teen age girl is narrating the whole story but its meaning consider as vulgar according to society of that age but according to me it is truth, whatever is going in the Quilt is reality and we must accept the reality. For her writing Ismat gain a title “Rebellion”, during her life she faced lots of criticism from her parents, relatives and society but she never stop herself to write.
Begum Jaan the lead female character of Quilt married a rich Nawab who had great reputation in society but was a Homosexual, because he was Nawab, he can’t share this secret to anyone, he knew that once society find him as a homosexual, he will lost all the reputation which his ancestor earn. In that age peoples consider Homosexuality as a crime so for the sake of society he married Begum Jaan but never build sexual relation with her.
According to the description of Ismat Chughtai “Begum Jaan” is very beautiful, young, white skin and well figured women. She have sexual desires which she want to satisfy with Nawab Sahab so she try to seduce him in different ways but nothing happened and turned to loneliness. Then Rabbu a household servant enter in her life, she had a great therapy of massage which made Begum Jaan happy and satisfy. As a mature reader you all know, what this massage mean, there Is no need to explain it (it is lesbian sex). She enjoyed Rabbu’s massage for two or three hours before bath daily.
Amiran a teen age girl is narrating all this event that what she witnessed when she visited Nawab Sahab house. One day Amiran mother was going to Agra for some work and she can’t left her daughter alone in house due to her aggressive behaviour so she decide to left Amiran in Begum Jaan home for some days. Amiran sleep with Begum Jaan in her room, at mid-night she see a shadow like elephant in one corner of house and some sound was also coming from there. You know what is going there (Bgam Jaan is enjoying sexual pleasure with Rabbu) but because Amiran was teen so could not understood what was going there.
One Day when Rabbu went to meet her son in city, Begum Jaan was crying in pain of itching (this is the sign of sexual need of Begum Jaan) so she try to satisfy herself by Amiram but because she was not young and mature like Rabbu she afraid and runaway. One day what happened that Amiran pull out the quilt of Begum Jaan. Here story ends Here story ends.
“Men always will be men” the story of Quilt prove this Idiom 100% correct, Nawab Sahab was a Homosexual but not ready to accept this publicly, it shows two thing
1st : Nawab Sahab fear for Society
2nd : Nawab Sahab’s patriarchy attitude
“We will talk about Nawab Sahab’s patriarchy attitude” he maintain two personalities
1st : for society he was a Nawab who had good reputation in society.
2nd : For Begum Jaan he was a homosexual who have interest in men like women.
Nawab have lots features of “women” but was not ready to leave his patriarchy attitude of men that “I am a men and I am superior”. He never allow Begum Jaan to go outside the house, there is only one difference between Begum Jaan and the statue of her house that Begum Jaan could cry on her situation but statue can’t. Who was homosexual ? “Nawab was” but who suffer ? “Begum Jaan” because she was a women, “to be a women is more difficult to be a Homosexual”
“One did not know when Begum Jaan’s life began, whether it was when she committed the mistake of being born or when she came to the Nawab’s house as his bride, climbed the four-poster bed and started counting her days. Or was it when she watched through the drawing room door the increasing number of firm-calved, supplewaisted boys and delicacies begin to come for them from the kitchen! Begum Jaan would have glimpses of them in their perfumed, flimsy shirts and feel as though she was being raked over burning embers!” — Quilt, Ismat Chughtai
There are lots of example in Indian history where women like Begum Jaan suffer just because of Men’s stereotype and dead reputation for example Rama (Ramayan) accept Sita after “Agni Pariksha” and after some time leave her on the question of a washer man. Begum Jaan our heroine also suffer because of Nawab Sahab and his family’s hollow reputation. if Nawab Sahab was a homosexual then he should not marry but who force him to marry?
A small, immature girl is narrating the story so there are many double meaning word such as
“when I put a quilt over myself its shadows on the wall seem to sway like an elephant”
“It was a special oil massage that brought life back to the half-dead Begum Jaan”.
“After marrying Begum Jaan, he deposited her in the house with all his other possessions and promptly forgot about her.”
In this line Ismat Chughtai is trying to explain the patriarchal attitude of society. “Deposited” this word deposit generally use for a non–living things, so it is clear that she was just a compulsion for Nawab Sahab, he marry her to save his real identity of Homosexual. He had not any guilt, same or emotion for her wife, if he had, he can free her to do whatever she want but she treat her like non-living things of his house. You all will familiar with this typical Bollywood dialogue.
According to Nawab sahab, he provided every facility to her wife, “Now what she need?” Begum Jaan had every facility which a person desire but she can’t fulfil her sexual fantasy and sexual need to money or car, she is a human being who need love, care and support of her partner.
In Quilt writer also talked about matter of marriage. Still today In lots of society or villages peoples consider marriage an economy exchange. Nawab Sahab was too old than Begam Jaan but why her parents marry her daughter to a person who had no match with her daughter? Off Corse for money. Nawab Sahab was rich, highly reputation and powerful and it is enough for any parents.
The common understanding of South Asian women’s identity is usually derived from the conventional perception that envisions the ‘third world’ woman as a submissive victim of barbaric machismo. South Asian scholars, especially feminists, have been challenging this monolithic image and trying to throw light on the various complex layers that define women in the so-called ‘third world’. They are focusing, instead, on the living reality of the dynamic woman with a body, mind and desires who cannot be shackled into the frame of victimised/sacrosanct mother. ‘Lihaaf’—a story about two women’s erotic relationship; published in 1942; written by an Indian Muslim woman—becomes critical to this evolving understanding. This article is an analysis of the various narratives of the publication of ‘Lihaaf’ which left a deep impact on the author Ismat Chughtai’s life and also on the history of Urdu literature and the heritage of literary work on homosexuality. These narratives recognise ‘Lihaaf’ as a stand that reflects on a more realistic aspect of Indian women, who can be more than a Mother, who does not necessarily follow the script of the master narrative.