Known as Urdu literature’s most controversial and courageous writer, Ismat Chughtai was distinguished both by the themes she dealt with and the style she developed to treat them.
Kaghazi hai Pairahan (dressed in paper) is a set of 14 chapters that form part of Ismat ‘s memoirs, written by her for the Urdu journal Aaj Kal from March 1979 to May 1980. The memoirs have recently been translated from Urdu to English by M. Asaduddin and our available at all local bookstores as A Life in Words: Memoirs.
An excerpt from the Introduction by M. Asaduddin, in the book:
“A few words about her language and style: economy, naturalness, spontaneity, raciness, repartee, freshness of idiom and imagery and a witty turn of phrase are the hallmarks of Chughtai’s style. These features allowed her to bring alive what has come to be known as ‘begumati zubaan’ – a pert, racy, earthy, graphic and colourful tone, which Gail Menault characterised as the ‘voice of a sub-culture’, and whose study, according to her, ‘tells us a great deal about the way Muslim women lived, thought and felt, and believed in, in Delhi and elsewhere, not so long ago’. Ismat Chughtai also used the rich phonetic resources of Urdu to good effect in her stories and novels. Above all, there is this impression of speed …… evident in Kaghazi hai Pairahan as well. As in many of her writings, her thoughts, here too, seem to outstrip her words, leaving many gaps. Her thought hops and jumps from topic to topic, with scant respect for coherence, and the language cannot keep up with the thought process.

Below is a review of the book, as appears in Time Out Mumbai (March 30-April 12, 2012)