In this paper, I study Ismat Chughtai’s short story “Lihaaf” (“The Quilt,” 1942) side by side with her essay “The Lihaaf Trial” (English translation, 2000). I also analyze their reception of these texts in regards to their treatment of sexuality, women, and morality in the colonial period. I engage the texts through the lens of intersectionality. Multiple aspects affected the reception of Chughtai’s “Lihaaf” because it explores the intersection of multiple axes of oppression like gender, colonialism, class, and sexuality. During the colonial period in India, the British colonizers directly influenced Indian morality through laws and emphasized British cultural superiority. One Indian response to this Western influence was a fear that Indian women, who were made to hold the onus of the cultural values and virtues, would want to break free from this role. This made the women doubly oppressed by both the colonizers and the colonized men. Partha Chatterjee also asserts that there has been a marked difference in the degree and manner of the westernization of women as distinct from that of men. Chughtai explores several social taboos, including women’s sexual desire and homosexuality, which demarcated “Lihaaf” from other works produced by women in the mid-20th century. She can be considered a writer who challenged the boundaries set for women’s writing in the colonial period, paving the way for other women writers to explore and represent social taboos.

Author Biography

Mrinalini Raj is a research scholar at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Roorkee. Her research is on situating the women of the Santhal tribe in the discourse of feminism. Her areas of interest include Indigenous Studies, Women’s Studies, intersectionality, and Ecocriticism.