Born in Badayun, a small Indian town, to a well-to-do family, Ismat Chunghtai (1915 - 1992) began writing about topics that were considered taboo in conventional Muslim society long before being published. Her first and most famous published story, “Lihaaf” (“The Quilt”), which involved a lesbian relationship between the beautiful wife of a wealthy landlord and her servant maid, outraged and awed many. At first presumed to have been written by a man, “The Quilt” was considered pornographic by the then British government and Chughtai was charged with obscenity. The trial lasted four years before she was acquitted.
After a brief stint as a teacher at a girls’ school in Bareilly, Chughtai went on to Aligarh Muslim University to train as a teacher. In 1941 she married Shahid Latif, a filmmaker, with whom she had two daughters. By 1943 she devoted her career to writing, and became a member of the Progressive Writer’s Group. Chugtai has also written one other explicitly feminist novel Ziddi (The Stubborn One) and a number of short-story collections: Chotan (Wounds), Kaliyan (Buds), and Chui Mui.