Categories
Books Teaching

V for Veil

Apart from Lihaaf, the other Ismat Chugtai story I often return to is ‘The Veil.’ It has the most memorable image of a man fleeing his bride because she is too shy to lift her Veil on the wedding night, and he is too afraid to do it himself. I’m fascinated by why I remember ‘The Veil.’ Sometimes, it’s the bride’s momentary courage to not lift her hands to please the groom. Sometimes it’s the groom’s voice as it moves (in the most humane way anything can) from a request to an order to eventually cries of pleas.

But what I’m most curious and delighted about is the window from which he jumps out twice. And what are veils if not windows? For the first time in a story written by a woman, I’m more smitten by a man who is so afraid, that he isn’t afraid of running away – twice. He’s the only man I know who has made the most accurate use of windows. Someday, I wish I have half the courage that Kale Mian did.

Tagging this under #DalitHistoryMonth because when my UC feminist teacher taught me this story, I had no language, no eye to look at the man in this story. It was not considered important. And I didn’t think to ask, to wonder, to keep looking. The luxury and tragedy of Savarna Feminism is that it has never been honest with itself. It doesn’t deal with male vulnerabilities derived by caste and religion because then its job would never be over. And my tragedy is that after discovering Ambedkar and Savitrimai, I find it increasingly difficult to trust an ethic that is afraid of hard work.

lf30ismatJPG

Categories
In Between

Dedh Ishqiya aur Ek Lihaaf

This year’s general rule has been limited consumption of all that is good. Good food, good movies and good weekends. That explains why after Dedh Ishqiya, I haven’t watched a good Hindi movie this year, well except Queen. Somewhere in the middle of January this year, I caught Dedh Ishqiya at Rex. I hadn’t watched its prequel but that wasn’t a strong enough reservation to not watch the sequel. Real problems like tickets and transportation were the pain and bane. Somehow, a bunch of us made it a full 10 minutes after the movie had begun.

I caught it again on Sony Max today. Apart from rekindling forgotten desires for Huma Qureshi, I finally understood why I liked the movie so much. It’s what they say to each other in the movie. So much like watching a live version of ‘Sex without Love’, only better, because of the language. Launde for guys, and bang in the middle of this Hindiness, Qureshi says, “Yehi toh problem hai tum aaj kal ke laundon mein. Ishq aur sex mein farak nahi karpaate na tum?” Immediately after this, I noticed how he slapped her, pushed her hard on the ground, beat her. I also noticed how neither the women nor the movie spent much time in reacting to this violence. It didn’t need to. For all the ‘junoon-oons-ibadat-sex-mohabbat-ishq’ dialogue between Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, the women spend very little time talking about love.

That and Chugtai’s Lihaaf scenes. Shah casually slipping intelligent lines to Warsi – ‘Thand lag rahi hai, lihaaf maangle kya’? The yellow backdrop working itself out like the lihaaf behind Naseeruddin shah as he sits tied up and slumping while the two women in front of him become one shadow.

Something very unburdening about not being in love with the opposite sex. It’s like being in love with yourself. I don’t know what that means yet. But maybe it’s finally a relationship where you don’t have to bargain for anything with anybody – either for commitment or for space. A very mellow in-between-ness that isn’t certainly removed from insecurity but strongly grounded in real conflicts.

As the men are left to fend for themselves, the women drive off into the sunset in a red maruti, just like that. Something about strongly encircling their lives without the need for anything male. I missed the Lihaaf bits when I watched it the first two times, because I was too distracted by Arshad Warsi’s brilliant comic exploitation on my jaw. But now that I have watched it again on a more personal level, I feel unburdened every time I remember Huma qureshi’s quizzical expression after Warsi declares love for her or the way she doesn’t fall off track after a night of passionate heterosexual sex.

Here is a link to ‘Lihaaf’ – the short story by Ismat Chugtai –

Click to access 9.%20Short%20Story%20-%20Lihaaf%20%5BThe%20Quilt%5D.pdf

And here is a link to Lihaaf – the short film based on Chugtai’s story-