Lady Changez Khan and Pom Pom Darling

Ismat Aini wordpr

These curious designations refer to the titles Ismat Chughtai and Quratulain Hyder attributed to each other in the course of their literary careers.
Ismat Chughtai is well known for her bold stories that challenged traditional morality and the notions of a woman’s place in society. In a scathing text titled “Pom Pom Darling” Ismat was critical of Quratulain’s writing and her world of anglised characters called Shosho and Fofo, who “swam and danced and played” and belonged to a world of “charming people all cast in the same mould”. (1)
“So after much deliberation, I started a long letter of advice to Quratulain. (…) I asked her to clarify how long she would continue to be obsessed with Shosho and Fofo and Bharatnatyam and take dips in the swimming pools of Savoy de Lamar. Why don’t you come out and see what lies in the outside world? How long will you circle the same point? Will you continue to give rides on a merry go round all your life? Won’t people become dizzy?” (2)
Quratulain Hyder’s challenge to literary traditions is described by Ritu Menon as “completely consistent with her eclecticism, her cosmopolitanism and her political convictions. […] her lived politics, a politics of absolute integrity, of revulsion for sham, hypocrisy and pretentiousness, and of uncompromising secularism. (3)
Quratulain Hyder shows her deep respect for Ismat is an essay titled “Lady Changez Khan” which she wrote after the latter’s demise.
Kabhi kabhi mein unn ko Lady Changez Khan pukarti thi kyun keh wohh jola nigah e Urdu ki aik aisi Chughtai shehsawaar aur teer andaaz theen jin ka nishaana kabhi khataa nahin jaata tha.  (4)
For her part, Ismat writes, “Before I end, I must admit that I have a fondness, a strange kind of love, for Quratulain’s writing. I experience the same old customary stab of pain while trying to disown it […].” (5)
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(1) Rakhshanda Jalil, “A Lone Liberal Voice”, The Hindu, accessed 12 February,
(2) Ismat Chughtai, “Pompom Darling”, trans. Rashmi Govind, in Ismat. Her life and Times. eds. Sukrita Paul Kumar and Sadique, (Delhi: Katha books, 2000), 116
(3) Ritu Menon, “Endearing Iconoclast”, Annual of Urdu Studies 23 (2008), 205
(4) Quratulain Hyder, “Lady Changez Khan” in Daastaan Taraaz. Quratulain Hyder, ed. Asif Farukkhi, (Karachi: Maktaba-e-Daniyal, 2008), 176
(5) Ismat Chughtai, ibid, 126

About zambeeldramaticreadings

Zambeel Dramatic Readings aims to present texts in Urdu and English rendered in their dramatised form, to create a dynamic collusion between literature and performance. Referencing traditions of storytelling and the contemporary form of the radio play, our works traverse time and geographical boundaries to interpret and enliven narratives through sound and recitation.
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