Thursday, February 16

Ismat Chugtai and obscenity #flashreads

This is a classic. And a great example of how these paragons of morals and virtue get exposed to be morons, idiots, lacking any kind of intellectual coherency or ability and then are laughed at. That is the best thing to do with these people, laugh at them. Laugh at their stupidities. Laugh at their tiny minded views. Laugh at them saying nay to love. Bah.


From Ismat Chughtai’s account of the obscenity trial for Lihaf:

We now waited impatiently for our second appearance in court. We no longer cared if we were to be hanged. If we were hanged in Lahore we would attain the status of martyrs and the Lahorewallahs would take out our funeral processions with great pomp and show.

The second appearance was scheduled for the pleasant month of November, in 1946, that is. Shahid was busy with his film. Seema’s ayah had become very efficient and Seema was now very healthy and robust, so I left her in Bombay and flew by plane to Delhi, continuing on to Lahore by train, accompanied by Shahid Ahmad Dehlavi and his calligrapher. I felt very embarrassed before the calligrapher. The poor man had been dragged into all this for no reason at all. He was always very quiet, sat with his eyes lowered, a weary expression on his face. Every time I looked at him I’d be overwhelmed afresh by a feeling of guilt.

“What do you think?”

I asked him, “Will we lose the case?

I can’t say, I haven’t read the story.”

“But Katib Sahib, you calligraphed it.”

“I see the words separately and write them, I don’t pay attention to the meanings.”

Amazing! And you don’t even read it after it has been printed?”

“I do. But only to catch printing errors.”

“Each word separately?”

“Yes.” He lowered his head in contrition. After a short pause he said,

“You won’t mind if I say something?”


“You make a lot of spelling mistakes

May God bless calligraphers, they will keep my honor intact, I thought.”


There was a big crowd in the court. Several people had advised us to offer our apologies to the judge, even offering to pay the fines on our behalf. The proceedings had lost some of their verve, the witnesses who were called in to prove that “Lihaf” was obscene were beginning to lose their nerve in the face of our lawyer’s cross-examination. No word capable of inviting condemnation could be found. After a great deal of searching a gentleman said, “The sentence ‘she was collecting ‘ashiqs ’ (lovers) is obscene.”

“Which word is obscene,” the lawyer asked. “‘Collecting,’ or ‘‘ashiqs’?”

“The word ‘‘ashiqs,’” the witness replied, somewhat hesitantly.

“My Lord, the word ‘‘ashiqs’ has been used by the greatest poets and has also been used in na‘ts. This This word has been given a sacred place by the devout.”

“But it is highly improper for girls to collect ‘ashiqs,’” the witness proclaimed.


“Because … because … this is improper for respectable girls.”

“But not improper for girls who are not respectable?”

“Uh … uh … no.”

“My client has mentioned girls who are perhaps not respectable. And as you say, sir, non-respectable girls may collect ‘ashiqs."

“Yes. It’s not obscene to mention them, but for an educated woman from a respectable family to write about these girls merits condemnation!”

The witness thundered.

“So go right ahead and condemn as much as you like, but does it merit legal action?”

The case crumbled.”

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