Stories of Wajida Tabassum I An excerpt

Sin: Stories by Wajida Tabassum is set in the aristocratic old world society of 1950s Hyderabad, this collection of stories resurrects and explores the work of Wajida Tabassum, one of the most eminent names in Urdu literature, a iconoclast and a non-conformist often referred to as “female manto”. An excerpt from the autobiographical essay titled ‘Meri Kahaani’

A weekly magazine, Aaina, was printed in Delhi. He published “My memories”, a column in which writers wrote about an unforgettable moment in their lives. I chose an instance from my intermediate exam days. After putting it down, I fell asleep in a new lightness as if a traveler in the hot sun was in the dark and cool shade. Words cannot limit my relief. This is where I started my career as a novelist.

Besides my own tragedies, many aspects of life have broken my heart. My words honed them into a cheeky form on paper, and then the article was sent to the editor. A few stories caused a stir. The literary world was not at the tip of the sword, our relatives were. You might think that distant relatives aren’t worth mentioning. You forget that we were raised by a lonely grandmother. The eldest was only ten years old when our parents died. Nani took care of our tears, our education, our health crises and our costs. No life is ever short of traitors.

Abandoned by our loved ones to face brutal times alone, we were deprived of even the rarest people, those who support you through thick and thin. Those who could see our life grow and shrink with us. I don’t blame the clan for that. However, when we were out of school or wandering off, our terrified grandmother had to deal with their refrains. There were times when I tilted my head towards her.

After a few articles were published, they fell into wild hysteria and said, “Wajida Begum has left Ismat behind. Can these stories be read by noble girls?


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His work will shock married women.

‘You will see. She will defile her father’s name.

“If my daughter ever wrote such a story, I would strangle her.

The outcry slowly sank into Nani’s ears. At first it fell flat. But soon after, a front formed against me. Many poisoned my grandmother’s ears when she visited Amravati. She came back madly mad at me.

That’s when my story “Teen Janaze” went to print. She came to me with the magazine and insisted that I read it to her. ‘I want to hear it. Tell me what your stories are about,” she said.

Dear readers, could I have read it to him? My fault was that I threw naked truths into stories and didn’t have to read them. My refusal made her suspicious. She believed that the blows raining down on me had some influence, that the stories were obscene.

All attempts to defend my work have been unsuccessful. As I held a pen and paper in my hand, Nani appeared and said, ‘What are you writing? Read it to me. A controlling woman, she was not one to be cajoled, misled or evaded. When I told her it was a letter, she didn’t want to trust me. “Are the letters always this long? I’m sure you’re writing a story, she replied. She then began to suppress my correspondence with the editors.

Finally, I wrote a note and read it to him.

‘Respected Editor, You have requested a story, but I don’t have one yet. When I do, I’ll write it down and send it to you.

‘What did you say! “When I do, I’ll write it down and send it?” Why did you write this? she screamed.

This delay trick didn’t get me far. She resolved to watch my activities closely. An editor responded to tell me they had received my story. His words: “I have it and it’s wonderful. The day is not far when you will be a star in the literary world.

“When did you send this story? Nini asked.

Her exam was so painful that I gave in and decided not to write. One day slipped into another without a word on paper or a drop of ink in my pen. An uncle who relied on palmistry came to visit us. He saw my hand and said, ‘Malka, you have an amazing hand. You are destined for dazzling glory. I pulled my hand away with a sullen face. “Don’t embarrass me, Mamu. I lost the opportunity.

In the evening, my grandmother went to see a relative and I broke my promise. I put “Aag mein Phool” in an envelope and gave it to a servant the next morning. Nani grabbed me and asked for the contents of the envelope.

The servant answered before me. “Mulko Bibi gave a letter and she told me to post it discreetly.

He started a raging fire and my aag and phool were on the ground. An aunt came to the house and said, “So it’s Wajida Tabassum.

I think my father called me Wajida Begum, but what royalty did my mother see in me to call me Malika? The family used the name my mother gave me. Sometimes it became Mulkoo, Milki or Mikki. I was Wajida Begum at school. When I started writing, I changed it to Wajida Tabassum. It was simpler, a way to bring light and laughter into my life. Our extended family known me as Wajida Tabassum.

Featured Image Shows translator Reema Abbasi

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