His induction as the Governor of Bengal, and then as the
Governor-General of India, his joining the Nehru Cabinet, his
differences with Nehru and resignation from the Cabinet, his
assumption of office as Chief Minister of Madras, his floating
the Swatantra Party which did well in the 1962 elections but
faded out later, are all described in this story of this
remarkable man. This great patriot, great dissenter, and one of
the most outspoken leaders of his time, died on December 25,
1972, at the ripe old age of 94.
A Fearless Voice
by Manjula Negi. Rupa, New Delhi. Pages 72. Rs 195.
This is the story of a bold and
courageous woman who made no compromises as a writer in giving
voice to the most exploited and ignored sections of society—women
and the poor. She narrated the plight of women in orthodox
Muslim families with such frank and unrestrained audacity that
it shook the conservative conscience of the Muslim milieu and
she even had to face a court trial on charges on obscenity. Even
if the court found no substance in the charge, the case left her
with the reputation of being a writer of vulgar prose, a label
that stuck to her till the end, though not quite justifiably.
Yet she refused to be cowed and continued to write on subjects
that few writers would dare to touch. Her outspoken and
controversial style of writing and her indomitable spirit have
inspired the younger generation of writers and intellectuals to
whom she is ‘Ismat Apa’ of just ‘Apa.’
The author, who
has practised journalism for nearly a decade, refers to Ismat
all through the book as ‘Apa,’ an expression of respect used
for an elder sister. She traces Ismat’s life from her
childhood when her stubborn threat to become a Christian to be
able to continue her studies forced her father to let her stay
in a hostel to pursue her studies.
From there her
life has been a journey, constantly away from the beaten track,
and in her writings she said good-bye to romanticism, which,
before the advent of the progressive writers’ group, was the
hallmark of Urdu literature. She boldly gave expression to
reality. It was a difficult task to deal on her own terms with
her time and society which she made the subject of her writings.
Her stories depict the bitter realities around her and she
questions the exploitative nature of society in an outspoken,
satarical and witty style that inspires women to stand up and
defend their rights. Ismat also wrote articles but she is best
understood through her short stories. Her characters are based
on persons in her circle of family and friends. They shake you
up, they make you laugh and they make you cry with them.
traces the events in Ismat’s life, beginning from her
childhood when as the ninth child of her parents, she, in her
own words, was not a welcome child, partly because she was the
ninth, and partly because she was a girl. Then the author goes
on to describe Ismat’s school and college days, her days as a
writer, her trial for obscenity, her marriage to writer and
filmmaker Shahid Latif, her own involvement with the film world
and her end when Alzheimer’s claimed her on October 24, 1991.
The author describes her book as an attempt to capture the
essence of a woman who refused to be contained in her life or in