Book excerpt of Girl Power! Indian women who broke the rules
‘Girl power! Indian women who broke the rules’ is about fifty women and their inspiring stories- tracing the amazing journeys of scientists, queens, artists, scholars, athletes and entrepreneurs.Updated: Oct 14, 2019 18:57 IST
Author Neha J Hiranandani’s latest book, ‘Girl power! Indian women who broke the rules’ is about the struggles and achievements of 50 outstanding women. The book contains illustrations by Niloufer Wadia and has been published by Scholastic. Some of the women featured in the book include Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, actor Priyanka Chopra, warrior queen Abbakka of the Chowta dynasty and Chandro Tomar, who is known as ‘Revolver Dadi.’
Following is an excerpt from one of the chapters in the book, about the writer Ismat Chughtai.
Ismat Chughtai, Radical Writer
Ismat was born into a Muslim family in Uttar Pradesh, more than a hundred years ago. At that time, some Hindus and Muslims wouldn’t share food because they thought they would ‘pollute’ one another. Sometimes, they were not even allowed in one another’s houses during religious festivals.
But little Ismat was a rebel! She was good friends with Sushi, a Hindu girl. They would often take bites of the same guava even though they were from different religions.
One Janmashtami, celebrations was being held in Sushi’s house for Lord Krishna’s birthday. Various snacks were being fried and Ismat was tempted ‘by the appetizing aroma of the goodies’.
She walked into Sushi’s house—a forbidden act during the festival—and lovingly picked up the idol of baby Krishna. What commotion followed! Sushi’s family was shocked. Snatching away the idol, they threw Ismat out of the house like a ‘dead lizard’. Ismat’s own family was enraged. Didn’t she know that Muslims didn’t worship idols? But even as a child, Ismat believed that all people are made equal, regardless of their religion.
And so, years later, when the girls met again, they continued to put aside the differences of their religions and laughingly took bites of the same laddoo! In those days, many girls were not allowed to go to school. Ismat fought for her education, even threatening to run away and not eat food if she wasn’t allowed to go to school. She convinced her parents to let her study and went on to write many powerful stories. Many of Ismat’s writings focuses on the friendships between women who broke the rules. Just like Ismat’s friendship with Sushi!
(1911 – 1991)
Excerpted with permission of Scholastic India from Girl Power: Indian Women Who Broke the Rules by Neha J. Hiranandani.