Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 7, 1990 p. 93.

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Ismat Chughtai


[In 1957, Ismat Chughtai wrote a short story which Sardar Jafari took home with him to read. fafari forgot to return the story and Ismat Chughtai also forgot that she had written a story by the name of Kallu. Nevertheless, the characters of the story continued to bother her until finally she wrote the same story a second time. The characters and the basic events in both stories are identical and the authorial voice is also one and the same. From the point of view of the narrative, however, they are very much different. Together, they make an interesting literary documents-Translator]


Kallu's age was at most six or seven, but he did the same amount of work as a full-grown youth. Each morning, someone would shake him into wakefulness. In the cold season, he would wear a tattered vest and an old hat of Chacha Miyan's which covered his ears and made him look like a skinny little dwarf. Sniffling loudly, he would absorb himself in his duties. He had an abhorrence of washing his face. Actually, he was very afraid of cold water. Only once in a while would he rub his teeth with his forefinger, but even that was done so carelessly that they were covered with a permanent coat of mildew.

In the morning, the first thing he would do after getting up was to light the stove and put water on to boil for tea. He would then set cups and plates on the table for breakfast, running to and from the main doorway a thousand times. First, he would go to fetch the butter;, then a man would come to deliver the white bread. Afterwards the dairy many would come to deliver milk and eggs. Kallu's torn slippers would swish as he dragged them on the floor, scurrying back and forth on his route from the front door to the kitchen. While Nanny prepared breakfast, he would run back and forth carrying the hot parathas and toast and put them on the table. While the children of his own age were forcibly fed milk, porridge, eggs and jelly so that they would not get thin, Kallu would quietly stand to one side and count their every mouthful. When breakfast was over, he would sit down in the kitchen and eat the burnt, leftover crusts of toast and paratha that everyone had left, and wash them down with tea.

After that, he would have tasks in every possible direction. He would polish sister Maliha's shoes. He would hunt for sister Hamida's ribbon. He would search for brother Akhtai^s socks. He would look for sister Salima's schoolbag. He would fetch the catchu from the cupboard for his mother. He would bring Father's cigarette case from his pillow. In short, until everyone had departed either for school or the office, he would dance continuously from one end of the house to the other like a bobbin on a loom.

Annual of Urdu Studies, #7 gz

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