Ziddi – by Ismat Chughtai


I have been coveting to read Ismat Chughtai’s books since long, in Hindi, preferably. I started with Manto, however, picking up a translated copy (by Atish Taseer) from a friend and realised that I didn’t savour the translation. Taseer might have done a good job in trying to extrapolate Manto’s writing to those who cannot read Hindi/Urdu but I wasn’t one of them. The anguish and dilemma in Toba Tek Singh must be read in the original flavour, I thought. Thus, I procured Manto in Hindi, read, tried to fathom and moved on to read Chughtai too. Ziddi was my first choice as I had already watched the film (1948) starring Dev Anand and wanted to read the original, rich text that Chughtai is so famous for.

Ziddi is the story of Pooran and Asha. No, it is not an easy love story as it may sound. The book starts with a very old woman on deathbed who wishes to glance at young Pooran one last time before she dies. She’s the nanny who looked after him all childhood and leaves behind her only grand-daughter, Asha. After naani passes away, Asha takes refuge in Pooran’s palatial house. An unequal love blossoms, though the rest of the family treats Asha as the nanny’s kin-turned-gracious-househelp. Due to this socio-economic imbalance in their statuses, they are stricken apart every time they come close. Years pass, but the unavowed love lingers as embers in a dying fire. Ah yes, fire plays an important role in the climax of the story. But that is for the readers to find out.

I found the story as a classic tragedy set in rural India that exists till date in the rich boy-poor girl setting. But the nuances in Chughtai’s writing brings forth subtle emotions in acutely tender scenes (in the garden with the brother’s kids) where the couple dares to dream of children of their own someday. The words flow – sometimes like a dulcet stream; at others, like a strident one. As I read along, it seemed the writer nudged me to go on, weighing love and social norms on a perfect balance.

Later I learnt that the story was filmed in 1948 by Chughtai’s husband Shaheed Lateef and I think she might have written the screenplay too. It was Dev Anand’s fourth film and first foray into hits. The heroine was played by Kamini Kaushal and Pran played an important character. I had watched the film long back but didn’t know that it was based on Chughtai’s story. The performances are like you’d expect in 1948, Dev Anand portraying a fresh lead as a tragic hero. I think there were some minor changes in the story to suit as a film, but that’s quite acceptable in the era. The film, apart from being adapted from the book, had a lot of other interesting facts that are relevant to the Hindi film industry today.

Image Courtesy: wikipedia

Did you know?

  • Kishore Kumar did his first playback in Ziddi with this solo track. I fell in love with the lyrics and you can listen to it anytime on youtube.

Marne ki duwayein kyun mangoon ; Jeene ki tamanna kaun kare..

Yeh duniya ho ya woh duniya ; Ab khwahishein duniya kaun kare..

(Neither do I wish death, nor do I crave life

I have outgrown the urge for both the worlds now..)

  • Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar recorded a duet for the first time in Ziddi – Ye Kaun Aya Re. The music director was Khemchand Prakash.
  • Dev Anand tasted sweet success at the Box Office with Ziddi which was his fourth film.

I’d write more about the film sometime later as I’ll have to watch it again for a prudent review. In the meanwhile, you can buy the book from Amazon (by clicking this affiliate link below so that I earn a few paise).

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