Chughtai’s The Quilt — First Thoughts

So, after reading the short story “The Quilt”, I can say I’m pretty much in shock, a little scarred, and confused.

Chughtai’s story is obviously about Lesbianism in Islamic society. It’s very morbid in that it was seen through a 9 yr old girl’s eyes in the idea that homosexuality was an “illness”. Also, I’m not sure what kind of message it was trying to relay. A woman whose husband is implied to be pedophile, leaving her no option of love, deprived of beauty, and with an insatiable itch until her maidservant comes along and takes care of those problems…which was only created because of her husband’s pedophilia, and abandonment of his wife (Begum Jan). Does this act, within the story, as the reason for Begum Jan’s homosexuality?

Then while her niece is visiting, Begum Jan’s illness escalates. There is a scene of implied pedophilia between Begum Jan and the narrator, followed by a bout of Begum Jan’s illness. Begum Jan and Rabbo have no qualms about having sex while the child is in the same room, and the story ends with the little girl witnessing the act itself, after making many excuses for her aunt’s and Rabbo’s behavior.

I guess my main issue is that in the story lesbianism is implied to be some sort of illness born out of a problematic marriage in which the husband bears the fault. Is Chughtai commenting on the perception of homosexuality in Islamic society, or homosexuality itself? What really disturbed me was that a 9 yr old girl was made victim to the entire situation. Was it another way to comment on homosexuality in Islamic society? Or was it a parody of the perception of homosexuality?

Hmmm.

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