Main Bhi Muslim
Main Bhi Muslim
EP30 - 20th cent Hyderabadi Urdu women writers expanding India's feminist literature
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EP30 - 20th cent Hyderabadi Urdu women writers expanding India's feminist literature

Conversation with Nazia Akhtar, author of Bibi's Room: Hyderabadi Women and Twentieth-Century Urdu Prose

In this conversation, MBM’s producer and host, Mariyam Haider speaks with Nazia Akhtar, Assistant Professor at the Human Sciences Research Centre, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and the author of Bibi’s Room: Hyderabadi Women and Twentieth-Century Urdu Prose, in which she has profiled three prolific Hyderabadi Urdu writers, namely Zeenath Sajida, Najma Nikhat and Jeelani Bano. 

We discuss some of the most influential and invigorating writings by these women, notably stories like Sajida’s ‘If Allah Miyan Were A Woman’, which offers a critical and compassionate outlook of womanhood in negotiation with one’s Muslim beliefs, Nikhat’s writings that starkly brought out the behaviours and attitudes of feudal class, and Bano’s body of work spanning almost fifty years. We also discuss Dakhani as a language of the Deccan soil and ‘Begumati Zubaan’ that opens a world of its own through communications between women interacting with one another. Through this conversation, Nazia offers a nuanced understanding of the lives of these women in post-Independence decades in Hyderabad, who as Nazia puts were “thrice marginalised”. 

Bibi’s Room is an invaluable source of Indian Muslim women’s writings challenging patriarchal structures and norms within and outside their circles, and expands the canon of feminist Urdu writings in the country. Do give this episode a listen, and pick up the book, wherever you can.

About Nazia Akhtar (bio republished with permission by the author)

Nazia Akhtar is an Assistant Professor at the Human Sciences Research Centre, International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad (India), where she teaches courses in Indian and Russian literatures. In 2017, she was awarded a New India Foundation fellowship to write a book on Urdu prose by Hyderabadi women. Bibi’s Room: Hyderabadi Women and Twentieth-Century Urdu Prose went into print in July 2022. She received a commendation from the jury of the Jawad Memorial Prize (2021) for her translation of Zeenath Sajida’s Urdu short story “Chhotam Jaan.” Her second book, The Deccan Sun: Essays and Stories by Zeenath Sajida (1924-2009), will be published by Penguin Random House in 2025.

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MBM visual identity design by Shazia Salam || Music by Jupneet Singh

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Main Bhi Muslim
Main Bhi Muslim
'Main Bhi Muslim' the podcast is a conversational space for individuality and diversity within the context of being an Indian, a Muslim and everything in between.