Direction for Q1 - Q5: Read the passage given below and answer the questions that follow:
Ismat Chughtai’s celebrated masterpiece “Lihaf” needs to be analyzed under the interwoven themes of marriage, subjugation of women and the oppression and neglect of female sexuality and desire. Here, in her typical style, Chughtai raises important questions on marriage as an economic and social enterprise, the socially constructed subordinate role of women in marriage, her sexual fantasies and frustrations and her subsequent sense of loneliness.
The fact that Nawab “installed her (Begum Jan) in the house along with furniture”, highlights how the institution of marriage commodifies women and reduces them to the object of a mere business transaction. Chughtai critiques the mercenary aspect of marriage that dehumanizes women to fulfill societal obligations and aspirations of upward mobility. Begum Jan was married off to the Nawab by her family, in spite of their age difference, so as to rid themselves of the financial burden and the social taboo of having an unmarried woman in the house. Moreover, since Begum Jan’s family was poor, in her marriage to a rich and influential Nawab, they saw an opportunity to gain economic favour. The status accorded to marriage as an unbreakable social norm, an unquestionable obligation, is also dealt with in the short story. It was and has been till today one of the most important and absolutely essential tenets of the society. Even the Nawab, irrespective of his immense power and formidable position, had to marry, although the opposite sex held no appeal for him owing to his “mysterious hobby”. In the process, poor Begum became a victim to the repressive customs ingrained in the institution of marriage. While the Nawab continued his homosexual exploits, the Begum was condemned to a life of confinement and subjugation. He never displayed any interest in his wife’s life, her wishes, desires and problems and in fact, completely neglected and dismissed her presence in his life. Begum Jan was just his social stamp of approval, a heterosexual cover to escape ridicule and suspicion of society for his inborn homosexual orientation. Beyond that, the Nawab “totally forgot her presence”
In conclusion, it can be said that the redeeming feature of this story, however, lies in the fact that Chughtai does not leave Begum Jan in this state of complete desolation and immense depression, but allows her the agency to make a bold ‘choice’ of homosexuality in indulging with the maidservant Rabbu “who pulled her back from the brink”. Irrespective of whether the story in the end, endorses homosexual behaviour or not, the very fact that Begum Jan is allowed some sort of sexual autonomy in the midst of social confinement, subjugation, repression and social ridicule, leaves behind an emphatic message.
Which one of the following can be inferred from the given passage?
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