Nur un-Nisa’ Begum

نور النساء بیگم

India
1900 – 1980

Urdu women’s magazines such as Tahzib-e Niswan (Lahore), Ismat (Delhi) and Khatoon (Aligarh) provided one of the most accessible print forums for Muslim women to express their ideas and publicly converse with other members of society in early twentieth century India. Along with several genres of writing such as short stories, polemical articles and instructional columns, self-narratives such as the diary also appeared in these magazines. In 1911, a writer recommended readers of Tahzib-e Niswan to pen a diary regularly to self-reflect on their day to make sure that time was not wasted and something worthy of writing was done.[1] A few years later in 1920, Sayyid Mumtaz Ali, editor of Tahzib-e Niswan endorsed this sentiment while hinting excitedly that the diary could also become a history of the family.[2] In 1943, Noor-unnissa Begum repeated this emphasis on both the practice of self-discipline as well as the historicity of the diary in a column published in Tahzib-e Niswan. There are two features, however, in Noor-unnissa Begum’s columns that mark it as unusual from earlier articles on diary writing.  First is its emphasis on the literary pleasure of narration and the use of adjectives such as ‘delight’ or ‘enjoyment’ in describing both the activities of writing and reading about the self. The second is its closing argument – contained in the phrase, ‘Differences are the foundation of the world’ – in which Noor-unnissa Begum reflects on the diary as not only an expression of one’s individuality, but also one of diversity where, when several are read together, they portray the fundamentally pluralistic landscape of the world.

[1] Kh. H. ‘Roz-namchey ki zaroorat’, Tahzib-e Niswan, Volume 14, Number 9 (4 March 1911): 99-100.

[2] Sayyid Mumtaz Ali, ‘Roz-namcha’, Tahzib-e Niswan (10 July 1920): 437-438.

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Diary – Tehzib al-Nisvan

1943

Every human being has the right to write a diary. Neither fame nor anonymity can keep anyone deprived of this freedom. Events, incidents and disclosures comprise the definition of life. If the diary of Macaulay tells us that he spent every moment of his life in some constructive engagement, then the diary of a poor …