Challawa, an Urdu novel written as an autobiography of a 35-year-old socialite woman named Sabiha Bano, is written by Hamayun Iqbal, a Karachi-based writer who chiefly wrote detective fiction in the 1970s. Challawa, although popular for its lesbian tropes, is also a detective story. The tale revolves around the struggles that Pakistani women go through on a daily basis. The battle for independence and agency among Pakistani women, as well as concerns of gender inequity, domestic abuse, and sexual orientation, are all explored in the book. It is one of Hamayun Iqbal's most well-known books, and although not much known to readers of today, it sold like hot cake when it was episodically published in a reader's digest back in the 70s. Over 10,000 copies of the digest were getting sold at one point.
Despite wide readership when it came out, the readers exhibited a dual relationship with the story. Many people enjoyed reading it but condemned it for its homosexual themes and explicit details of sex scenes between Bano and her young lovers. The book is not readily available in the market.
Pakistani author, playwright, and screenwriter Hamayun Iqbal used to be very well-known, but his popularity waned as time passed, even though he wrote several detective stories. Not many people know that Hamyun Iqbal was the person behind the creation of Sabiha Bano because it was written in first-person voice with autobiographical details. Many readers wrote to the digest, requesting to meet with Sabiha Bano, as they thought she was a real person and not a fictional creation.
Khajistan Press is publishing the English version of Challawa. If you like to support our work, go here.