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292. Attia Hosain



Attia Hosain (1913–1998) is a writer, feminist and broadcaster. She was born in 1913 in Lucknow in a taluqdar background. She moved to Britain in 1947.


Attia was born in Lucknow and went to the local La Martiniere Girls' College. She was the daughter of Sheikh Shahid Husain Kidwai and Nisar Fatima, the daughter of Syed Maqbool Hussain Alvi of Kakori.
She studied at Isabella Thoburn College from the age of fifteen and Lucknow University.
She moved to Britain in 1947 and became a broadcaster for the BBC, hosting a popular women's radio programme.
Attia's great-niece is the Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie.


  • Gold medal when she became the first women from a Taluqdar family to graduate from the University of Lucknow in 1933. (She married Ali Bahadur Haibullah in the same year on February 27).
  • The Attia Hosain Trust at Newnham College, Cambridge was set up to fund public lectures on multiculturalism and is presently (2007) funding the fees of South Asian women students at the College.

List of works (incomplete)

  • Phoenix Fled, Chatto & Windus, 1953
  • Sunlight on a Broken Column, Chatto & Windus, 1961
  • Cooking the Indian Way, 1967

Attia Hosain was born into a feudal family in Lucknow, north India in 1913 and grew up knowing many of the major political and literary figures of the time. When Independence came to India and Pakistan in 1947, she was among the most privileged and perceptive observers of the partition of the sub-continent.

Her husband Ali Bahadur Habibullah was posted to London in early 1947, and she would spend much of the rest of her life in the onetime capital of Empire. Perhaps this distance contributed to the keen insight displayed in what has since emerged as one of the finest novels about those tumultuous days, Sunlight on a Broken Column. (1961).
Attia Hosain's life encapsulates many of the personal contradictions and difficult choices that faced so many people then and now. She left the divisions of religion in one part of the world, only to find that they still matter decades later in another apparently secular country.

A longtime BBC Urdu programme presenter to both India and Pakistan, she also had a successful career in theater and other media for half a century until she died on January 23, 1998.

Source : Wikipedia,

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