Ismat Apa (Ismat Chughtai) and Annie (Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider) would have been peeping from the stars when our third mehfil (on April 10th) commenced. Rashid Jahan and Parveen Shakir would have also taken some time off their angelic duties to be present at our gathering. They, along with Kishwar Naheed, have carved a unique place in the annals of Urdu poetry and literature.
Our intention was to get a flavor of womens’ literature in Urdu through the works of prominent writers and poets. The evening started with an introduction of prominent Urdu laureates like Javed Siddiqui Saab and Shama Zaidi Apa. We also had the pleasant company of Ayesha Raza and Lubna Salim who sprinkled Urdu poems and verses at opportune intervals. The evening was enriched with Salim Arif Saab and our fellow urduwallah Suhail Warsi who enlightened the audience with interesting insights about Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider.
Javed Siddiqui Saab commenced the session with giving a brief outline of Womens’ involvement in Urdu literature. He mentioned many writers like Rashid Jahan, Ismat Chughtai and Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider who have carved a niche for themselves with their distinctive styles. Lubna Salim read an excerpt of Ismat Apa’s short story ‘Chui Mui’ followed by Suhail Warsi who read a piece of Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider work. It was an interesting insight to have learned that their socio-economic background had a great influence on their styles.
After hearing an audio clip of Ismat Apa’s radio interview and watching a short documentary of Ismat and Annie, there was a much-needed interval to absorb what the audience had discovered.
Shama Zaidi Apa commenced the next half of the session taking us through a lilting journey of poetess’ in Urdu. The audience was swept away by verses of Fahmida Riaz and Kishwar Naheed. Parveen Shakir stole the hearts of many present in the audience with her voice floating through the air as the evening came to an end.
Our world expanded that evening. It would never be the same again. There are poets other than Ghalib who exist in the realm of Urdu literature. More importantly there are women writers and poets who blatantly write with a sharpness and twang. We lifted the veils and met these women by touching their soul. We tried to redefine Virginia Woolf’s quote that says, “For most of history anonymous was women”
– Ismat Chughtai – Lifting the Veil (Short Stories)
– Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider – River of Fire (English translation of Aag ka dariya)
Listen – Ismat Chughtai – interview with Radio Pakistan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pSvo_ypoPQ
Watch – Parveen Shakir reciting poetry (link below)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta5EIKQDfe8