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Delhi Celebrates Feminist Urdu Poetry With 'Raushniyaan'

A pleasant departure from the male dominated world of Urdu literature, the anthology of poems celebrates the powerful female voices and their contribution to the world of Urdu poetry.

Zoya Mateen | News18.com

Updated:July 11, 2018, 4:22 PM IST
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Delhi Celebrates Feminist Urdu Poetry With 'Raushniyaan'
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New Delhi: The annual season of love, beauty and poetry has immersed Delhi once again, with the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya gleaming in the splendor of the 714th Urs (death anniversary) celebrations of Hz Amir Khusrau.

With gatherings of mushairas and dialogues sprouting across capital, the entire city seems infused in the spirit of Urdu poetry.

The iconic Oxford Bookstore which sits deftly between the majestically vaulted pillars of Connaught Place, witnessed one such affair on Saturday evening with the book launch of Raushaniyaan, an anthology of poems by women poets of India and Pakistan curated and conceived by Urdu poet Tasneef Haider and Harry Atwal. The event was hosted by Ink My Thoughts, an online literary collective in association with Adbi Duniya which is an online Urdu magazine

The book celebrates the powerful female voices and their contribution to the world of Urdu poetry. While a wide range of themes are covered in the book, the poems contain remarkable women-centric narratives - a pleasant departure from the male dominated world of Urdu literature.

The launch was an intimate affair, with several Urdu scholars and artists regaling the audience and literary stalwarts like Saif Mehmood gracing the gathering with majestic recitals of famous Urdu couplets.

Mehmood traced the vestiges of feminism in Urdu poetry in the works of both male and female poets, however fondly remembering Zehra Nigah’s contribution with powerful nazms like Kissa Gul badshah ka, a poem on the war ravaged Afghanistan.

He recited a beautiful nazm of Mustafa Zaidi to highlight the element of eroticism that has always flourished in Urdu poetry:

“fankaar khud nah thee,
mire fan ki shareek
thee
woh rooh ke safar meN
badan ki shareek thee
utraa thaa jis peh
baab-e-Hayaa kaa
varaq varaq
bistar ke aik aik shikan
ki shareek thee…”


Of poets and feminists

Kishwar Naheed an Urdu poetry legend once said, “For a woman to write poetry and then to get it published was a revolutionary step in itself.”

While she was one of the first few women writers to lead the 'revolution'and challenge established societal norms, a lot of female voices have since come to the fore in the world of Urdu poetry.The book celebrates the powerful female voices and their contribution to the world of Urdu poetry. The works resonate the inner workings, feelings of anguish and the sheer plight of women in context of war, marriage, sexism and entrenched patriarchy.

“There are some emotions and feelings that can be only expressed by a woman,” said Urdu scholar Pooja Bhatia while addressing the audience.

According to her, just like any other form of writing, female Urdu poetry too is deeply reflective of the society and the changes that unfurl within it from a women’s perspective. “Just how different people conceive feelings of grief and sadness differently, sadness too, treats every human differently,” she said.

This is clearly evident in the art of nazm- an important facet of Urdu poetry - that strives to express emotions in their various shades of context and personal experience.

Consider ‘Be Paron Ke Titli’ by Sarwat Zahra. The nazm beautifully paints the picture of a woman’s fate in the society:

Mein Belan se chakle pe
Beli gayee hun
Tavey par padi hun
Abhi pak rahi hun
Ye cooker ki seeti me
mein cheekhti hun
kiski degchi me padi gal rahi hun
Magar, jeer ahi hun.


Some of the poems also talk about the LGBTQ community, issues like female foeticide and the general regressive attitude of the society towards women that is often meted out in the name of Islamic values and traditions both in India and Pakistan.

The book includes world famous nazms poems by Fahmida Riyaz, Zahra Nigah, Azra Abbas along with newer voices like that of Sarwat Zahra, Naina Adil, Shanaz Nabi and Geetanjali, to name a few.

Merging boundaries

Tasneef Haider, who co-curated the book, believes that poetry has an eternal quality that surpasses notions of age, geographical boundaries and nationalities.

This is exactly what he wished to convey through his book Raushniyaan. “When you read a work of poetry without knowing the identity of the author in any sense, you judge the work for its worth and nothing more: aap qalam par faisla kartein hai,” said Haider in a conversation with Pooja Bhatia at the launch.

An interesting blend of new and old female writers from India and Pakistan makes the book a temporally conscious work of literature. “There were no barriers of any kind while selecting the poems.” said Haidar.

He added that the social media played a pivotal role in bringing fresh talent and poetic voices to the forefront. “The book is a collection of poems by extremely contemporary new voices as much as it celebrates the legends of the past.”



Even though the Pakistani poets featured in the book could not attend the event, a lot of their work from the book was recited by several Indian poets. The book is in the Devanagari script, the idea behind it being that it allows a lot of non-Urdu readers to access this form of poetry.

“We soon hope to launch Raushniyaan in Pakistan in Urdu too, and take this initiative forward,” Haider told news18, while talking about the absence of Pakistani poets at the launch due to logistical reasons.

“People think that Hindi and Urdu are sister languages. They’re actually the same, complicatedly entwined into one another in every breath,” Haider said.
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