is a frequent assertion that there has never been a woman prophet. It is
said that a woman has never been a saint in the full sense of the word. In
the literary circles of Sindh, there have been debates about why there has
never been a woman poet of the calibre of Shah Bhitai or Shaikh Ayaz.
series of chains have been erected around a woman's neck. These include
shame and chastity, family honour and male relatives' pride. The slightest
initiative by a woman is strangled by tightening these chains. The
following are the main points of this paper.
Ghulam Fatima Lal became a widow at a young age. Her poetry reflects her
love as well as her sorrow over the loss of her husband. Sassi, a
legendary Sindhi folk heroine, is a powerful image in her poetry. Nemanu
Fakir, whose real name was Hasu Bai, wrote under a male pen name. She was
a follower of Sachal Sarmast and her work was done in 1888. Her poetry is
dominated by concerns of love and passion.
Mughal was a contemporary of Sheikh Ayaz. She studied at DJ College in
Karachi. In 1953 the Sindhi Adabi Sangat was formed. She was among the
first members of the Sangat. Her poetry is also focussed on romance and
images of flowers and beauty. She died at a young age.
Dasi was also a passionate lover of her husband. her poetry reflects her
intense love for him. After that the names of Rama Bai and Kamla Kaiswani
are important. Kamla wrote critical articles in English newspapers. She
used humour in her poetry. Her poem Shaljam is very well‑known.
Other well‑known names in Sindhi poetry are those of Gopi Hangoorani
and Sundri Dhanaramani. The latter's work Lehrain
was the first collection of philosophical poems.
poets between 1969 and the present
this trend soon declined. Only those been poets survived in the literary
field whose work showed aesthetics, talent, consciousness and The study.
They include Surriya Soz Diplai, Seher Imdad, J.A. Manghai, Munawar
Waqasi, Shamshad Mirza, Sosan Mirza, Surriya Sindhi, Shabnam Moti, Miran,
Mariam Majeedi, Pushpa Walabh, Gori Walabh, Zeb Nizamani, Zubeda Metlo,
Malika Peerzadi, Fehimida Hussain, Noor‑ul‑Huda Shah, Seher
Rizvi, Iram Mehbub, Pares Hamid, Rukhsana Preet, Bano Mehboob Jokhio,
Shabnam Gul, Gulbadan Javed Mirza, Nazeer Naz, Nasreen Noori, Rubeena Abro.
and folk poetry
I was a child there was a theft in our village. The thief was caught by
the police and taken to the police station. However, he was released on
bail. The women of the house celebrated his release by condemning the
police and calling the case false in song and poetry. The incident was
seen as a form of oppression of the poor.
is there no women poet of
wife says that she spent her entire life waiting for him. Whenever he
asked her to pack his clothes, she asked how many to pack. His writer
friends would come and suddenly in the middle of the night they would all
leave. Even during illness and old age, he studied sixteen to seventeen
hours a day. He slept little. The famous poet, Shamshir‑ul‑Haidri's
wife, once told me affectionately, "marry a thief, dacoit or
scoundrel if you will. But please remember, never marry a poet."
and intellectuals actively participate in literary activities. Their
drawing rooms echo with literary debates and arguments. The intellectual
or poet's wife brings is in the tea and then closes the door, puts the
children to sleep and recreates into the kitchen. The debate on women's
emancipation in the drawing room does not reach her ears.
interviewed several women poets and asked why they stopped writing. The
answers I got were, 'I don't feel like it'. 'I don't feel inspired' or 'I
can't think of what to write.' They wonder what is the purpose of
achieving fame. What did they get from writing? They claim that in the
past they used to have time. After marriage they have responsibilities.
'Now I have to cook. How can I write poetry when I have housework to do?'
They ask. 'The children have driven me mad. My husband doesn't really stop
me but I know he won't like it if he finds out that I write poetry.' These
poets cannot even imagine writing new poetry. They seem apologetic,
surprised about and ashamed of the work already done.
are many poets who dreamed of living a life of independence. They dreamed
of intellectual and open minded husbands who would enable them to break
the shackles of tradition and constraints. They dreamed of writing in an
atmosphere of love and freedom with such a man. But as soon as they got
married, the man of their dreams himself became a wall of tradition and
constraint in which they were buried forever.
asked one poet friend why she didn't write anymore. She said that her poet
brother appealed to her not to do so on the basis of his honour. He told
her that if she attended literary gatherings and read her poetry, he would
not be able to show his face to the world. He told her that she was too
innocent, that writers and poets are hypocrites and immoral and think of
women as sex objects. Even though she was an educated and intelligent
woman, the brother did not trust her. Now that all her inspiration and
desire to write has been stifled, he offers to have her collection
published. It no longer matters to her. As she puts it, 'You cannot wake
up a dead person by placing flowers on her grave.'
Majeedi was not able to attain fame despite being a better poet than her
contemporary male poets. The formation of Sindhi Adabi Sangat as a
progressive platform for expression has not helped women poets in
expressing their art. Women hardly participate in its activities. The male
poets make fun of women poets who come from a background of suffocation.
Yet, they are quick to compare them with Bhitai
or Ayaz as a way of undermining the idea of a women poet.
jatni was a beautiful women and praised her own self in her poetry as a
form of self‑celebration of her womanhood. Gopi Hangoorani wrote
about the confinement of woman and her desire to breathe the air of
freedom. Ismat Ansari wrote inspiring poems exhorting women to be strong
and to arm themselves with the power of knowledge. Naeema Shaikh also
dealt with issues of freedom and captivity. Surriya Soz Diplai wrote about
male superiority declaring it to be false and a myth. Munawar Sultana
wrote about the completeness of the self in a world which considers a
woman only half a person. Sultana Waqasi celebrated women's strength and
courage. Mariam Majeedi wrote about the eternally young passion that
seethes inside a woman. Malika Peerzadi writes about the importance of the
self of a woman who cannot be discarded like an old song one no longer
wants to hear.
Ghagro has written a poem depicting the pain of a woman's name and
identity changing with each successive marriage. The poem depicts a woman,
Azra, looking at her paintings in a room. The first is signed, Azra Ahmed.
Ahmed, her father, lives in some remote house far away. The second
painting is signed, Azra Memon. Memon, her first husband, is dead. The
third and recent painting is signed, Azra Kabir. She looks at it and
begins to cry. Sindhi women poets are thus grappling with the issue of
identity so central to woman's lives.
These are excerpts from Unveiling the Issues: Pakistani Women's Perspectives on Social, Political and Ideological Issues edited by Nighat Said Khan and Afiya Sheherbano Zia. 194 pp. Rs 300. Publishid by ASR Publications, Flats 5 & 6, Third Floor, Sheraz Plaza, Main Gulberg Market, Lahore. Telephone (042) 877613.
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