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Urdu Academy Honors New York Poetess

By Sabahat I. Ashraf

On Friday, December 26, 2003, the Urdu Academy of North America hosted an evening with Humaira Rahman, an Urdu poetess based in New York. Humaira -- which is also her “thakhallus” or nom de plume -- has published two collections of poetry. The first book, “Indimal” (Consolation) was produced in 1986, while “Intisab”, her second book, was published eleven years later.December 2003

The occasion was made possible by Humaira Sahiba and her family holidaying on the West Coast. Learning of her visit, the Urdu Academy decided to take advantage of this happenstance to introduce Ms. Rahman to lovers of Urdu literature in the Bay Area.

About thirty people attended the program at Swagat Restaurant in Mountain View. The turnout would arguably have been much higher, were it not for the holiday season and many of the Urdu Academy regulars being out of town.

The event consisted of a series of papers on Ms Rahman’s personality and work by local literateurs, a presentation of poetry by local talent, and a final section of the visiting poetess reading from her work.

Shahab Riazi addresses the gathering. Seen sitting are: Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, Humaira Rahman and Noshi Gilani

Local writer and literary figure Ali Hasan Cemendtaur emceed the prose section of the program. Shahab Riazi presented a biographical account of Humaira Rahman’s career. Among the points raised by this young literateur -- himself a poet of significant talent --was that often a critique of female poets dwells too much on their gender, shortchanging their stature as relevant to all humanity.

Cemendtaur, in his review of “Intisab”, referred to Humaira Rahman as a natural poetess “to whom the poetry comes with the ease the same way revelations come to the prophets.”

Zulqarnain Asad, an academic and connoisseur of Urdu, read an article on Ms Rahman’s poetry and her art. He said that there is no parallel in Urdu literature of the way Humaira has described the fulfillment of being a mother.

Last and by no means the least, renowned local poetess Noshi Gilani presented some thoughts on Humaira’s poetry and her personality, quoting extensively from “Indimal” and “Intisab” in her speech. In her experience, she said, both a conversation with Humaira Saaheba and her poetry were wonderfully fluid in their nature.

In the break between sessions, wonderful homely snacks were served as refreshments, including samosay, pakoray, and gulab jamun. Tea was served later.

Noshi Gilani emceed the poetry session when the meeting resumed after the break. She read some of her finest poetry:

Mohabbath kee aseeri say rehaa’ee maangthay reHnaa
Bohat AsaaN naheeN hothaa judhaa’ee maangthay reHnaa

Kabhee mehroom honton peh dua ka hurf ruk-h dayna
Aur kabhee wahshat main us kee na-rasaee mangtay rahna

Tabeeat in dinon auham kee un manzilon peh hai
Dil e kum hosla kaghzon kee geelee kushtiyon peh hai

Zulqarnain Asad then read three Nazams in free verse. “Khwab bacha ker rakhna” was especially appreciated by the audience.

Jafar Abbas, a visiting poet from North Carolina, read a few of his ghazals:

Khamoshi kee aik umar say lay ker baton kee barsat talak
Ab hum tum ko kya butlayain kitnay mosam hotay hain

He also left the audience spellbound with an excellent poetic Urdu translation of Wordsworth’s immortal “Daffodils”.

Before her own presentation, Humaira Rahman requested that Tashie Zaheer present some poetry after her turn. On this insistence, Tashie Saahab insisted upon maintaining the traditional order of things.

(Courtesy Pakistan Link)