Fahmida Riaz : Voice of Meerut in Pakistan

Jo Mere Labb Pe Hai Shayd Wahi Sadaqat Hai,
Jo Mere Dil Me Hain Us Harf-e Rangi’n Pe Na Ja

Fahmida Riaz (28th July 1946 – 21st November 2018) is a well known Urdu writer, poet and feminist. Along with Zehra Nigah, Parveen Shakir, Kishwar Naheed, she is amongst the most prominent female Urdu poets in Pakistan. Hailed by many as a pioneer in feminist literature, she authored more than 15 books on fiction and poetry. Her first poem was published in Funoon of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, when she was merely 15. Her work is remarkable for its emotionally charged references to social and political injustice. She has been a prominent voice in the feminist struggle in Pakistan, where her poems both directly and insidiously erode at the foundations of male dominance. She has also published several gender equal stories, feminist translations, and some deconstruction of the criticism of feminist work. Fahmida translated fifty of Rumi’s poems from Persian into Urdu, dedicated to Shams Tabriz. She is author of Godaavari, Khatt-e Marmuz and Khana-e Aab-o Gil, the first translation of the Masnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi from Persian into Urdu she has also translated the works of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Shaikh Ayaz from Sindhi to Urdu.

Main Jab Firaq Ki Raato’n Mein Us Ke Sath Rahi,
Woh Phir Wasl Ke Lamho’n Mein Kyu Akela Tha

Born in a literary family of Meerut. Her father, Riaz-ud-Din Ahmed, was an educationist, who had a great influence in mapping and establishing modern education system for Sindh. Her family settled in Hyderabad following her father’s transfer to Sindh. Fahmida learnt Urdu and Sindhi language literature in childhood and later Persian. Her early life was marked by the loss of her father when she was just 4 years old. She was already making poetry at this young age. Her mother, Husna Begum supported the family unit through entrepreneurial efforts until Fahmida entered college, when she started work as a newscaster for Radio Pakistan. Fahmida remained part of social and political activities since her academic life. She got involved in students politics when she was student of M.A. in Sindh University. She spoke and wrote against the University Ordinance and the ban on the students’ union during the Ayub Khan regime. She spent few years in UK and worked with the BBC Urdu Radio Service and got a degree in film making. She worked in an advertising agency in Karachi before starting her own Urdu publication ‘Awaz’. The liberal and politically charged content of Awaz drew the attention of the Zia regime and she was charged with multiple cases, the magazine shut down. Fahmida was bailed by a fan of her works before she could be taken to jail and fled to India with her two small children and her sister on the excuse of a Mushaira invitation. She lived in Delhi and taught at Jamia Millia Islamia.

Saraab Hoo Mein Teri Pyaas Kya Bujhaogi,
Is Ishtiyaq Se Tishna Zaba’n Qareeb Na Laa

The family spent almost seven years in exile before returning to Pakistan on the eve of Benazir Bhutto’s wedding reception. She was appointed MD of the National Book Foundation during Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure and later persecuted by the first Nawaz Sharif govt., labelled an Indian agent and made virtually unemployable because of threats from the government. She worked three simultaneous jobs to support the needs of her growing children at this time. In the second tenure of Benazir’s govt. she was given a post at the Quaed-e Azam Academy. When Benazir’s govt. toppled a second time, Fahmida was again persona non grata for Islamabad. She was MD Urdu Dictionary Board from 2000-2011.

Patthar Se Wisaal Mangti Hoo,
Mein Admiyo’n Se Katt Gyi Hoo

Some of the Awards bestowed to her includes Hemmet Hellman Award for Resistance Literature from Human Rights Watch, Al Muftah Award for Literature, Sheikh Ayaz Award for Literature, Presidential Pride of Performance Award for Literature, Sitara-e Imtiaz. Cover Photograph is from the event where she is receiving 9th Ali Sardar Jafri Award on 27th August 2016 by Consul General Of Pakistan Janab Afzaal Mahmood at Jashn-e Fahmida Riaz  Aalmi Mushaira organised by Aligarh Alumni Association, Houston, Texas, USA

Nuqush Paanv Ke Likhte Hain Manzil-e Nayaaft,
Mera Safar To Hai Tehreer Raho’n Mein

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