I was crooning Gulzar bhakti bhajans, when my uncle interrupted; “That’s because you’ve not read Meena Kumari yet”.
Since my bread and butter is Bollywood, I was aware of the little known fact that Meena Kumari used to write poems in her diaries. What I didn’t know was that my uncle was sitting with a rare copy of her work.
Sadly, he couldn’t find it that day so he gave me these instead:
Shakir was the first book that I picked from the lot, because she looked so pretty in the cover page picture of hers. Pretty perfect with two strands of pearls.
The best part about reading a collection of poems is that you can open any page and start reading! This was the first page that I opened:
And my first reaction was what Juhi Chawla complained to Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Duplicate’-
I was really upset with myself for being ignorant about this pioneer of ‘New Age’ in Urdu Shayari!
I am not saying that she replaced Gulzaar Saab for me. But, she introduced me to a form of writing which is 180 degrees to Gulzaar Saab’s.
While Gulzaar Saab expresses a simple thought creating an out of the world imagery:
“Humne dekhi hai un aakhon ki mehkti khushboo”
“Dekhna aasma ke sire khul rahe hain zameen pe”
Shakir presents the entire lengthy & thick philosophy of life through a simple, natural sensation:
“Kamabale-zabt ko khud bhi toh aazmaongi,
Main apne haath se uski dulhan sajaoungi.”
Love has never been portrayed more delicately. Shakir’s poems have folk-songs like simplicity and rhythm and the nicety and sophistication of classical music. I fell in love with her ghazals and nazms because of their innocent worldliness.
Woman- is the central point of her work. A broken, shattered by love and yet a self respecting woman. A sensitive yet courageous woman. With this woman as her voice, her shayari isn’t a love song but a soft love lullaby. Irony is that this lullaby is a medium of awakening!
Whatever she writes is romantic and deeply sensual, still at no point it comes across as dreamy. Unlike most Pakistani poets, at no point Shakir gets involved with Sufism. Yes, she talks about love, memories, separation, dreams- whatever it is, it belongs to this world, this life
While most of the poets swoon over ‘chand’, I found it unique the Shakir’s favorite metaphor/imagery is the of a ‘bheega hua jungle’:
“Keh raha hai kisi mausam ki kahani ab tak,
jism barsaat mein bheege hue jungle ki tarah”
Her poetry is not just soaked in love, I also found suffocation in it, which I sometimes experience in my life. Just like me, I find her continuously looking for love in that suffocation. When things become unbearable, like most women I know, even Shakir resorts to sarcasm:
“Tere badlane ke baasaf (baavjood) tujhko chaha,
yeh aitraaf (Punsihment) bhi shaamil mere gunaah mein hai
Bikhar chuka, magar muskura ke milata hsi
woh rakh-rakhav abhi mere kajkullah (beloved) mein hai”
I love the childlike innocence in here verses, which is always naughty, always worried:
“Soti rahi aankhein din chade tak
dulhan ki tarah thakan samete
guzara hai chaman se aisa kaun
baithi hai hawa badan samete”