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The Urdu Academy pays tribute to Zehra Nigah

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The Urdu Academy of North America’s June 19, 2016 literary session was devoted to the life and work of prominent Urdu poetess, Zehra Nigah. The event was held at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark/Fremont CA.Urdu Academy 6-19-2016 (14)

Hatim Rani, a prominent personality of the Bay Area, presided over the literary event.

Lubna Manzar was MC of the program. She presented a well researched maqala on the poetry of Zehra Nigah.

Zehra Nigah is an Urdu poet and scriptwriter from Pakistan. She was one of two female poets to gain prominence in the 1950s when the scene was dominated by men. She has written several television serials. She has also received various awards including Pride of Performance in recognition of her literary works. 

Zehra was born in Hyderabad, India. She migrated to Pakistan during the partition in 1947. Her father was a civil servant with an interest in poetry. Zehra's elder sister, Surayya Bajia, was also a writer. One of her brothers, Anwar Maqsood, is a satirist and public speaker and another brother, Ahmad Maqsood was Secretary to the Government of Sindh. She married Majid Ali, who was a civil servant and had interest in Sufi poetry. [Wikipedia]

Besides her writing, Nigah has also became known for her spellbinding renditions in mushairas or poetry recitals both in Pakistan and India, where she is eagerly received. For her immense contribution to literature she has been awarded the Pride of Performance award in Pakistan (Tamga-e Husn-e Karkardagi), one of the highest civil awards conferred by the Government of Pakistan on Pakistani civilians in recognition of distinguished merit in the fields of Literature, Arts, Sports, Medicines, and Science.Urdu Academy 6-19-2016 (7)

Zehra Nigah has to her credit three books of poetry – Shaam Ka Pehla Taara (with an introduction by Faiz Ahmad Faiz), Warq, and Firaq.

The most powerful aspect of her verses is the dignity of the words with which she veils even the most brutal act of humanity or nature and still conveys her message in a very effective manner, wrote Rana Siddiqui Zaman of the Hindu interviewing her during her 2012 visit to New Delhi.  “Her words do not compromise the decorum of speech at public forums yet shame those who are responsible for inhuman indulgences. And, most interestingly, her subjects – a mother, an unborn girl child, a teenage soldier, a blind girl serving a sentence under the Hudood Ordinance – speak out their hearts, transforming her poems into very short but immensely engaging ballads.

She recited her poem on the stage for the first time when she was 15. She was in the 10th standard then. Her class teacher asked her to read her poem in a mushaira in Delhi. It was an august gathering with giants such as Makhdoom, Firaq, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Kaifi Azmi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. “It was a women's mushaira where women were at the forefront and men behind a curtain! I read my poem and sat quietly. All these poets were benevolent. They praised me large-heartedly,” she told Rana Siddiqui Zaman.Urdu Academy 6-19-2016 (12)

As usual a number of  Urdu enthusiasts recited Zehra Nigah’s poetry: Tashie Zaheer, Tasadduq Hussain Attari, Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Ali Raza, Arvind Kumar, Hatem Rani, Khalid Rana, Ahmar Shahwar, Dr. Priya Satia, Muneeba Zeeshan.

Dr. Priya Satia and Muneeba Zeeshan amused the audience with their melodious presentation of Zehra Nigah’s poetry.

Arvind Kumar, perhaps, stole the show with his articulate, expressive and moving presentation of Zehra Nigah’s popular poem “Darkhwast.”

 Another popular poem of Zehra, Sunaa Hai - JangaloN Kaa Bhee Koee Qanoon Ho Taa Hai, also drew wide applause. This was presented by Ahmar Shahwar.

The Zehra Ngah poetry program ended with a vote of thanks by Arshad Rashid, a senior member of the Urdy Academy. He thanked entrepreneur Syed Sarwat of Chandni Restaurant for patronizing the Urdu Academy and the Urdu language.

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