Shaam Ka Pehla Taara
Zehra Nigah: Cheerfully Towards Eighty One
Urdu poetry is often appropriated to eulogize female beauty and grace. This notion about women has been reiterated by ghazal that literally translates to an amatory conversation with women. In times when women were not encouraged as poets and were presented only as a subject of poetry, Zehra Nigah distinguished herself both as a poet and a woman and became, in turn, an inspiration for women.
Zehra Nigah was a young petite girl when she first started to appear in mushairas. At her maiden mushaira, she shared the stage with many a legend including Jigar Moradabadi. Zehra has herself acknowledged on various occasions that it was Jigar who taught her the etiquettes of a mushaira. She fondly recalls an incident where Jigar had asked her not to bow down too humbly when accepting praise for her poetry, as women are above that: “sar ki KHafeef jumbish se bhi ye farz adaa kiya ja sakta hai.”
Zehra Nigah’s work is exemplary because she has been a voice of resistance against the atrocities of her times. Her hard-hitting nazms still echo in our memories. Justifiably enough, they will continue to pass the message to the future generations. She once said in an interview, “A poet can never write poetry if s/he is not affected by his/her surroundings.”
Today on May 14, we celebrate the ever-graceful poet Zehra Nigah’s 81st birthday. A woman of substance, courage and resilience, she is an ideal example of how a woman may play different roles all through her life. She once expressed that life gave her the material for poetry in all its variety as a mother, observer, traveller and learner.
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