Remembering the Genius of Parveen Shakir: Two poems for her Son
Parveen Shakir, besides being the most prominent poetess of Pakistan, was also renowned for her academic merits par-excellence and civil services. She was Fulbright Consortium Scholar at University of Saint Joseph (Connecticut) and expressed a command over global literature as she used western characters to represent dilemmas of our society and circumstances. One example is our recent post, see “Aik Sab Aik Tarah se Dr. Faustus Hain [We Are All Dr Faustus in a way].
There is much written about personal unhappy life, which unfortunately in Pakistan even eclipsed her poetry. A single mother, she laments being considered a public property in Pakistani society open for criticism and vilification.
Below are two beautiful poems she penned decades ago for her Son, Syed Murad Ali, which remains as relevant and poignant as today.
‘Apnay Baitay Ke Liyay Aik Nazm’ [A Poem for my Son]
The world expected love from me
Like I owe them a debt
The coins of my truthfulness
Were treaded upon in a manner
That if I had not held myself together
Both of us would have been shelterless
And removed of our social attires
I have lived in my own house
And yet paid jiziya all my life
It has been Written
“. . . then Zaid cursed Bakar, ‘Your mother
is more well known than your father!’ ”
this curse is your fate too.
In a fathers’ world you too, one day,
must pay a heavy price
for being known by your mother,
though your eyes’ color, your brow’s
and all the curves your lips create
come from the man
who shared with me in your birth,
yet alone gives you significance
in the eyes of the law-givers.
But the tree that nurtured you three
must claim one season as its own,
to comb the stars, turn thoughts into
make poems leapfrog your ancestors’ walls . . . […]
a season that Mira couldn’t send away,
nor could Sappho.
Now it must be this family’s fate
that you should frequently feel abashed
before your playmates, and that your
must grin and bear it among his friends.
The name on the doorbell means
the world knows you by one name