Published in Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies: Alam-e-Niswan, Vol.2, No.1, 1995, Center of Excellence of Women’s Studies, Karachi University.
Truth, love, self-respect
Fragile playthings, made of clay
Crumble in a moment
Still, the world is beautiful
(Patthar ki Zuban, Fahmida Riaz)
It was a voice of a young poet communicating to the readers in the 1960s in Pakistan, in a patriarchal, class-ridden society under a military rule. The poems spoke of love of life, of yearnings for a beloved, of a muted sexual awakening. Despite being written in a traditional romantic vein, a certain vibrancy, a hesitant questioning, a subtle mockery of the norms, and a well-rounded lyricism set those poems apart from the run-of-the-mill Urdu poetry. And the fact that it was a voice of a woman, with an awareness of herself as a female growing up in a world where her feelings, her thoughts, her actions are circumscribed by traditional mores: