Culture

Fahmida Riaz Has Left Behind ‘A World of Possibilities’ 

Her last unpublished poem is a beautiful ode to the link between the Creator and His creation, and is indispensable to understanding Riaz’s work.

This article was originally published on July 28, 2019 and is being republished on July 28, 2020.

July 28, 2020, marks the 74th birth anniversary of Pakistan’s arch-feminist poetess and activist Fahmida Riaz, who left us rather too soon in November 2018. But even in death, she gave us two remarkable books as going-away presents, rather Parthian shots: one, her last collection of poetry Tum Kabeer and the other, a fictional rendition of the life and times of the first-ever socialist Mazdak, the scourge of Zoroastrian Persia, a novella titled Qila-e-Faramoshi.

As her sister Najma Manzoor informs us, she also left us her last unpublished poem Daftar-e-Imkaan (A World of Possibility) written from her sickbed in Karachi, just days before moving to her beloved daughter’s home in Lahore in 2018, and as it turned out, sadly on her final journey to literary immortality.

Also read | Fahmida Riaz, Our New Aqleema

This poem, which does not need much explanation, is a beautiful ode to the link between the Creator and His creation, and is indispensable to understanding Riaz’s work. The poem’s original English translation is being presented below:

The room in which I do reside
A window this room does provide
Should I wake up in the night
I turn to keep it within my sight
Then I see as clear as light
The moon in the window shining bright
I smile slowly
And I feel
As if the moon too smiled
Then with my eyes filed
I sleep gradually
Then I come across a thought
Alone in this world I am not
This universe and these stars
The vistas of the moon and sun
Car sounds with all their might
Unknown wings in flight
These are made from the same jewel
Which is mine and yours too
Belongs to this too and that
Alone in this world I am not

Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader currently based in Lahore, where he is also the President of the Progressive Writers Association. He has written on, and translated the selected work of Ismat Chughtai, Fahmida Riaz, Zehra Nigah and Razia Sajjad Zaheer. He can be reached at: razanaeem@hotmail.com.