The Distance of a Shout – Kishwar Naheed // A book review by Iqra Aziz

Kishwar Naheed is one of the most notable and dignitary poetesses in Urdu literature of Pakistan. She indeed is a bigwig in the literary world of urdu  and also stands as a glorious activist and feminist, being the founder of Hawwa(Eve) organization. Born in 1940, Naheed belongs to the city of Bulandshehar, in Uttar Pradesh, India. She has migrated with her family to Lahore during the partitioning movement of the then British India. Her works have been translated into many languages i.e. English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, Russian, German, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Italian and Spanish. She holds the honorable and triumphant status as her works have been published, read and praised all over the globe from Asia to Europe and from America to Africa and the lands of Middle East. She has written six volumes of poetry, in the years, from 1969 to 1990. The most commended works are i.e. Lab – e – Goya ( Lips That Speak), Bey – Nam Musafat (Nameless Journeys), Pehla Sufaid Bal (The first Grey Hair), Main Kaun  Hoon?(Who Am I?), Hum Gunahgar Aurtain (We Sinful Women). She has witnessed success with flying colours because she is the recipient of the following literary awards – Adamjee Literary Award (1968), Mandela Prize (1997), Sitara –e – Imtiaz (Star of excellence award ,2000),  Kamal –e – fun Award (Lifetime achievement award in literature, 2015).

 This transliterated  poetry book –“ Distance of a Shout”  is an outlet to the painful and intense emotions of the marginalized people of the Pakistani society especially the women – the stand bearers and shock absorbents of sufferings  in patriarchal society and on the other hand, the poor masses, who are the ultimate victims of inevitable poverty and class differences. The writer has mentioned various concepts such as the dilemmas of marital relations, the hardships of motherhood, identity crisis, gender gap, patriarchal norms, the plight of being a girl, dictatorship, poverty,  dark politics, modernization era with robotic humans, the curse of nuclear weapons, class differences, colonial agendas and neo-colonialism. The author has linked all these ideas to the feminist cause, in order to reveal that how  these cultural, religious, judicial, political, economical and traditional spheres marginalize the women and then the low class poor masses. The writer has elaborated the traditional stereotypes that hinder women rights in a very starking manner. She has presented an accurate state of psychic traumas by her outspoken, clear, bold and rigorous style of writing. Her words serve as a voice to the muted fragments of the society. In short, Naheed’s poetry is a complicated amalgam of  emotional states of  the victimized, oppressed and marginalized chunks of Pakistani society. Naheed pictures the harsh and bitter reality in the genre of poetic imagination.

Some of the notable verses from the book are as follows:

  1. I want to die laughing because

I don’t have the courage

to personify the wound pits of my face.

  • The grass is also like me

As soon as it can raise its head ,

the lawnmower,

obsessed with flattening it into velvet ,

mows it down again.

  •  If you want to live,

then become a cobweb

on the cave

of your dreams.

    4-Desire follows me around

        and I knit garlands of thorns

5-We sing praises of our war like courage;

     Flies assault us .

6- My country is torrid

    sometimes moneylenders,

    sometimes wild beasts

    sometimes calamities

and sometimes —

self styled masters arrive.

This poetry book contains fifty one poems on one hundred and thirty three pages. The book is edited by Mr. Asif Farrukhi and translated by twelve different eminent translators.The publishing is by Oxford University Press in 2005.

In my personal opinion, the recommendation for reading this book  is obviously ,a yes vote. As it reflects on the multi face issues of Pakistani society that are needed to be analyzed ,in order to, outgrow from the prevailing stigmas, clichés and stereotypes .

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