Expression of awareness

September 3, 2023

Naina Adil’s anthology of poems is a profound articulation of modern feminine expression

Expression of awareness


aina Adil’s Shabd is a modern woman’s expression of her awareness of herself, her surroundings and the cacophony of sounds that might drown the soft, apologetic murmur of a thinking and feeling human’s conscience.

Shabd adds value to the written word. It recognises it as substantial. As Nasir Abbas Nayyar has pointed out in his foreword to Adil’s collection, Shabd treats words as entities, holding inherent worth and having an impact and a soul.

Through her poetry, Naina Adil takes control of her voice and her space. Writing down words turns them into a material object that can hold and take up space. It means that the words are no longer unseen. They empower the female voice that otherwise remains unheard, as in the case of Char Diwari Mein Chuni Hui Aurat.

Naina Adil’s willingness to confront intellectual and emotional challenges through her poetry makes her work profound. It is clear that she is writing for the woman in her and the women who do not get a listen. At the same time, her poetry has an appeal not limited by gender identities or stylistic traditions. Nazm, ghazal, geet - the variety in Adil’s writing is refreshing.

With absolute grace, Naina tackles repressed feelings and daunting notions. Jawala Mukhi portrays the power of anger and pain that can lie dormant for years before exploding with such force that they threaten to burn everything around them.

Adil recognises the force of free-flowing thoughts and pens them with ease. Some of those thoughts tend to challenge the conscious control of the unconscious.

Ae Meray Shabd is a realisation that our words are all we have. The words are valuable beyond comprehension; they have the power to conceal and reveal the truth.

Naina Adil has chosen to reveal the truth through her Shabd.

There is a definite note of realism in Adil’s poetry. Instead of painting over the ugliness of life, the poet confronts and questions it. Waqt Kay Pass Girwi Rakhi Ankh Say... is a reminder of the helplessness and hopelessness experienced by thinking humans in the face of life’s challenges. There is a sense of pessimism in these words, a whiff of disillusionment here, similar to much of modern poetry.

The poems in Shabd are free from any urgency. The verses are poignant and subtly forceful. Raqs kar is one such powerful piece in the collection. Anthem like, it is quite fierce but at the same time lyrical, a subtle invocation that stays with the reader for a long while.

It is clear that she is writing for the woman in her and the women who do not get a listen. At the same time, her poetry has an appeal not limited by gender identities or stylistic traditions. 

The poet does not shy away from voicing her fears and others. Dar is a haunting representation of all that a woman fears in a society bent on breaking her spirit; stealing all that she holds dear; toxic relations; and two-faced people. She recognises the weaknesses within and that trying to conceal those is pointless.

Naina Adil seeks freedom through her words. Azadi encapsulates her concept of freedom perfectly. Transparent language and a sharp imagery define Adil’s Azadi. Freedom is not just a philosophical concept to her. It is real, tangible and lived. Freedom of thought is one thing, but to be able to exercise freedom through one’s actions and voice is what Adil is referring to here.

In Adil’s poetry, all things find voice, including Karachi. Karachi hu is an ode to the troubled, giving and accepting metropolis that suffers day in and day out. The breathing and living city cries out as it nurtures its inhabitants.

Adil’s has experimented with style. This shows in the composition of Khamiaza, which is quite similar to a Japanese haiku. However, not all of her shorter pieces have three lines. The second to last nazm in Shabd titled Abru Raizi ke Bad is one of the shortest in the collection and the most heart-wrenching. Adil is not subtle here. The poem is meant to shock. The imagery of night and the idea of violation are deliberately provocative, and the notion of concealing a violation of one’s honour is meant to be triggering.

Naina Adil is aware of the impact of her words and her work. In her ghazals, she does not stray far from the tradition, but with her nazms, she has taken liberties to explore subjects that challenge archaic notions. Where her ghazals deal with romance, her nazms talk of countries and people – including women - terrorised, forsaken and forgotten.

Shabd is distinctly feminine in its idiom. Aware and self-critical, Naina Adil does not refer to the female voice as weak. In her ghazals, she admits the limitations of the woman in love. In her nazms, she urges women to transcend all weaknesses. I Wish is a clear and precise expression of all that she wants. The woman Adil speaks of wants to be a Plumeria flower: fragrant, giving and one with Nature. She wants to be embraced by the soft, cool breeze at night and the rumbling clouds to stay away if possible. Adil wishes for the sunshine to give her life.

Shabd is also a wish to be heard and accepted; to help and be helped. It is a collection that has much to offer to its readers. There is a poem here for everyone, and the anthology comes together neatly. The verses are generally free-flowing. However, some of the poems dealing with philosophical ideas can be a little heavy for those new to Urdu poetry.


Published by: Mavra


Price: Rs 600

The reviewer is a staff member

Expression of awareness