In a style of her own

March 22, 2015

Ada Jafri is justifiably regarded as a foremost poet of her times and the first feminist voice

In a style of her own

With the death of trend-setting poet Ada Jafri at the ripe age of 89, an era has come to an end.

Born as Aziz Jahan in Budaun India in 1926, she was destined to become the first female poet of Urdu who took the giant leap of breaking the stale tradition. It was courageous of her to challenge the prevalent norms that paved way for upcoming female poets to make their presence felt in the arena of Urdu literature.

She started her poetic career with the pen name of Ada Budauni but later changed it to Ada Jafri when she got married to Noorul Hasan Jafri who was a bureaucrat. It was said that famed poet Akhtar Sheerani honed the skills of the budding poet. It was in his magazine Romaan in 1945 that her first ghazal was published.

She had five collections of poetry to her credit plus a beautifully written autobiography Jo Rahi So Bekhabri Rahi. The names of some of her books are: Mein Saz Dhondti Rahi, Safar Baqi, Shehre Dard, Harf-e-Shanasai Ghazalan Tum To Wakif Ho etc. She was a trailblazer for female poets who still regard her as their mentor.

Poet Fatima Hassan is all praise for the huge contribution of Ada Jafri. In her words, she was the first significant woman to have been able to make her presence felt in Urdu literature. "She had a unique diction, craft and there was freshness in her poetry. That is why she became prominent. There were other women poets before her like Zahida Khatoon Sherwani but they were ignored. Ada Jafri didn’t know the restrictions the society put and she rebelled against such norms. But she was not out and out a rebel and was associated with tradition too," she says.

Fatima Hassan further adds that her autobiography was very unusual and also her compilation of classical poetry Ghazal Numa was "another contribution of Ada Jafri."

Poet Hameeda Shaheen is also in awe of Ada Jafri due to her huge contribution for Urdu literature with a special reference to women. "She was the ‘first lady’ of female poets in Pakistan. During those trying days, she stood firm and emerged as a foremost poet of her times. I am really grateful to her as she made the path easy for others like us. Her ghazal will not be ignored and it will continue to resonate in the annals of Urdu literature."

Author and critic Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyar gives her full credit for being the first feminist poet of Urdu. "Ada Jafri has justly been deemed as the first feminist voice. She courageously carved out her own path and what she stated in poetry was hitherto unheard of. Instead of confining herself to showing resistance against the patriarchal hegemony, she opted to explore deep-rooted psychic realities of a feminine self," he says.

Dr Nayyar further says she had enviable command over language as she found classical style of poetry quite appropriate for modern feminine sensibility.

Ada Jafri won numerous awards for her poetry. She was also awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in 1982. Some of her ghazals were sung by famous singers including Ustad Amanat Ali Khan. Honton pe kabhi un kay mera naam bhi aye was a huge success as it was sung by great Ustad Amanat Ali Khan. She wrote a few short stories and nazms but ghazal remained her forte.

Ghazal Numa was a great contribution of Ada Jafri in which she compiled the initial classical poetry that was shrouded in oblivion. In her autobiography, she makes a special mention of poets Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson which shows that she was well-versed with the global feministic poetic trends. She also composed haikus. She was living in Karachi at the time of her death.

Ada Jafri passed away on March 12, 2015

In a style of her own