Shabnam Shakeel – a pillar of Urdu literature
ISLAMABAD, March 8: At the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL), poets and friends gathered on Friday to celebrate the memory of the poet Shabnam Shakeel, saying that “Urdu literature lost one of its pillars” with her death last Saturday, in Karachi.
The poet Kishwar Naheed, former director-general of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts, described her long friendship with Shakeel.
“Shabnam was one of the rare poets who left a permanent impact on Urdu literature,” she said.
The two women met at a mushaira at Islamia College, Lahore, and their friendship lasted a lifetime.
“We would share our poetry with one another, talking on the phone for hours to recite our work,” she said.
In Lahore, they later became close friends with Munir Niazi and Noor Jehan. However, Shakeel abandoned poetry for twelve years during her marriage.
“She sacrificed a great deal for her family,” Naheed said. “When she came back to poetry, she also started writing fiction.”
Abdul Hameed, chairman of the Academy, said that Shakeel was skilled in both poetry and prose.
According to poet Iftikhar Arif, a former chairman of the PAL, Shakeel had “highlighted women’s issues” in her work, but that her mode of expression made her poetry unique.
“She wrote a great deal in the first-person, which generally people interpret as reflecting the poet’s own experiences. But Shabnam’s poetry was based on her observations.”
Shabnam Shakeel’s son, Jahanzeb Ahmed, was also present on Friday.
He described his mother as a “proud Lahoran”, committed to helping her family, especially her children.
“For 12 years she didn’t write anything, just worked to keep her family and her children together,” he said.
She was committed to helping the less fortunate. “After she died, people began coming to our house to tell them how she had helped them financially. We never knew about that before.”
Shakeel began writing at an early age; her first book, “Tanqeedi Mazameen”, was published in 1965. She learned the basics of poetry from her father, the poet, critic and academic Syed Abid Ali Abid.