Famed writer and social activist Fahmida Riaz passed away yesterday, leaving Pakistani intelligentsia all the more poor. She was a titan of literature and a regular fixture at cultural events, with fans from all around the subcontinent coming to see her recite her immortal lines.
The Urdu poet changed the idea of female heroines as depicted in Latif’s tales of the Sath Surmiyoon to one where a heroine can be her own warrior and savior, much like herself as a heroine of the Indus valley.
No one truly dies. A part of them instills in our souls and keeps on going. We are the keepers of thoughts and actions of a million souls we meet in our life time. They’re evolving us as they meant to do. #fahmidariaz now has a million voices. Use it well for she chose you.
— siwelylla (@A_Munroe786) November 21, 2018
While most know the literary veteran for her feminist literature, Fahmida Riaz also contributed to translations and educational content.
#FahmidaRiaz was a Progressive Urdu writer, poet, human rights activist and feminist of Pakistan. She is author of Godaavari, Khatt-e Marmuz, and Khana e Aab O Gil, the first translation of the Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi from Persian into Urdu.#Rip pic.twitter.com/qHw2KcbyQa
— Fahad Saleem (@R4jpoot) November 21, 2018
A Legend in Her Time
In this day and age, it is far more easier to be progressive, a feminist, a leftist and be accepted but it wasn’t always so. When Fahmida Riaz took this path, it was a hard one. Despite the obstruction of free speech, this brave woman let her pen do all the talking.
#FahmidaRiaz passed away. The region lost another voice of sanity. What a source of inspiration & courage she was, who stood bravely against General Zia’s dictatorship and tranformed hearts and minds of millions. #RIPFahmidaRiaz pic.twitter.com/8y9pnxovnl
— Abid Qaiyum Suleri (@Abidsuleri) November 22, 2018
Heartbreaking news about the death of Fahmida Riaz. What a transformative force she was, in her poetry and her life. One of the brightest of lights in the dark days of Zia-ul-Haq, and beyond. #fahmidariaz
— Kamila Shamsie (@kamilashamsie) November 21, 2018
A Great Loss
Some of her famous books will forever be a valuable addition to feminist and progressive literature. What the world lacks is feminist literature that is more inclusive, especially by someone who is more in tune with our cultural ethos and environment.
For that reason, we needed and still need women that understand the socio-cultural dynamics of the East and look at these problems accordingly and Fahmida Riaz did just that.
#FehmidaRiaz… She spoke of us..for us .to us! Rest in peace
— afia salam (@afiasalam) November 22, 2018
We are slowly losing the generation of poets, writers, artists, dancers, singers and creative people who took it upon themselves to speak truth to the powerful political and religious forces in Pakistan, often at great personal cost. #FehmidaRiaz
— Maha Jamil (@Mahajamilonline) November 21, 2018
Particularly because this woman tried to bridge that gap she left a massive void in our literary dimension with her passing. Despite the current fem wave in the world of literature and art from works like Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire and Fouzia Saeed’s The AASHA Experience to Saba Imtiaz’s Karachi, You’re Killing Me!, the voice of Fahmida Riaz remains distinct amongst all. Her light way of presenting longstanding myths and taboo as art in Pattar Ki Zuban was incomparable.
[From @thewire_in archives]
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) November 21, 2018
You are here there and every where in your truth against tyranny. In your truth for downtrodden people. In your truth for Feminism. In your truth for calling yourself a daughter of Sindh and SIndhi. #RIP #FahmidaRiaz
— javed ahmed qazi (@jvqazi) November 22, 2018
Riaz was also vocal on the nationalist radicalism taking root in India. During her exile from Pakistan for a period spanning six years, she witnessed how things went bad to worse there, which lead her to pen her famous poem that drew parallels between the two subcontinental rivals:
“Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle” (You turned out to be just like us).
Renowned Pakistani Poet Fahmida Riaz passes away in Lahore. She had fled General Zia-ul Haq's tyranny, sought refuge & spent 7 years in exile in India. Her warning to Indians on religious fundamentalists remains and will keep ringing forever.https://t.co/6Qd09X7OG2 pic.twitter.com/4ZOmT513s3
— Vijoo Krishnan (@VijooKrishnan) November 21, 2018
— Danish Husain (@DanHusain) November 22, 2018
— Sudesh (@sudeshsri) November 21, 2018
No doubt then, that Fahmida Riaz’s loss will be felt for years to come. But for generations of women in the subcontinent, her works serve as a template for the way forward.