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Noted Urdu Poet and Activist Fahmida Riaz Passes Away

The heroine of the Indus Valley changed how we view women in literature.

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.

While most know the literary veteran for her feminist literature, Fahmida Riaz also contributed to translations and educational content.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Written by Ummara Sheraz

Entertainment & culture writer at ProPakistani/Lens. Occasionally dabbles in other news.


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