‘You are now dead for us’, is the cruel verdict that an audacious girl frequently draws from her parents in our seemingly educated, but essentially obscurantist, society. Parveen Shakir also had to hear it, and courageously faced the consequences. ‘Don’t ask me’, she once replied when questioned about her marital difficulties, ‘Ask Parveen Qadir Agha, who would give you a fuller answer. Marriage is always a risky business, and doubly so for a poetess.’ But she bore the brunt of these misfortunes like a heroine.
Parveen Shakir, the graceful poetess and an upright government functionary, on her way to the office, was crushed (like a rose) when an autobus hit her car. And like the replay of an oft-repeated drama, the sequence of our reaction was unfolded in a very predictable fashion.
The ghastly tragedy takes place, driver of the killer vehicle vanishes into thin air, dignitaries throng to the res idence of the victim, glowing tributes are paid to her, and literary ‘references’ are held, culminating in the epitaphic In Memoriam on the television screen. Another grim question mark is flung into the oblivion of national mysteries.
And it is the end of a fragrant life.
Parveen Shakir was born on 24th November, 1952 in Karachi, Pakistan. She was highly educated with two masters degrees, one in English literature and one in linguistics. She also held a Ph.D and another masters degree in Bank Administration.
She was a teacher for nine years before she joined the Civil Service and worked in the Customs department. In 1986 she was appointed the second secretary, CBR in Islamabad.
A number of books of her poetry have been published. In chronological order, they are Khushboo (1976), Sad-barg (1980), Khud-kalaami (1990), Inkaar (1990) and Maah-e-Tamaam (1994). Her first book, Khushboo, won the Adamjee award. Later she was awarded the Pride of Performance award, which is the highest award given by the Pakistan government.
On 26th December, 1994, on her way to work, her car collided with a truck and the world of modern Urdu poetry lost one of its brightest stars.
Parveen Shakir initially wrote under the pen-name of ‘Beena’. She considered Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi her ‘ustad’ and used to called him ‘Ammujaan’.