LAHORE: Renowned Urdu writer Fahmida Riaz passed away aged 72 at her daughter’s residence in Lahore on Wednesday. The poetess was famous for her writing as well as her humanitarian work.
Numerous personalities within the industry have expressed their sentiments and paid tribute to Riaz’s life and work alike. They consider her to have been a strong, brave women’s rights advocate; someone who would openly speak of societal issues for the benefit of others.
“I had the opportunity to spend a lot time with Fahmida Riaz as we visited numerous countries together for work,” Dr Sugra Sadaf, the Director General of Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (PILAC) told The Express Tribune. “She was a mystical lady; someone who was brave and full of life. All her work revolved around humanity.”
Sadaf added that Riaz would speak of taboo subjects and those related to women in her poetry, even though she was highly criticised for it. She also tried to show people the importance of their mother tongue and there are many translations to her credit. “However, her son’s death really took a toll on her and her work. Fehmida was broken… and that reflected in her writings. She will always be in our memories.”
Born in Meerut, India on July 28, 1946, Riaz rose to fame due to her unique writing style and human rights work. She wrote 15 books during her lifetime. The late activist received her education from the University of Sindh, after which she began working as a newscaster for Radio Pakistan. She was fluent in Urdu, Sindhi and Persian and wrote her first poem aged 15, which went on to be published in Funoon magazine.
“Fahmida Riaz and I had been friends since the 70s… she was one of the closest people in my life,” shared theatre director Sheema Kirmani. “She wrote a lot for me in the form of scripts and poetry, and I brought her work to life through the art of theatre. She was a sincere, loving being and anyone who knew her knows how great she was.”
Kirmani continued, “According to me, she was the biggest female poet of our era as she gave a voice to the the females of this nation. She truly managed to hold her own within the field of literature.”
Riaz published her first book Pathar Ki Zuban in 1982. Her other publications including Goodavari, Kya Tum Pura Chand Na Dekho Ge, Badan Darida, Khatte-e Marmuz and Ye Khana e Aab O Gil were among the best. She was also the head of Islamabad’s National Book Council.
Back in 2010, Riaz was given the Presidential Pride of Performance Award and Sitara e Imtiaz for her wonderful contributions to Urdu literature.
“We have been deprived of a democratic lover and humanitarian known as Fahmida Riaz. She struggled a lot for the rights of the people, especially females,” said drama writer Asghar Nadeem Syed. “She managed to shed light on social issues through most of her work. For example, she highlighted the matter of the Behari community in Bangladesh through her book Hum Log and even went and lived among them to understand the issues of their community. Her writings have been fantastic.”
Minister of Health Punjab, Dr Yasmeen Rashid also spoke of Riaz, stating that her work was very influential and contributed a huge amount to local literature. “Fehmida will remain influential for decades and go down in the history of literature. Her death is sad news and I am praying for her.”
Riaz’s funeral will be held today in Cantt, Lahore after Asar prayers.
Edited by Ramsha Vistro
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