Obituary: Literati bid adieu to Shabnam Shakeel

The noted poet died in Karachi on Saturday and laid to rest in Islamabad on Sunday.

Our Correspondent March 04, 2013
A large number of writers and intellectuals attended the funeral and laid a floral wreath at Shakeel’s grave on Sunday. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Waqar Hasnain remembers his illustrious mother for her informed, intellectual discussions and honest opinions.

“She was an avid newspaper reader and would discuss topics as diverse as politics and science with us,” Hasnain told The Express Tribune on Sunday. “She had a knack for grounding her poetry in the current socio-political conditions of the country.”

Poet Shabnam Shakeel, 70, died in Karachi on Saturday.

She was laid to rest at the H-11 graveyard on Sunday evening. Writers and intellectuals including Iftikhar Arif, Anwar Masood and others attended the funeral.

She is survived by two sons, Hasnain and Jehanzeb Ahmed, and one daughter, Malahat Awan. Her husband, Shakil Ahmed, passed away three months ago.

Born in Lahore on March 12, 1942, she graduated from the Islamia College and did her master’s in Urdu literature from Oriental College. She then embarked on a career as an educationist which spanned over 30 years.

She taught as a lecturer at the Queen’s Mary College, Lahore, and the Lahore College for Women, and served as an assistant professor at the Federal Government College F-7/2 and the Government Girls College, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi.

Her father, Syed Abid Ali Abid, who himself was a well known literary figure at his own right, introduced her to literature and a literary environment. After starting her career in 1976 with a collection of critical essays, over the next three decades, she wrote eight books including four poetry collections.

In 2004, she was awarded the Pride of Performance for her second collection of poetry, Iztiraab.

Hasnain said, Iztiraab was also the book closest to her heart. She also loved to recite her poem ‘Virsa’ which she had written for her daughter, he said.

Shakeel had gone to Karachi from Islamabad to visit her daughter and also get a check-up at the Aga Khan University Hospital for her knee-replacement.

But she contracted a pneumonia virus on the way to the port city, which might have been the cause of her death, Hasnain said. Shakeel was also suffering from liver cirrhosis.

Poets, family and friends remembered Shakeel as a very social and genial person, who was not only great at interacting with her peers but also the younger generation.

Short story writer and columnist Mushir Anwar said Shabnam was a gentle and selfless woman who had excelled at the genre of poetry she chose for herself.

“Among women poets, she had no match in ghazal writing,” he said. “We have several women who write great poems and free verse, but her collections of ghazals are a great contribution to Urdu poetry.”

Poet Zafar Mairaj said Shabnam Shakeel’s contribution to the women’s poetry movement in Pakistan is magnificent. Mairaj said her poetry possessed a certain freshness and amicability which was also part of her personality.

Abdul Hameed, chairman of the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL), laid a floral wreath at her grave.

PAL will hold a literary reference on March 8, which is also International Women’s Day, to honour the life and work of Shabnam Shakeel.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2013.


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