Noor ul Huda Shah in Conversation with Moeen Nizami
On Thursday November 7, 2019, the Gurmani Centre held the second session of its "Tīn Shā‘ēr, Tīn Diktētar” series. The guest for the day was Noor ul Huda Shah, an acclaimed poet, writer, and playwright. Dr. Moeen Nizami began the session by introducing Noor ul Huda Shah and asking her to read out some of her poetry. Her recitation of her prose poem “khāmosh khabardār” —which depicts an immutable spirit of rebellion disrupting a tyrant’s court—aptly set the tone for the rest of the evening.
In the two hour long session, Noor ul Huda Shah discussed the struggles of writing during a military dictatorship as well as her personal journey as a writer. She discussed the all pervasiveness of a dictatorship that forces people to become cautious even within their own homes. Addressing the students in the audience, she emphasized the importance of first understanding why it is imperative to resist dictatorial regimes. “Dictatorship is not bad due to some abstract principle,” she said, “but because of the injustice it perpetuates against the people of one's land.” She added that she sees resistance as an act of love, not anger. “You feel a desire to resist tyranny when you love the people of your land and watan,” she said. “This love for the people implores a writer to fight for their rights in the same way that a mother is forced to protect her child out of love.”
Noor ul Huda Shah also talked about the backlash that some of her television plays received. She mentioned that her drama Jangal, which challenged the patriarchal conventions of Sindhi society, elicited an intense backlash amongst the feudal class. She felt, however, that this was a price worth paying in exchange for the positive changes such writing can initiate in society. “In the past few decades, Sindhi society has become a lot more open to women’s education,” she said, “and the efforts of writers have contributed the most to this change.” She fondly recounted an anecdote about meeting a woman whose story helped her realize the impact of her dramas. The woman belonged to a feudal family with a tradition of not allowing the women in the family to marry. After watching Jangal, however, the woman’s brother decided to help her get married and defy this tradition. Noor ul Huda Shah cited this as one of the proudest moments of her career. “If art has the potential to initiate such radical changes, then threats and opposition are a very small price to pay,” she remarked.
Towards the end of the session, Noor ul Huda Shah read out a few more of her poems. Her poetry echoed the ideas of loving one’s dharti and hum watan that she talked about throughout the evening. She emphasized upon the notion that the country is sustained by the people who cultivate the land, and that it is imperative to advocate for the rights of the rural population. Professor Moeen Nizami praised her poetry by saying that “one can glimpse echoes of Sachal Sarmast in her work.”