Kishwar Naheed: A Great Woman from the Punjab

Poet Kishwar Naheed, Urdu, Punjab

Kishwar Naheed

Kishwar Naheed is one of those few women who command a kind of respect for their work that continues on to transform into love at some point in one’s life. I have always felt indebted to Kishwar for the face of courage she continued to show as a poet and as a person amidst political turmoils, personal sorrows and social discriminations. From 1970’s in Lahore to 2007 in Islamabad, Kishwar has become stronger, more together, prettier, and even more of a direct person; and, like many Pakistan women, i can say that i have grown to love Kishwar Naheed.

Kishwar was born in Uttar Pardesh in India in 1940, and came to Lahore in the Punjab after the Partition of 1947. From that time on, Kishwar lived and worked in Lahore with some digressions into other cities, and after retirement settled in Islamabad in her cozy two bedroom apartment. Urdu is her mother tongue, and that is the language she basically worked in but her administration role/s at National Centre, National Council of the Arts, Urdu Board and other positions allowed her to develop literary communities that involved both Urdu, Punjabi and other language writers. Kishwar was married to Poet Yousuf Kamran, raised two sons with him as a working woman, and then continued to support her family after his death in the Eighties.

I can not tell you when i first saw Kishwar but i bet it was in the heat of the Seventies in Lahore where Kishwar had already emerged as a poet with two collections of Urdu poetry, ‘Lab-I goya’ in 1968 and ‘Benam musafat’ in 1971; and was the recipient of Adamjee Award for Literature in 1969. From the start, i admired the strength of her voice, poetic and otherwise, in dealing with a sexist social milieu that was geared to strike dissenting women hard.

By 1991, she had published six collections of Urdu poetry, many anthologies, biographies, translations, travelogues and textbooks for children. Later, she won Unesco prize for ‘Dais Dais Ki Kahanian’, a book of short stories for children, and the prestigious Sitara-e-Imtiaz for lifetime achievements.

Here are two of her poems ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in English:

Kishwar Naheed

A delicate awareness of life
Dawned in the desolation of my body.
The deception of the shore’s indifference
And the futility of surging waves.
Every limb is asking:
Now tell us
If you know why a flower blossoms.
I laugh
And create a riot in the garden.

Kishwar Naheed

Selling mirrors
In the lap of hope’s mountain,
I was alone reaping losses.
I was tall like the Pleiades,
Was concerned with only me;
Lost in myself

Marching apart,
I hated the glow of yes.
Then, I killed myself,
Drank my blood,
People had never heard
Such frightening laughter.
(Poems translated by Baidar Bakht and Derek M. Cohen for ‘The Scream of an Illegitimate Voice’, Lahore 1991)

Resources on Kishwar:
Kishwar reads her poem ‘Hum gunahgar aurtaiN’ We Sinful Women
Her profile at the Library of Congress
Collection of Kishwar’s Urdu poems
Poems translated by Rukhsana Ahmed
Entry at the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature
‘Kishwar Naheed Looks Back’ by Khalid Hasan

Kishwar-e-naheed Shaad Baad!
More on Kishwar Naheed

6 comments on “Kishwar Naheed: A Great Woman from the Punjab

  1. Sohana Mehak says:

    can someone tell me which poem of kishwer reflects her personalty.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Www. Kishwar


  3. Anonymous says:

    I am going to do my Thesis on her SHAIRY KHIDM’AAT…
    i hope to do best.


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  5. Shehla Arif says:

    I am trying to get in touch with Kishwar Naheed. I am organizing an event in Chicago USA about her poetry and the relationship of Pakistan with the Empire as the war front is steadily shifting to Pakistan. I would like her to send a message to the audience if possible. Would someone on the website help me get in touch with her? I’ll send the flyer of the event.

    Many thanks,




    Dear ,
    First of all it is very nice website.
    I like kishwar naheed very much by her
    poetry as well as her personality.
    best reagers


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