Punjabi Poems of Nasreen Anjum Bhatti: Talat Afroze

Nasreen Anjum Bhatti (1943–2016) was a Pakistani poetess who wrote poems in Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi and English languages. She was also a painter and a broadcaster/producer at Radio Pakistan’s Lahore studios. Nasreen Anjum Bhatti’s Punjabi poems tell the story of the Pakistani Woman: both the rural Pakistani Woman and the urban Pakistani Woman. They are stories about sub-humanization of women and Pakistani women living in terror and fear for most of their lives.

Her Punjabi poetry championed the cause of Feminism and Human Rights. She was a progressive minded poetess who raised her voice against male dominance and patriarchy in Pakistan.

In her poetry, she creates surrealist images with a rich diction. Nasreen effortlessly knits poems with a sharp craft and facility to twist the ordinary words and phrases into stunningly beautiful lines. She challenges patriarchy, dictatorship and all other forms of oppression. Her works could be described as a bridge between folk songs, classical and modern Punjabi poetry.

Mushtaq Soofi writes: “Nasreen Anjum Bhatti is the female voice, soft but strong, dominating our poetic landscape. This feminine voice debunks the image of the Pakistani Woman as she is perceived and on the other celebrates the potential of the Pakistani Woman . . . a source of Life and a protector of Life.

Nasreen Anjum Bhatti is ruthless in exposing not only the oppressively dominant male but also the slavishly subservient female who carries an internalized image of the female as sub-human as projected socially by the male.

One of her short unpublished poem says it all: ‘I have heard the pains conversing / I have heard, inside the man resides another man who doesn’t let him live/ these two men are born simultaneously as twin? Or the other man is born of the man later/ can you tell me? /my man has gone out somewhere/ when he comes back/ I will ask him and let you know’.

If we want to know the answer to the identity of the Pakistani woman, we will find it somewhere in Nasreen’s poetry where we find that Man comes up as a companion and exploiter, a confidante and a tormentor simultaneously.”

Apna Org complete text of Neel Karaiyaan Neelkaan by Nasreen Anjum Bhatti

Apna Org complete text of Atthay Pehar Taraah by Nasreen Anjum Bhatti

Rekhta Urdu poems of Nasreen Anjum Bhatti

Vimeo video: Recitation of Nasreen Anjum Bhatti’s Punjabi poem Ve Kayrrha ain toon:

نیِل کرائیاں نیلکاں

اٹھّے پہر تراہ

شام لاٹ

بن باس

تیرا لہجہ بدلنے تک

Nasreen Bhatti was a progressive minded poetess who raised her voice against the brutal dictatorship of mardood General Ziaul Haq and protested the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto which crushed the hopes of middle class and working class Pakistani people. Her poetry has been described as a bridge between folk songs, classical punjabi poetry and modern Punjabi poetry.

Nasreen Bhatti was born in Quetta, Balochistan province, Pakistan but spent her childhood in Jacobabad, Sindh province, Pakistan. She got her early education in a school in Quetta where the Hazara girls would speak Persian. She was raised as a Christian by her parents who provided an art friendly environment at home. She completed her B.A. degree from Lahore College for Women and did her Master’s in Urdu from the renowned Oriental College Lahore (Punjab University) in 1970 before joining Radio Pakistan in 1971 as a Producer. Later she completed her Masters in Punjabi during her employment.  During her employment, she also enrolled to study Painting and Fine Arts at Lahore’s prestigious National College of Arts (NCA) for two years but did not finish to get a diploma. Her husband Zubair Rana, Mrs. Naseem Akhtar Bukhari, Shaista Habeeb (wife of Punjabi poet Fakhar Zaman), Fakhar Zaman, Munir Niazi, Abdullah Hossein and Najam Hossain Syed were among her close friends.

In 1979, when Pakistan’s dictator mardood General Ziaul Haq arranged the judicial murder of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Nasreen Bhatti published her first collection of Punjabi poems which included the long poem Bhutto Dee Vaar. She became an active member of Lahore city’s various literary societies like the Halqa Arba e Zauq literary meetings at the Pak Tea House, Lahore during the 1970s. Her Urdu poetry collections are Bun Baass and Tera Lehjaa Badalnay Tak (2016)while her Punjabi poetry collections are Neel Karaiyan Neelkaan (1979), Atthay Pehar Taraah (2010) and Shaam Laat (2019).

Nasreen Bhatti states in an October, 2014 interview with Dawn newspaper’s reporter Naeem Sadhu:

In the Lahore of the 1970s, the “generation of writers was very energetic and haunted by the pain and agony of the 1947 partition of British India into the Republics of India and Pakistan and the riots and loss of millions of lives during partition. Even though we (Nasreen Bhatti) were the back benchers at the jam packed literary sessions at Pak Tea House, Lahore, we were a proud part of this literary fraternity,” she says.

Nasreen Bhatti talks about the politically-charged environment of the 1970s and 1980s with a great enthusiasm, “the age of Sartre and Albert Camus.”

“Being a government employee, I could not participate openly in political activities but I used to go to distribute political activism focused posters and hand outs at night with fellow comrades.”

“The assassination of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1979 created a shock wave and it was the beginning of the literature of resistance in Pakistan,” she adds.

“I was never inclined to write traditional romantic lines glorifying the love life of an individual. My romance deals with the collective pain and pleasure of the common people and their class struggle. So I created an idiom of my own. It was striking and shocking for the conventional poets and critics,” she explains.

She was grateful to Najam Hossain Syed, who encouraged her to go for innovative experiments amid hostile criticism from literary pundits.  The pro-people and radical poets, especially Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussain and Lateef Bhittai, have been her permanent sources of inspiration and energy.

Her first collection of Punjabi poetry, ‘Neel Karaiyan Neelkan’, published in 1979, made a lasting impression on modern Punjabi poetry and became her hallmark. It was followed by another collection, ‘Athay Pehr Tarah’, in 2010.  Her works were widely acclaimed and honoured with prestigious literary awards. She was awarded Tamgha-i-Imtiaz in 2011.

In April, 1979, Nasreen Bhatti had collaborated with some other poets such as Munir Niazi and Ahmed Faraz in publishing a collection of poems titled Khushboo ki Shahadat following the hanging of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She also read a paper on Punjabi language and culture at the National Punjabi Conference and Pakistani novelist Abdullah Hussein, the chief guest at the occasion, had been very impressed by her presentation.

Nasreen Bhatti was a feminist Punjabi poet and a human rights activist. Nasreen Bhatti is considered to be one of the last crusaders of the “literature of resistance” in Pakistan. She challenged the inherited patriarchy-driven socio-cultural norms and class-based politico-economic structure through her poetic expression. She was a socially conscious artist who exposed Pakistan’s political system that is based on exploitation of human rights. She explored the complex process of how patriarchy worked through a network of cultural values, societal norms and traditions to create a gender biased society and reduced women to a commodity. Her poetry depicts an organic link between patriarchal practices and political oppression.

She worked in Radio Pakistan as producer, broadcaster and deputy controller. She also worked as resident director of Shakir Ali Museum, Lahore. She was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in 2011. Nasreen Bhatti was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and put on chemotherapy at Central Military Hospital, Lahore. Later, she moved to Karachi where she was getting treatment at Pakistan Naval Services Hospital. She is survived by a son who has been abroad.

Vimeo video: Recitation of Nasreen Anjum Bhatti’s Punjabi poem Ve Kayrrha ain toon:

YouTube Video: A Conversation with Nasreen Anjum Bhatti

YouTube Video: Recitation of some Nasreen Anjum Bhatti Punjabi Poems

YouTube Video: Saba Pervaiz Kiyani talks about Nasreen Anjum Bhatti