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Raziya, Shaukat, and the PWA - Part - I

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When Shaukat Kaifi died in November 2019 at the age of 93, another prominent woman of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) movement of India, Razia Sajjad Zaheer, came to mind whose 40th death anniversary fell in 2019. Both were closely associated with left-wing literary and political activities and also supported their husbands, Kaifi Azmi and Sajjad Zaheer, in their pursuits.

In this two-part column, we have a look at the lives of Raziya and Shaukat through two books: ‘Mere Hisse ki Roshanai’ (My bit of light) by Raziya’s daughter, Noor Zaheer; and ‘Yaad ki Reh Guzar’ (Nostalgia) by Shaukat Kaifi herself. Noor Zaheer has been an accomplished actor on stage, civil society activist, kathak dancer, journalist, novelist, playwright, researcher, short-story writer; and has penned books in English, Hindi, and Urdu. Her novel ‘My God is a Woman’ has won critical acclaim and her short stories have appeared in English, titled ‘Raging Forests’, and in Urdu as ‘Rait par Khoon’ (Blood on Sand).

The lives of Raziya and Shaukat have many things in common. Both belonged to relatively conservative families; both were apolitical before getting married; both adapted their personalities to survive with meagre financial resources; and both managed to enhance their creative potential to contribute to the progressive movement in India. Raziya wrote novels, stories, and travelogues, composed radio features and plays, and translated world literature into Urdu. Shaukat, on the other hand, excelled at acting in films and theatre, from the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) to mainstream cinema such as in ‘Umrao Jan’ with Rekha.

But here we are more concerned with their personal lives to understand how these outstanding women segued from their comfortable lives into a challenging realm of left-wing and progressive politics. How they raised their children to become creative individuals, and how they stood with their........

© The News International