Where Have the Flowers of Gulistan-e-Urdu Gone?
By Dr. A. Khan
Chicago , IL


December 26, 2010 marked the 16th anniversary of Parveen Shakir’s death. Millions of people in South Asia continue to suffer from the load shedding problems. Parveen Shakir fell victim to a car accident which took place due to load shedding.

On the morning of December 26, 1994, Parveen Shakir was commuting to her work in Islamabad; when her car reached the Faisal Road and Margalla Road intersection, the traffic light was out due to load shedding, as a result her car was hit by a speeding bus. Thus load shedding claimed the life of an outstanding and original poet who was only 42 years old and had yet to reach the zenith of her creative potential.

In 1977 a nascent Parveen Shakir announced her arrival on the Urdu literary horizon by publishing her first collection titled Khuhsboo (fragrance). In the introduction, describing the nature of the title, she wrote: “When the breeze kissed the flower, fragrance (khushboo) was born.”

The use of unorthodox and novel approaches to express emotions in free form made her an instant celebrity among the young and old Urdu poetry readers. The boldness of her style also gave a feminine voice to the Urdu ghazal, which for ages was taken hostage by masculine voices.

Parveen Shakir not only transformed her experiences and emotions into poetic couplets but also boldly gave a voice to the women issues; talking about them was considered a taboo at the time. Parveen Shakir was a prolific poetess even Faiz Ahmad Faiz was surprised by her copious output. A sampling of her poems reveals her stature among the modern Urdu poets:


The night stands on the first threshold of loneliness;

hand outstretched, it signals me.

I wonder, should I take these hands

And step by step

Descend into the basement of quite,

Or stay in my room?

The moon knocks at my window!


Holding the face of the flower

In its baby-pink hands,

The zephyr

kissed it so gently

That all the flower’s sorrows

Melted into fragrance.

Couplet from SadBarg

The intent of the heart

Is written between the lines.

Explanations of words can’t be found

In the forewords of books.

Couplet from KhudKalami

The elements have conspired

with time

Trees were injured

By both the rain and the sun.

Couplet from Kuhsboo

He is the flagrance,

Will scatter into wind.

The problem is the flower;

Where will it go?

Au revoir, Parveen Shakir, Adieu: Indeed, all the flowers of Gulistan-e-Urdu are wondering where have their Khusboo gone?



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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