biography of urdu poet -parveen shakir

Parveen Shakir was born on 14th November, 1952 in Karachi, Pakistan. Although her family was a religious family and woman observed purdah, she was exempted of this because of liberal approach of her father ‘Shakir Hussain’. She started her education from ‘Rizviya Girls School’ in Karachi. She did her Intermediate from ‘Sir Syed College’, Karachi. She did her master in English Literature and Linguistics from Karachi University. She was also Masters in Bank Administration and Ph.D.

Parveen started writing at a young age. When her college was celebrating Defence Day in 1968, Parveen was asked to compose a poem for the occasion. After much difficulty, she succeeded, and that was the starting point into the world of Urdu poetry. She started penning both prose and poetry, and contributing columns in Urdu newspapers, and a few articles in English dailies. Initially, she wrote under the pen-name, ‘Beena’.

She was a teacher for nine years before she joined the Civil Services. In the beginning her father did not approve of her writing poetry because he knew that she would not pay attention to her studies, but for Parveen there was no turning back. She kept participating in inter-collegiate contests, winning trophies, and reciting her poems at radio. During this time she sent two of her ghazals to her favourite poet, ‘Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi’, who was publishing a literary magazine Fanoon. He not only published her poems but also encouraged her to continue writing poetry. She considered Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi her 'Ustad' and used to call him 'Ammujaan'. Her first collection of poetry, "Khushboo”, established her reputation, and the book went through three edition in a month. This was followed by three other successful collections, "Sad-Barg", "Khud-Kalaami" and "Inkaar".

After passing the Central Superior Services examination, she was appointed in the Customs Department. In 1986, she was appointed second secretary, CBR in Islamabad. She also visited the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she received a scholarship in 1990. She also taught South Asian history, politics and film for two semesters at the University of Hartford. She did her Master’s in public administration at Harvard University in 1991.Her unique honor was that when she appeared in the Central Superior Services Examination in 1982 there was a question in Urdu examination on her own poetry.

A number of books of her poetry have been published. In chronological order, they are ‘Khushboo’ (1976), ‘Sad-Barg’ (1980), ‘Khud-Kalaami (1990), ‘Inkaar’ (1990) and ‘Maah-e-Tamaam’ (1994).

Her first book, Khushboo, won her the ‘Adamjee Award’. Later she was awarded the ‘Pride of Performance Award’, which is the highest award given by the Pakistan government.

Parveen Shakir employed mainly two forms of poetry in her work, one being the prevalent ghazal and the other being free verse. The most prominent themes in Shakir's poetry are love, feminism, and social stigmas, though she occasionally wrote on other topics as well. Her work was often based on romanticism, exploring the concepts of love, beauty and their contradictions. She heavily integrated the use of metaphors, similes and personifications.

Arguably, Parveen Shakir can be termed the first poetess to use the word ladki (girl) in her works. The male-dominated Urdu poetry scene seldom employs that word, and uses masculine syntax when talking about the 'lover'. Similarly, she often made use of the Urdu first-person, feminine pronoun in her verses which, though extremely common in prose, was rarely used in poetry, even by female poetesses before her.

Shakir's ghazalyaat are considered "a combination of classical tradition with modern sensitivity," and mainly deal with the feminine perspective on love and romance, and associated themes such as beauty, intimacy, separation, break-ups, distances, distrust and infidelity and disloyalty. Shakir's ghazalyaat heavily rely on metaphors and similes, which are repeatedly and thought-provokingly used to bring force and lyricism in her work. Some of Shakir's couplets, have gained an iconic status in Urdu literature.

As compared to her ghazalyaat Shakir's free verse is much bolder, and explores social issues and taboos, including gender inequality, discrimination, patriotism, deceit, prostitution, the human psyche, and current affairs. It is also much more modern and up-to-date.

Parveen Shakir is known for having employed the usage of pop culture references and English words and phrases that have mixed up with Urdu, in her free verse - a practice that is both generally considered inappropriate, and criticized, in Urdu poetry. An example is the poem ‘Departmental Store Mein’ [In a Departmental Store], which is named thus despite the fact that there the term 'departmental store' could easily have been substituted with its Urdu equivalent, and where words like 'natural pink,' 'hand lotion,' 'shade,' 'scent' and 'pack' are brought into use, and references made to cosmetics brands like, Pearl, Revlon, Elizabeth Arden, and Tulip. Other examples are her poems Ecstasy, Nun and Picnic. Shakir's free verse also contains a few, credited translated or inspired works i.e. poems that are translations of, or inspired by, other authors.

Shakir's poetry was well-received, and after her untimely death she is now considered one of the best and "most prominent" modern poets Urdu language has ever produced.  She is considered among the breed of writers "regarded as pioneers in defying tradition by expressing the "female experience" in Urdu poetry." The Delhi Recorder has stated that Shakir "has given the most beautiful female touch to Urdu poetry."

On Dec 26th, 1994, Shakir's car collided with a bus while she was on her way to work in Islamabad. The accident resulted in her death, a great loss to the Urdu poetry world. The road on which the accident took place is named after her.

She was married to Dr. Nasir Ahmed but got divorced from him sometime before her untimely demise in 1994. They had one son, Murad Ali. Her last book "Maah-e-Tamam" was published a couple of months before her death.

Upon her death, the ‘Parveen Shakir Trust’ was established by her close friend, ‘Parveen Qadir Agha’. The Parveen Shakir Trust organizes a yearly function and gives out the “Aks-e-Khushbo” award.

Volumes of Poetry

Khushboo (Fragrance) -1976

Sad-barg (Marsh Marigold) -1980

Khud-kalaami (Talking to the Self) -1990

Inkaar (Refusal) -1990

Maah-e-Tamaam (Full Moon) -1994

Kaf-e-Aa'ina  (The Edge of the Mirror)


Gosha-e-Chashm  (The Sight Corner)


Post a Comment


  1. thank u for this article