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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

JLF: Shabana Azmi On Being The Strong-Willed Woman She Is Today Thanks To Her Father Kaifi Azmi

  • IWB Post
  •  January 26, 2019

Qadr ab tak teri tarrikh ne jaani he nahi, tujh mein shole bhi hain bas ashkfishaani he nahi tu haqiiqat bhii hai dilchasp kahaani he nahi, teri hasti bhi hai ik cheez javaani he nahi, apni tarrikh kaa unvaan badalnaa hai tujhe, uth meri jaan mere saath he chalnaa hai tujhe”- recited Shabana Azmi. Giving women the credit they deserve, these four lines are from her father, renowned film lyricist and Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi’s famous poem, Aurat, and the very reason that Shaukat Kaifi, his wife, fell in love with him in the first place.

Being an ardent fan of the entire Azmi family, be it Shaukat Azmi, Shabana or Kaifi Azmi, it was with high hopes that I attended Shabana’s session on the third day of the Jaipur Literature Festival. To call it an amazing session doesn’t even cover it- the session took off with the crowd hooting to Shabana Azmi ascending the stairs to the stage, with Javed Akhtar making a surprise guest appearance to recite a poem on Kaifi.

Vo aadmi se kahta tha, ki aadmi se pyaar kar.

Ujad rahi hai ye zamin, kuchh is ka ab singhar kar.

Ajiib aadmi tha vo.

Shabana Azmi

As he made his exit, amongst the sound of applause, the crowd turned to Shabana Azmi to complete telling the love story of Shaukat and Kaifi.

“You see, my mother was always confident about her looks and the confidence she carried. So, when she heard Kaifi at a mushaiyara reciting the poem Aurat, she instantly felt this connection with him and vowed that if anyone was to be her partner it was him, a man who respected women. She was confident that he would like her back, so after the poetry session was over, instead of getting his autograph, she went to another poet and then went to him,” Shabana shared with a smile.

“Turns out he had already noticed her and watched her go to another poet, so in retaliation, he wrote a sarcastic poem in his autograph to her. When she complained, he was ready with his retort that she too choose to go to another poet first. And in that moment, started a beautiful love story and an amazing journey that we, as their children, had the fortune to witness,” she added.

Apart from being an ingenious poet, Kaifi was also known for being a patient and loving husband and had what many wish for in their marriage – a mutual and equal relationship. Shabana narrated how when her mother, a famous theatre actor, had to be away for days for her plays, the roles would be reversed and it would be her father, Kaifi, who bathed, dressed, combed the hair and made the food for his two kids. There was never an argument that a woman belongs in the kitchen. Gender stereotypes never held any power in the Azmi household.

“When my father used to hold the mushaiyaras in our house, I started hiding behind the curtain to listen to them. One day my father saw me and called me out saying that I don’t have to hide and can join them if I promise I won’t skip going to school the next day because I slept late at night,” Shabana said. “That’s how it was. We were given the choice, to decide what to do with our lives and what I just said was just a mere example of the life of empowerment we lived.”

“The day I told him that I want to become an actor, he told me something that I’ll remember forever. He said, “Beta, if you had wanted to become a cobbler, I would support you in that as well, the condition is, you will have to try your hardest to become the best at whatever you want to be,” she reminisced. “I am a strong-willed woman and a majority of the credit goes to him.”

As I left the session, I found myself humming the tune of one of Kaifi’s most famous songs till date.

Jaayenge Kahan, Soojhta Nahin

Chal Pade Magar Raasta Nahin

Jaayenge Kahan, Soojhta Nahin

Chal Pade Magar Raasta Nahin

Kya Talaash Hai, Kuchh Pata Nahin

Bun Rahe Hain Din, Khwaab Dum-B-Dum

Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam

Tum Rahe Na Tum, Hum Rahe Na Hum

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