Parvin Shere: The Lady of Light
By: Dr. Maqsood Jafri (New York)
Though I have never met her, I became familiar with Ms. Parvin Shere of
Winnipeg, Canada, through her poems on her web site. Family of the Heart of
Canada has also played a vital role in introducing her to their members.
Recently she sent me her two books for my comments. She is equally good at
English and Urdu. Her English and Urdu prose are excellent, but she writes
poetry in her mother tongue of Urdu. Thomas Carlyle has stated that one
should write in the language that one imbibes with the milk of mother.
Parvin Shere is much attached with her mother, and she has published a full
book in the memory of her sweet mom. "Kirchian" (Fragments) and "Nihal-e-Dil
Par Sahab Jaise" (Raindrops on Parched Land) are her marvelous
artistic creations. She is a beautiful lady with beautiful hand, heart, and
mind. Both the books contain her poems and paintings. What she wrote, she
painted. She is a poet, painter, and vocalist. She has proven her distinct
entity in oil paint and presented them in a coffee table book format. She
has won many international awards. Her pencil sketches are poignant. She
uses color combinations and beautifies the scenes with her florid fervor.
Her visual and poetic art captivates the hearts and captures the minds. The
intense emotional tinge is blended with philosophical messages. At a place
she writes, "The purpose of any art is to foreshadow a greater reality. The
challenge for the artist is to capture the aura of the unseen." She has
really captured the speedy moments passing like surging billows of mood and
created poems and drawn paintings superbly.
Ahmed Faraz opines about her art, "Parvin Shere, I think, is a goddess of
the Greek mythology, equipped with one heart, two eyes and four hands; each
holding a pen, a brush, a musical instrument and a torch. Color, light and
fragrance emit from every joint of her fingers. Her heart, inflamed with
passions for human sufferings, keeps her restless. But the very flame does
burnish the words of the artist and elevates them to the level of the gods."
Ahmed Faraz considers her a light. She brightens the dark paths of life with
the beams of her intuition, compassion, love, sacrifice and intellect. This
is the reason I also call her the lady of light. Like all genuine and true
artists she is restless. She furbishes her art with her heart blood and
renovates the innovative spirit with the flame of imagination. She portrays
her art with the gaudy and gorgeous colors of sublime ingenuity. No artist
can touch the zenith of excellence poising in the stale dome of
redundancy. The mind of a great artist flows like a surging billow with the
swift and swelling upsurge and upswing to find an eternal destination.
In her poems, we find the frequent usage of the poetic devices like simile,
metaphor and conceit. Her sharp sensibilities are the outcries of her
hypersensitive soul. She poses great creative power and pathos. She is
equally excellent in both genres. As a poet, she enjoys the natural gift of
using musical, melodious, and mellifluous words, and as a painter she
creates a penchant panorama with colors emanating a kaleidoscopic view.
"Kirchian" (Fragments) is her first poetry book published in 2005 and its'
second edition was published in 2008. The second book of her
poetry/paintings titled “Raindrops on Parched Land" was published in 2010
from India. Both the books have been translated into English by able
translators. In these books she has transfused her personal grief into
universal grief. Reflecting an anguished soul, her poems and paintings
mirror the intensity of personal pain amalgamated with the woe of the poor,
the needy, the neglected, the oppressed, the aggressed and the down-trodden
ones. She deeply feels for the disparaged and deprived people world over
without the discrimination of country, color, class and creed. In the words
of William Wordsworth, "The poet is sensitive like a barometer." She is very
sensitive to injustices, inequalities and inhumanities.
Dr. Sara M. Mckinnon, commenting on Parvin's artistic accomplishments
observes, "She is an artist of inner vision, and her works thus also reflect
subject matter that is personal and political." About the creation of
"Fragments," Parvin herself states, "'Fragments' is an expression, a voice,
an echo, a reflection of my encounter with a materialistic world, hungering
for power, at war with itself, ruthless in its pursuits of power, and
yearning for wealth; it straddles the poor, the weak, the down-trodden.
Wittingly or unwittingly their blood, sweat and tears pay the price of the
essence of life. In these callous surroundings, all one can hear is I, me
and myself; and all can see is a reflection of our own egotistic self." This
statement of the writer candidly shows that she understands the human
tragedies inflicted on humans by capitalism, feudalism, colonialism and
Parvin Shere, profusely emotional and heart-wrenched on the human travesties
and tribulations, shrieks on such human travails, and shifts her personal
pang into cosmic pain, and severely pines on the pains of others. She is not
lopsided. She stands on ground with both feet. She does not limp on the
slippery ground of the hard and harsh ground realities. We also find a
strong passion of revolt in the poems of Parvin against the political,
economic and social injustices. The poem titled "Iraq" depicts her sloth
against imperialism. As earlier mentioned Parvin maintains an equilibrium
between progressive and modern movements as for as the content is
considered. She is neither the victim of subjectivism of the modernists,
nor falls a prey to the objectivity of the progressives. On the side of
diction, she does not cut her relation with the classical idiom. She has
continued the sweet style of great Urdu poets such as Mir, Ghalib, Iqbal and
Faiz. The sweetness of her diction is the fruition of her Persianized idiom.
Her diction is classical with novice content.
She is committed to reformation. She is a philanthropist and a social
activist. She unmasks the social evils such as poverty, illiteracy, bigotry,
backwardness, bloodshed, violence and human miseries. She is a great
humanitarian. Her painting titled "The Fare Wall" depicts the agony of a
mother who has to give away her child. The poem titled "No Exit" mirrors the
disappointments of failed and seized life. Her exuberant creative talent is
demonstrated in both the books written by her. Eighty percent of her poetry
comprises free verse, but it does not lack the poetic charm. Her ghazals,
few in number, are mighty and impressive. Ghazal is the core, cream, crest,
and crown of Persian and Urdu poetry as it is accommodative and absorbs the
As a feminist, in male dominated and patriarchal societies, she revolts
against male chauvinism. Her poems titled "Illusion and "Disposable" are the
protests to the female exploitation and discrimination. The latter poem is a
sarcastic condemnation of the so-called free Western culture where the women
are mere toys in the hands of the capitalists. She presents women
as sexually exploited, purchasable commodities. The poems titled "The Last
Station" and "House for the Old" also slap on the dirty face of corrupt
capitalist society consisting of the materialistic proclivities, narcissism
and rotten human relations. She is a feminist but of her own way. She wants
freedom for women that can grant their honor and safety.
Her second poetry book titled "Raindrops on Parched Land," like her
"Fragments," is also a panorama of scenes and senses. This entire book has
been written on the subject of mother. She has idealized and idolized the
concept of mother. She was five years old when her father died. Her mother
raised her like a father. She cared and caressed her daughter. She
selflessly brought her up and became the symbol of sacrifice. When she died,
Parvin got shattered and scattered. This collection comprises fifty poems
with their paintings on a single theme of mother that shows the sharp and
exceptional acumen of the poet's poetic creative talent. Parvin possesses
massive abilities to transfer poetry into paintings and paintings into
poetry. At times while reading these poems and seeing these paintings, it
becomes difficult to decipher in which field she wields supremacy; in poetry
or in painting. She is remarkably splendid in both genres. As these poems
have been written in the separation of mother, Parvin, about the greatness
of mother in the preface of the book, writes, "Like a flower on a cactus, a
fountain splashing out from the bosom of a burning stone, a drop of cool air
on the lips of a burning wind, a peaceful melody in a jungle of screams, a
blanket of sunlight on a shivering body in the peak of winter, a shower of
dew kisses on the parched lips of the Earth, a cloud providing shape; this
is what she is-- this is what is Mother! That cannot be explained-- only
felt." The mother is a protector. In these poems we find the intensity of
passion and pathos for mother who holds your finger and rescues you from
troubles. The Preface of the book is very mighty, impressive, moving and
full of sorrow on the separation of mother. The poet has lost the torch
which showed her the path of peace, protection and prosperity in the dark
deserts of life. Though it is a personal loss, it emits universal sparks.
She has turned her personal woe into universal woe. The poet, who took
soothing shelter under the shade of mothers' benignity fells like a fallen
leaf from that shady tree and is lurking and lurching in the scalding heat
of the scathing sun. She is so in love with her deceased mother that in the
state of hallucination she finds the spirit of her mother around her. In the
state of desolation, she hears the voice of her dead mother who addresses
"My child---look, I am still here, close to you,
just for you,
just for your eye sight,
just for your touch,
just for your hearing,
open your third eye,
you can still see me, feel me, hear me."
This long poem ends with a message. The poet ends with these golden words
uttered by the soul of the departed dear one:
“Bear life with wisdom and tolerance.
Have courage because you are a mother, too."
The concept of third eye is spiritual. It is beyond physical senses. The
poet receives the message of hope and courage from the deceased mother
but beautifully immortalizes and universalizes this message. Parvin is
deeply agonized on the death of her mother as she has lost the canopy. Her
poem titled "The Canopy" depicts her feelings of bereavement. She writes
that mother cannot die. Mother is mother. She is everywhere. About
"Motherhood" Parvin Shere writes, "Motherhood is the word that runs like a
river in every vein as love, sacrifice and selflessness."
With great dexterity, her artistic sublimity emerges in these poems. How
successfully she could create fifty poems on a single subject. Wahab Ashrafi,
while commenting on this book, aptly remarks that "Raindrops on Parched
Land" is a mellifluous epic on motherhood. In a poem titled "Lullabies," she
expresses her dreamy vision. Whether it is a reverie or the state of
inspiration, in either case the poem depicts the mind set of an engrossed
and obsessed poetess infatuated in the love of her mother.
As I call her the Lady of Light, she sees light, emits light and shows light
to others. She sees light at the end of the tunnel. She is optimist. She
loved and respected her mother and yearns to be loved and respected by her
siblings in old age. It is not a business-like mentality. It is a lesson for
all generations to care and caress the parents and look after them as they
looked after you when you were a suckling. She desires to take the strayed
race to the right path. She intends to take humans out of darkness of modern
Western culture and guide them to the road of respect for their elders. By
doing so she universalizes her grief and derives strength out of
temporal and temporary grief. The grief of the misguided youth is the
permanent catastrophe and needs to be reckoned.
In the end, it can be said that Parvin Shere is the vital voice of our age.
Her commitment to poetry, painting and music has given her a unique posture
and position in the rank and coterie of her contemporaries. Her poems such
as "The Greatest Grief," "A Tragedy," "True Friends," and others depict her
deep passion for social revolution and personal grief. Her poems on her two
sweet sons Faraz and Sheraz are the replicas of deep love of a mother for
her sons. As a daughter she loves her mother, and as a mother she loves her
sons. This twofold love further depicts the love for all humankind. She is
the poet of love and the lady of light.