Parvin Shere:  The Lady of Light

By:  Dr. Maqsood Jafri (New York)

Family of the Heart - DIALOGUE & DISCUSSIONS 

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 imperialism.


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 modern trends. 


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 her likewise:


"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.



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