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Books and Authors

January 22, 2006

REVIEWS: A thing of beauty
Reviewed by Nilofer Sultana

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. The truth of Keat’s immortal verse seems to echo in Parvin Shere’s book, Kirchian. She unfolds before our eyes a kaleidoscopic magic world, weaving her thoughts and feelings, both in words and colours. She wields her pen and brush with masterful strokes. She plays the sitar with unrivalled dexterity and thus says with conviction, “What you have in your hands — is the very essence of my life experience projected on paper and canvas.” She unravels the mystery of her dreams quite unequivocally. In her poem, “Nai Rang”, she writes, (My pen has spawned a garden in full bloom/ on my canvas/ it’s like a miracle unleashed/ a miracle of dreams come true).

In “Mera kalam”, she adds, (Let them (the verses) blossom on the flowerbed of paper/ so that the whole world can resound with their fragrance).

In “Hum awaaz”, the instrument itself pleads with her, (Release my captive melodies — my incarcerated songs/ Make me a part of your tragic world).

This is how she opens the portals of her magic, tragic world, encompassed in the pages of Kirchian. As we rivet our gaze on the beautiful blend of colours in her paintings and portraits, we are but spellbound. And for that we do not have to be connoisseurs of visual and fine arts. Satyapal Anand aptly points out, “The beauty of Shere’s art is that the pictures converse with you.” Her painting, titled “Endless” depicts a limitless desert, an eloquent reflection of the immeasurable stretches of loneliness. The picture “Last station” is a vivid portrayal of sadness coupled with feelings of desolation. She has depicted on her canvas the cities, like Venice and Mexico, pulsating with life along with Iraq shrouded in leaping flames. The portraits of her children, Sehba, Shiraz and Faraz are soaked in the sunshine of motherly love while the pencil sketches are fascinating.

Her poetry translated in English by Ishrat Roomani, Karamat Ghori, Baidar Bakht, Marie-Anne Erki and Syed Izhar Rizvi is again vibrant. It echoes of a sensitive heart though I may say here that the translations are not as translucent as Parvin’s original poems. Her poems are resonant with the cries of an anguished heart mirroring the pain hidden in the deepest recesses of her soul. The intensity of her thoughts and profundity of her emotions find an unbridled outlet in her poems. The verses are tinged with subtle nuances of sadness caused not only by her own disillusionment and heartbreak but by the pain she feels for the poor, the old, the down-trodden and oppressed people. In her poem “Tishna lab anchal”, she nostalgically misses the cool touch of her shawl, once bedecked with the sequins of her tears. She shudders to see the bloodshed caused by war and expresses her unmasked disillusionment with the crown of God’s creation. Her heart bleeds for the lonely aged parents languishing in old people’s homes and her verses echo with her stifled sobs for them.

Himayat Ali Shair calls Parvin, a new Sarswati as the melodic tones of her sitar are perceptible in her poems that are but a versified version of her paintings. Her poem on Iraq saddens us when she refers to that land as “Shrouded in stark shadows of death/ sleepless city awash with gloom.” She finds solace in her motherly love and addresses quite a few poems to her children. She longs to nestle in her own mother’s arms to seek a salve for her insecurities.

Deprivation, destitution, bereavement are the themes of her poems. In “Qatl” she plaintively cries with the crushed henna leaves,

(And now your hands are soaked red/ With the same blood).

In “Shattered dreams” she depicts her pain to see the ugliness of the world once the rose-tinted glasses, gifted by her mother, break to fragments as she stumbles on a way-side rock.

She has ventured into the tricky domain of “ghazals” too but assuredly “nazms” provide her with a wider scope to encompass a fairly wide and diversified gamut of her experiences.

Ahmed Faraz, a poet of international repute, calls her a goddess of Greek mythology. The fact however remains that not all of her poems or paintings are flawlessly impressive but no one, no artist can ever attain or claim perfection.

Kirchian: Shairi/Mussawiri (Fragments: Poetry/Paintings)
By Parvin Shere
With translations of verses by Ishrat Roomani,
Karamat Ghori, Dr Baidar Bakht, Dr Marie-Anne Erki and Syed Izhar Rizvi
BTA Publishing House,
P.O. Box # 17667, Karachi
250+26pp. Price not listed