Going Native Authors

View from the other side

In one of her multi-layered poems, Arifa Shahzad describes selfie as a living and succinct testament to her existence

At a time when a marked sense of mesmerising longing for being a celebrity has converted many into fans of themselves as they unfailingly make their presence felt everywhere simultaneously what suffice them the most? What is the wonder drug of our times, not prescribed by any physician? The answer is quite palpable: it is “selfie”.

According to recent survey, the android phones produce nearly 100 million selfies per day and it manifests an unprecedented and relentless march towards self-sovereignty and self-admiration.

Now human face closely resembles with billboard that induces selling. The buzzword of the post-truth or fact free world, ‘selfie’ has been described by Sherry Turkle and Williams as the ‘folk art’ of the digital era that has come in for widespread use. Its enormous popularity can be gauged from the fact that famous reality show star Kim Kardishan found it tempting to get her around 1200 selfies published in a book titled “Selfish”.

Can the folk art of our age and the pinnacle of narcissism, selfie be a tool for exploring new dimensions of self discovery that enables one to reach out to others? Is it invested with tremendous potentiality of strengthening the withering bond of togetherness and identifying new dimensions of intimacy?

The alternative narrative of selfie that asserts that it is certainly more than a portrait dotted with heart-shaped emoticons is produced by a promising Urdu poet Arifa Shahzad and for her it is a mediated persona that conjures up diverse human feelings and it is a kind of visual gesture that betrays an abiding concern for virtual togetherness as the possibility of real interaction simply does not exist.

A deeply sensitive, creatively imagined, astutely rendered and multi-layered exploration of the widely used means shapes her poem “Selfie” that is included in her latest collection of poems, “Aurat Hoon Na” (Yes I am a women) which appeared recently.

Spelling out the creative contours of an art which has innumerable experts, Arifa describes it as a living and succinct testament to her existence. It empowers her at various levels: “Mere hone ka asbat hai/sab mere Haath hai/ Ab main, jaise bhi chahon/ khud ko Dikhaon/ kuyun dekhte ho jo selfie banayoo/ Agar mein/Na aiysa karon/Mujhe is tarah hi se .../kaya.dekhte tum ...” (It is one of the positive sign of my existence/ all in my control? Now I can show myself the way I wish/if I do not do that/ will you look at me in the same manner?)

The poem makes it clear that selfie is not an act of self-glorification but it regulates the reaction of the beloved on the expected lines her the question ending stirs up unanswered possibilities and one finds a map how two individuals ought to be in a relationship.

The title of the collection that carries more than one hundred succinct, perceptive, provocative and nuanced poems does indicate emotional sloppiness but the multi-layered tale of female protagonist is not always filled with bathos alone.

Absolute love

Possessiveness cannot be taken as act of envying and for the poet, woman seeks undivided and absolute love but she wants to love him unreservedly. It does not indicate any sort of insecurity: Aur Mujhe Chaiye/Tumhari sari mohabbat/ tum se mohabat karne key liye/( I need/ all your love/ to enable me to love you unconditionally).

Arifa admired many contemporary poets and authors and her poems on Abdullah Hussain, Samina Raja and Nasreen Anjum Bhatti are not elegies or emotional tributes but they consciously acknowledge their creative legacy. Many poems included in the collection such as one on male escort, “Ajnabi” evoke fear, uncertainty, respect, awe and upend most of our ‘common sense’ views about the world.

Showcasing suffering, human predicament and grit with searing honesty, Arifa's poems span a wide arc of life of desire and beyond, and deserve plaudits

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:59:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/view-from-the-other-side/article28354362.ece

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