The Art of Poetry With Azra Naqvi in Agra

Chandni Chopra and Azra Naqvi

Chandni Chopra and Azra Naqvi

The poet and translator spoke at a Lafz event about her inspirations, influences and how she finds subjects for her compositions

The inaugural Agra session of Lafz, an initiative of Prabha Khaitan Foundation to promote Urdu, Persian and Arabic, was held at the ITC Mughal. The first-ever session featured author, poet and translator Azra Naqvi, who spoke about her books, Bachchon ki Kahaniyan, Bachchon ki Nazmei and Voices of Change. Chandni Chopra, Ehsaas Woman of Agra, welcomed Naqvi and the audience, after which Vinti Kathuria, Ehsaas Woman of Agra, took over to moderate the session.

The session commenced with a question from Chopra about Naqvi’s journey as a poet and translator. Naqvi revealed that her inspiration began with her mother, an accomplished poet who wrote shayari of her own. Naqvi also touched upon the experience of being a woman from across the border. She explained that while there may be cultural differences, the search for mental peace and the longing for a place to call one’s own is common to each and every woman. She added that women often deal with insecurity and the feeling that they are being treated like commodities. “All women have to prove their worth and fight for their identity in the world,” Naqvi said. 

As the conversation moved to the art of composition, the audience was in for a treat, as Naqvi recited one of her ghazals

Ik shaant nadi si lagti ho, 
Kis khamoshi se behti ho.” 

The poet explained that a ghazal is not limited to having just love, separation or heartbreak as its subject; a ghazal can cover all sorts of subjects that are relevant to mankind. Naqvi spoke about how she selects topics for her own ghazals and nazms: “Initially I wrote all that I felt as a woman; then I wrote about my feelings for others.” 

“All women have to prove their worth and fight for their identity in the world.”

Naqvi named the late poet and lyricist, Sahir Ludhianvi, as her greatest influence and talked at length about some of his ghazals. When asked for her thoughts on contemporary ghazals and shayari in Urdu, Naqvi said that things had changed quietly in the era of multimedia. She said, “In India, we have a clear demarcation between popular literature and classic literature, but nothing like that exists in the West.” Chopra also sought Naqvi’s opinion on the preferences and priorities of contemporary writers. “Many writers nowadays prefer to write a film, a play or a web series rather than a novel or story,” said Naqvi in response.

The conversation also touched upon the process of translation and the ever-present danger that things might get mistranslated. “Translation is difficult, more so when the translator is faced with specific cultural words,” Naqvi said.

As the evening wore on, Naqvi took questions from the audience, responding to each query with the humility and patience that are so much a part of her persona. The vote of thanks by Shweta Bansal, Ehsaas Woman of Agra, brought this insightful session to a close.

Lafz Agra was sponsored by Shree Cement Limited in association with Rekhta, hospitality partner ITC Mughal Agra and media partner Dainik Jagran, and with the support of the Ehsaas Women of Agra.