Mission Delhi – Iffat zarrin, Galli Hakimwalli
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Poet Iffat Zarrin’s home in Old Delhi’s Galli Hakimwalli has a picturesque courtyard where she often spends time composing verses. An associate professor of Urdu literature in Mata Sundari College, the 61-year-old woman grew up in the Walled City. Her late father was a poet. “In the beginning, Papa asked me to stay away from poetry,” she says. “But he stopped after realising my passion for shayari.” Every evening, Ms Zarrin’s eminent father, Mushir Jhinjhanvi, would host a meeting of fellow poets in his drawing room in Chitli Qabar Chowk and she would be handed the task of serving tea. “I would hear people such as Khumar Barabankbi, Shamim Jaipuri and Sahir Hoshiyarpuri.”
That quiet girl went on to author three books of her verses. The most recent, Zarrin Nama, appeared in 2014. She is left with only a single copy of her first book—it has been partially damaged by termites.
“I write whenever an idea occurs to me,” the poet says. “It could happen in the bedroom or in the kitchen, or on the way home from the college.”
A feminist, Ms Zarrin did not change her last name after her marriage to a businessman. “Why should I adjust my identity for my husband?”
Although her work focuses on urban alienation, she often dwells on the position of women, especially in the world of Urdu poetry. “You can be a shaayar only if you are fearless and outspoken, dreamy and passionate, traits that make it tough for women to survive to this day,” she concedes.
But this lady, at least, is thriving as a poet. She is invited to all the respectable musharais held in the city; she regularly attends literary meets and she commands a wide following among the poetry-minded folks. She is also an ex-member of the Urdu Academy in Kashmere Gate. Additionally, Ms Zarrin has the distinction of being the only one of her poet-father’s sons and daughters who ended up as a poet. “And so I’m single-handedly carrying my father’s legacy on my shoulders,” the lady remarks modestly.
[This is the 199th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
NA poet’s daughter… a poet