Distinguished Urdu poet Zehra Nigah has been given the Allama Iqbal Award (2018) by the Pakistan Academy of Letters for her book Gul Chandni.

The announcement was made on Monday according to which the academy has given away cash prizes worth Rs5 million to 21 writers and poets of the country, with the renowned novelist from Balochistan, Munir Ahmad Badini, getting the prestigious Kamal-i-Funn award (2018).

Gul Chandni is Ms Nigah’s fourth collection of poems. The critically acclaimed Shaam Ka Pehla Tara was her first book that came out in 1980 and caused a stir in Urdu literary circles. This was followed by two more collections, Waraq and Firaq which were equally well-received.

The poet has been widely revered in literary circles of the subcontinent. She spent a considerable amount of time with the likes of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and writer Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi who were admirers of her art. Her poetry is marked by subtlety of romance and sensitivity to social issues.

Her nazm Jungle Ka Dastoor is considered to be one of the finest poems written on the volatile urban situation of the country. The following is one of her famous couplets from a ghazal:

Jo dil ne kahi lab pe kahaan ai’yee hai dekho

Ab mehfil-i-yaraan mein bhi tanhaai hai dekho

[In what manner what the heart says has been revealed There’s no one here, where friends used to congregate]

Originally published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020

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