Khurshid Shahid — a woman before her time

Khurshid Shahid — a woman before her time

To the world she was Begum Khurshid Shahid, but to me she was Aunty Khurshid, the first feminist I knew.
29 Jun, 2021

Begum Khurshid Shahid, or Aunty Khurshid as I called her all my life, passed away peacefully in the early hours of June 27 at the grand old age of 95.

While most know her as an veteran artist, being one of the first artists to perform on PTV's live transmissions and going on to star in unforgettable plays such as Fehmida Ki Kahani Ustani Rahat Ki Zabani, Zair Zabar Pesh and Uncle Urfiband Dhundh, few know the amazing woman that she was.

Aunty Khurshid was wonderful, learned, well spoken and elegant. But most of all, she was fiercely independent, even before it was acceptable for women to be. She was befriended by my khala Durdana Butt during the early 60s through their drama and PTV circle. She soon became my nani Begum Ismat Ara Butt's friend, whom she fondly called 'Chief' — "Chief yeh keh rahay thay [Chief was saying]," "Chief nay khaanay mein yeh banaya [Chief made this for dinner]".

Theirs was a friendship of quiet camaraderie, sincerity, trust and intellectual equality. The number of dialogues I have heard them have on topics ranging from poetry to politics to theology, without prejudice, is wide ranging and often seven or eight-year-old me didn't comprehend the span of their topics, but I knew they were important.

Though more than 40 years my senior, her personality was such that she became my friend as well. She loved roses and there were always fresh flowers in her hair, her makeup done impeccably and if not an elegant sari, she would be attired in a chic kameez shalwar. Her love of roses was such that when winter came and roses bloomed in abundance around the lawns of Fortress Stadium, she used to take me to chori karo [steal] the gulaab.

We got caught by the sentries every once in a while, but what could they say to respectable lady in her 50s and a girl of 13 or 14. I still can't pass by Fortress Stadium without remembering those escapades. In the winter she would take us to Beedon Road in her Fiat to have Kashmiri chai accompanied with fried hunter beef or, strangely, boiled eggs.

Working often on TV, Aunty Khurshid had an interesting other job as well which I thought was very Mata Hari of her, which was to transcribe the Hindi transmission from Dur Darshan for TV to keep track of our neighbour's TV broadcast. After her shift was over, she would come every night by about 10pm to nano's house and dinner would be waiting for her. The rest of us had eaten hours earlier.

She would sit and talk about her day, the glamorous people, poets, actors, writers she met, who once a while would come along with her as well. Debates and discussions would ensue and had a profound effect on me. She told me tales of her days as a child in India, of how her family came to Pakistan, of how she started working at Radio Pakistan. She taught me how to hold my dupatta and not to stomp while wearing heels.

Along with my nano, she was the first feminist I knew. She told me once that she intended to write her memoirs, her struggles as a single woman in a patriarchal society and was going to call it 'Tanhaa'. I remember at the time I looked at her and told her the way I'd seen her do it, she should call it 'Tawaana'. She hugged me.

Today she joins my grandmother on the other side. I bet nano has been waiting for her, two comfy chairs side by side, nano with her knitting her lap, Aunty Khurshid sitting across her having her dinner on a tray, both gossiping away and catching up on what they had missed.

They were magnificent.


Syed Ahmed Jun 29, 2021 01:14pm
Rip aunty
Syed Irfan Ali Jun 29, 2021 01:25pm
Beautiful write-up. Who can forget Begum Khurshid Shahid's unforgettable performance in Fehmida ki kahani Ustani Rahat ki Zubani. May she rests in peace in Jannat ul Firdaus. Amen.
AZAM AKBAR Jun 29, 2021 01:36pm
Rest In Peace.
ENGR Hamid shafiq Jun 29, 2021 02:15pm
Classical era actoress
Sherishahmir Jun 29, 2021 02:17pm
RIP ..... watched her in the childhood on PTV drams undoubtedly her story is marvelous
Kassim Jun 29, 2021 03:43pm
While presenting her prominent plays, you have mistaken her for Begum Khursheed Mirza who acted in Zair Zabar Pesh and Uncle Urfi and passed away in 1989. Begum Shahid delivered impeccable performances in various episodes of Andhera Ujala and Sons Chandi
Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Jun 29, 2021 04:34pm
Inna Lilla Hay Waa Inna Illehey Rajayoon.
Lubna Zia Jun 29, 2021 04:43pm
What a heart felt and lovely tribute to Begum Khursheed! InshAllah i am surr she is enjoying that dinner and conversation with your nano!
Suraiya Kasim Jun 29, 2021 05:47pm
elegant and magnificent.
Attiya Jun 29, 2021 06:17pm
May she rest in peace-Ameen!
Attorney Rana Jun 29, 2021 07:18pm
I grew up watching her on TV. Lot of good memories. May everyone have such an aunty, mother, sister or a partner. RIP
HS Jun 29, 2021 10:08pm
Fehmida ki kahani indeed was begum Khursheed’s one of the best performances.. I still remember her role where she plays a manipulative mother in law in one of the serials and beautifully says ‘ Neeli ko nukail dali ja sakti hai ‘ Rest in peace
Nk Jun 29, 2021 11:38pm
A veteran passes Pakistan loses another impressive actor.
Sohaila Ahmed Jun 30, 2021 10:42am
RIP,great artist,she wasn't a part of both Zer,Zabar,Pesh and uncle Urfi
Shagufta Aziz Jul 01, 2021 10:24am
RIP. My mother remembers her