Baba, why are daughters and sons not equal and alike in worth

If the daughter is older, you gnaw at her

Till she is reduced to the size of her brother

If the son is older,

then the daughter is reduced to a quarter, half, damaged.

–Nasreen Anjum Bhatti

 

Born in Quetta in 1943, Nasreen Anjum Bhatti was a bilingual poet, who wrote in both Urdu and Punjabi. In her poetry, she used entrenched Punjabi metaphors, styles, archetypes to produce a poetics of resistance against multiple structures of violence, be it the dominance of men, the exploitation of the poor or the dictatorship of General Zia’s regime. For example, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, Bhatti wrote a very powerful, emotive poem titled “Me Bhutto Sagar Sindh Da” copying the style of Hafiz Barkhurdar’s Mirza Sahibaan. She was a staunch promoter of local languages and believed that the fullest expression of the self can only be achieved through one’s local language. She struggled financially in the last years of her life before dying in 2016.

Right from our birth, we are taught ideas about language, gender and state. This socialization numbs multiple other ways of apprehending, understanding reality. The profound poetic works of Bhatti therefore surprise/ teach/ humanize us by unearthing those alternative truths, apprehensions in their fullness for us.