There are many types of respectability

The veil, a slap, wheat.

–Sara Shugufta

Born to a poor family of Gujranwala in 1954, Sara Shugufta spent a rebellious, painful life. She kept struggling to live a free, desireful life; the privileges our elitist, patriarchal society continuously denied to her. Her life marked by such tragic events as an early marriage, multiple divorces, domestic violence, forceful separation from children, hospitalization due to psychiatric issues, social condemnation due to lasciviousness and imprisonment during General Zia’s time, also ended on an equally tragic note, when she committed suicide in 1984, few months before her thirtieth birthday.

The torments and unfulfilled yearnings of Sara found their expressions in her poetry, an art which, as Audre Lorde highlights, is not a luxury for women but a vital necessity of their existence through which they predicate their hopes and dreams toward survival and change. The couplet of Sara mentioned above, for example, is her satire of the notions of respectability, izzat, women in Pakistan are brought up with. This izzat, according to Sara, is constructed through the tools of veil (religion), slap (domestic violence) and wheat (man provides for woman to keep her honor).

Sara’s life and work is disturbing. It reveals to us what we do not want to see; the violence of patriarchy and elitism our society and way of being entails. We do not like to be challenged so ruthlessly. We have, therefore, willfully forgotten Sara Shagufta and her work.