English Seminar Series: A talk by Naveed Alam

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The English Seminar Series was held on 6th February 2020 and featured Mr. Naveed Alam, a renowned academic, creative writer and translator. Mr. Alam’s talk examined the linguistic and cultural significance of the Punjabi poetry of Nasreen Anjum Bhatti and Sara Shagufta. Through an insightful analysis of these poetess’s works, Mr. Alam highlighted the skillful use of the Punjabi vernacular as a means of intellectual transgression. Using Nasreen Anjum Bhatti’s “Neel Kerayan Neelka”, Mr. Alam posited that the poetess reinterprets Madhu Lal Husain’s classical kaafis by assuming a distinctly female voice that beseeches and challenges the figure of the beloved and thereby subverts normative expectations of femininity. Mr. Alam also analyzed Sara Shagufta’s “Main Nangi Changi” which appropriates the female voice to counter repressive patriarchal norms. Additionally, Mr. Alam highlighted the significance of Shagufta’s life and work in queering poetry by disrupting moral conservatism and rebelling against normative poetic standards in elite Pakistani literary circles, thereby analogizing her as a Punjabi Sylvia Plath.  Mr. Alam concluded the talk with his poetic tribute to the writers and asked the audience to reflect on the egalitarian possibilities of Punjabi language. The subsequent question and answer session was moderated by Ms. Rabia Nafees Shah and it included a lively debate on the importance of Punjabi literature as a transgressive mode of writing and thinking.