Video: Fahimda Riaz Brings Down the House at Asia Society

"Wah! Wah!" Fahmida Riaz reciting at Asia Society's mushaira on Apr. 30, 2011 (video below).

A venerable literary tradition came to vivid life last weekend when Asia Society's New York headquarters became the scene of a mushaira, or Urdu-language poetry reading. 

In a program marked by regular audience interaction, Pakistani poets Noon Meem Danish, Fahmida Riaz, Shehla Naqvi, Ifti Nasim, Humaira Rehman, and Raies Warsi all read from their work in a lively milieu reminiscent of a Lower East Side poetry slam.

Audience appreciation reached a peak when Fahmida Riaz, one of Pakistan's most revered poets, recited a piece that triggered fits of laughter not only in the crowd but (as the video below demonstrates) among her fellow poets as well.

Loosely translated as "Revolutionary Woman," Riaz's poem is from the perspective of an aging woman, a committed activist, who offers a wry account of the aging process before vowing that if she could get her youth back, she would abandon her do-gooder instincts once and for all. Eventually, though, the speaker concedes she's too old to change her ways — and it's time to take on another cause... another fight... another revolution!

Watch Fahmida Riaz (in Urdu) (2 min., 31 sec.)

Special thanks to Tehrim Hassan and Ayesha Sikander

Related links:
Watch the complete program

More about the mushaira

About the Author

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Jeff Tompkins is New York Content Manager at Asia Society.