‘Personal’ to ‘Political’
Nishat Zaidi
A BAD WOMAN'S STORY by Kishwar Naheed Oxford University Press, 2010, 196 pp., 595
March 2010, volume 34, No 3

Diplomats, statesmen, journalists, writers, and poets—women have been at the forefront in almost every field in Pakistan. But if that made you think that this is due to the liberal society of Pakistan which perhaps allows equal opportunities to women, then you got it all wrong. On the contrary, the social and political milieu of Pakistan has been tinged with strangulating misogyny ever since it came into existence. It is this perhaps that led to the eruption of the volcanic response from women in Pakistan. Not able to cope with relentless repression, these women have unleashed the fire within in their own ways and have bared it all. However, what sets Kishwar Naheed apart from her contemporary women writers and poets is her ability to reject, with an unprecedented irreverence, all the institutions of the society. Like the ‘possessed witch’ of Anne Sexton whom she quotes in the beginning of her memoir, she ‘is not a woman quite’ and like the Lady Lazarus of Sylvia Plath (whom she cites at the end of the book), she ‘eats men like air’.

A Bad Woman’s Story traces this very transition of the poet from being ‘not a woman quite’ to ‘eating men like air’. It is a trajectory of her journey from a burqa-clad young girl of seven to a leading rebel poet of Pakistan, attending poetry readings, meetings, mehfils and winning awards and accolades from the same world which had earlier closed its doors on her.

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