Remembering The First Lady of Urdu Poetry: Ada Jafri

Ada Jafri stands as an unparalleled figure in the realm of Urdu poetry, breaking barriers and achieving international acclaim in a historically male-dominated domain. Her poetic journey commenced at the tender age of 10 in 1936, spanning over 80 prolific years, and her intellectual prowess and charismatic persona have solidified her status as a key figure in contemporary Urdu literature from the First World War onward.

Born on August 22, 1926, in Badayun, British India, Ada Jafri, originally named Azeez Jehan, hailed from a scholarly family. Immersed in the study of Urdu, Arabic, and Persian literature, she entered the poetic circles as Ada Badayuni. After her marriage and relocation to Karachi, Pakistan, in December 1947, she adopted the pen name “Ada Jafri” permanently. Ada, meaning “style,” reflected her bold and independent expression in a society traditionally conservative towards women’s intellectual autonomy.

Despite societal constraints, Ada fearlessly pursued her literary ambitions, receiving encouragement from her parents and later from her scholarly husband, Nurul Hasan Jafri. Beyond her role as the modern-age “First Lady of Urdu Poetry,” Ada successfully balanced her responsibilities as a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Ada’s marriage to Nurul Hasan Jafri in January 1947 marked the beginning of a partnership that extended beyond matrimony. Nurul Hasan Jafri, a civil servant and distinguished literary figure, significantly influenced Ada’s writing. His untimely demise in December 1995, just shy of their Golden Jubilee wedding anniversary, marked a poignant moment in Ada’s life.

In 1950, Ada published her debut collection of poems, “Main Saaz Dhoondti Rahee.” Subsequently, she authored five collections of Urdu poetry, an autobiography, a short essay, and forty research papers. Her literary repertoire reflects a profound understanding of both traditional and modern sensibilities, interwoven seamlessly in her poems.

Ada’s emotional depth and social consciousness find expression in verses that bridge Eastern traditions with modern Urdu literature. Her poetry explores themes of love, loss, and societal introspection. Notably, her Ghazals have been masterfully rendered in various raagas by renowned classical music maestros.

Recognizing her invaluable contributions, Ada Jafri earned accolades such as the Adamjee Award in 1967, the Tamgha e Imtiaz in 1981, and the Pride of Performance Award in 2002. Her international recognition includes awards from literary societies in North America and Europe.

Jazib Qureshi, a prominent Urdu poet and critic, lauds Ada Jafri as the first and only lady poet who carries the timeless colors of Ghalib, Iqbal, and Jigar in her poetry. Despite the passage of time, Ada continues to be a dynamic force promoting the Urdu language and literature globally, shuttling between Karachi and Toronto. Her legacy as a trailblazer in Urdu poetry endures, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

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