Week Three: Parwaaz – Urdu Short Stories By Women

This is the third book in the books I’m reading this year. Around now I should be writing the review of my  seventh book. Hopefully the new blog will inspire me to write more! This book was read from 13th January to 19th.

Short Mein Bole Toh: This was my first serious reading of this year. Though my reasons for reading this book were purely academic (borrowed from library); I think I’ll read the short stories once again someday.

If you’ve time, then please read the rest of my opinion of this book.

I never understood what “afsana likh rahi hoon” meant. The introduction to this collection of short stories is so brilliant and well researched that it makes a case for reading all stories even if they may not all be good. This particular genre is called the afsana literature in Urdu writing and though preferred by women for most part, the influence and some seminal works by men are talked of too.

“Parwaaz” is a compendium of short stories by women authors translated from Urdu by Sayeeda. S. Hameed and Sughra Mehdi. Though “short” at only 11 stories, the book is by no means a light read. Some of the stories are so deeply disturbing, that I wished at times that I could stop picturing them.

Parwaaz in Urdu means to rise or to soar (translation mine, anyone have a better term?) With stories that come from India and across the border from Pakistan, the most obvious theme would be the partition; however, the condition of women and the life in purdah form the main theme.

The authors in this collection are Rasheed Jahan, Hijab Imtiaz Ali, Khursheed Mirza, Ismat Chugtai, Saliha Abid Husain, Razia Sajjad Zaheer, Qurratulain Hyder, Hajira Masroor, Khadija Mastur, Jeelani Bano and Wajida Tabassum. I’ve previous read a couple of them, but a majority of these women were revelations for me and I think I’ll treat this book as an index to their works.

Perhaps, the most upsetting story was the last one by Tabassum called Cast-offs (Utran). If you’ve seen the popular show on Indian television by the same name, you’ll know how the story begins but there’s no possibility of being able to predict the end.


This is my fifth compendium of translated writing in India by women in the last three months. After ten stories or so, the themes start to blend and every character feels the same. A couple of stories stayed with me much after I finished reading this book, and that’s saying a lot when you read literature like you consume ordinary media.

The best part about reading this book may turn out to be the fact that I am, once again, interested in learning and reading more Urdu.

Who Should Read: If you’re interested to get a woman’s perspective into the excessive crimes of the partition and want to read stories that may be very very ordinary but special at the same time.

Who Should Not Read: If you cannot handle moderate to extreme violence and prefer happy endings. If translated works are not your thing.

If you would like to read someone else’s opinion on the same, you can read it here.


2 thoughts on “Week Three: Parwaaz – Urdu Short Stories By Women

  1. Excellent review! Thank you for this recommendation.
    Urdu.. Sigh.. how I regret never having learnt it properly in *madrassa*. I might just take it up after all these enticing reviews of Urdu literature. The star of Urdu literature and poetry is on the rise, I say. People have actually started talking about *Saadat Hasan Manto* and Co. and quoting *Ghalib* has become fashionable once again. This language is beautiful and we must read it.


    • Incidentally, my introduction to Urdu literature has been through Manto. His story Toba Tek Singh and other 2-line stories were enacted by a drama group in languages ranging from Punjabi to Tamil. The universal appeal made me read him. And then, I chances upon Parwaaz.


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