Sara Shagufta

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Sara Shagufta (31 October 1954 – 4 June 1984) was a Pakistani poet who wrote poetry in Urdu and Punjabi language.


  • I woke up that night to the screams of women. I don’t know when I’d fallen asleep, or passed out, but when I woke up, the manic, lost, women were all around me, walking, shambling. I remember that night, my first night in this asylum – I had retreated into the corner, into the shadows, and looked through the bars, bars that had been chained with many locks. The locks were like eyes: the eyes of a man’s vigilance. As I focused, the lock slowly extended to reveal the form of a man, a man sprawling on the bed: I thought of the violence of beds, of my marriage. The man on this bed was my husband – a man who used to beat me metal-blue to eliminate his fear of women. There were other ways of elimination: polishing his black boots and making them shine, washing his clothes, suspending them onto a hanging wire. And the starvation. And the rising lilt of his family’s voices: awaara. A cuss word, a slap – his marriage to me? – The violence of a mongering dog, his teeth digging into my flesh. His skin the color of a chameleon turned blue. Me? I was a churi, a glass bangle. The house? The impersonation of a ghetto. My agency, his anger. So I ran. I ran to a divorce, yes, and I reached my destination after six months of torture. But the six months led to psychosis. So my mother dragged me here, to this mental asylum. Then I woke up, that night, to the screams of women.
  • He grabbed me. We got into a terrible fight. My verdict was given: “You will now be given an electric shock, Shagufta. We need to calm you down.” I tore away, and ran to the other side of the asylum, and on one of its walls, I wrote: “Nazi Camp.” He began grinning.
  • This evening, I am being released. I sit in the courtyard of the Karachi Psychiatric Asylum and write this. Half an hour ago, the women bid me farewell; they gathered about me: we all began crying together in loud, mournful tones. The eye on the lock shut itself: the door was opened. They stood clinging to the bars, still crying. I turned and asked, perplexed: “Aren’t you happy for me girls? I’m finally free.” “No Sara Shagufta.” They spoke, almost in one voice. “Don’t you know? You’re now stepping into the real mental asylum.”

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