Ada Jaffery

Translated from Urdu by Waqas Khwaja


I understand that I
am free today of all my debts,
have paid the price of each and every smile,
sincerely renounced devotion and constancy,
resolved to quit making mistakes.
Now even I am condemned to have a life,
and this heart that is willful, ignorant—
in today’s age,
when sincerity, fidelity, and love too are official decrees,
when even tears have a price, scales everywhere to weigh and appraise—
this heart, even today,
longs for one spontaneous, uninhibited smile.


This poem has been excerpted from Modern Poetry of Pakistan, forthcoming from
Dalkey Archive Press.




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Ada Jaffery, who was born in Badayun (now in northcentral Uttar Pradesh, in India), is regarded as one of the great pioneers among modern Urdu poetry’s female poets. She has published numerous collections, as well as an autobiography, Jo Rahi So Bekhabari Rahi; her complete poems are now available in a volume titled Mausam Mausam. Jaffery has received numerous awards, including the Adamjee (1967), the Tamghai- Imtiaz (1981), the Baba-i-Urdu (1994), the Wasiqa-i-Aitaraf (1994), the Quaid-i-Azam Adabi (1997), and the Pride of Performance (2002). In 2003, she was honored with the Kamal-i-Funn by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. She lives in Karachi.

Waqas Khwaja, professor of English at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, has a PhD from Emory University in Victorian fiction and teaches courses in nineteenth-century British literature, Romantic prose and poetry, postcolonial literature, and poetry writing. He has published three collections of poetry, No One Waits for the Train (2007), Mariam’s Lament (1992), Six Geese From a Tomb at Medum (1987); a literary travelogue, Writers and Landscapes (1991), about his experiences with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa; and has edited three anthologies of Pakistani literature, Cactus (1986), Mornings in the Wilderness (1988), and Pakistani Short Stories (1992), which also contain his translations of works from Urdu and Punjabi. He was a practicing lawyer, newspaper columnist, and regular contributor to The Frontier Post, The Pakistan Economic Review, The Pakistan Times, News International, The Nation, and The Friday Times between 1985 and 1992 in Pakistan before relocating to the United States in 1994. He has also contributed scholarly articles to academic journals and publications.




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