Women's club sharing Urdu culture through poetry

By Sara Bruestle | Jun 18, 2014
Courtesy of: Ayesha Khan Ayesha Khan of Khawteen Bazm e Adab recently hosted an Urdu poetry reading in Mukilteo. She is reciting a poem in Urdu.

A local Urdu ladies’ literary club aims to keep their culture alive.

Khawteen Bazm e Adab of Seattle, which means “ladies’ literary club” in Urdu, recently hosted its first public poetry reading in Mukilteo. About 85 women attended the event on May 31.

Urdu is a language spoken in Pakistan and India. Urdu poetry, which has many forms, is an important part of South Asian cultures.

The club was founded in 2009 by Ayesha Khan, of Mukilteo. It is associated with the Muslim Association of Seattle, a Muslim group that has plans to build a mosque in Mukilteo.

For five years, Khan has hosted yearly private poetry readings in her cabana or at home. This year, however, she wanted to take it public.

With the help of members Shehla Malik, Nikki Siddiki and Sarwat Jehan, Khan moved the event to Mukilteo City Hall this year.

The club’s mission is to teach the Urdu language and culture to their children.

“We want our kids to speak our language,” she said. “We are very thankful for [the members] who are trying to keep Urdu alive in Seattle.”

Of the more than 80 women in attendance, 35 shared their poetry aloud. Most read their poems in Urdu, though some recited them in English, Arabic or Persian.

Women from Mukilteo, Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Lynnwood, Everett and Tacoma came to share their poetry. Not all of them were of Indian or Pakistani origin.

“There are so many Americans who read our language and culture,” Khan said. “When they’re reading couplets, an American accent and Urdu poetry, you have to listen very carefully, but you’ll enjoy the accent.”

Topics ranged from politics and love to motherhood and women’s issues. If they didn’t have poems, the women shared other literary works.

Siddiki recited a poem she wrote called “Hungry Baby,” about a young boy who is so hungry that he is forced to eat food from the garbage. She said the poem is social commentary on how, in American society, we throw a lot of food away when so many in the world go hungry.

“My poetry is mostly on logic and philosophy,” Siddiki said. “I talk about the problems going on in today’s society.”

Khan said Siddiki’s poem made a lot of the women in the audience cry.

“Almost there were tears in my eyes when she recited that,” she said.

The club plans to host another event next year, also at City Hall during the last week in May.

Each poet will first be introduced, and then have three minutes to recite. In return, each will receive a pashmina scarf.

A potluck outside of City Hall will follow the event, featuring traditional Indian food. Khan will also be available to give Henna tattoos.

Want to share your Urdu poetry? Call 425-971-6835 for more information.

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