Punjabi writer, journalist and women rights activist Noorulain Sadia remembers her maternal grandfather printing hundreds of cyclostyle pamphlets which he would secretly distribute among his comrades in Lahore during the early days of General Zia’s regime.

Sadia was born into a working class family of the Walled City.

“After our ancestor’s house at Sheranwala Gate was divided among the family, we moved to Shahdara. The new house was an adobe to the underground comrades of my grandfather, Ghulam Nabi Tariq. All the kids were told strictly not to disclose to anyone anything about the guests. Prof Azizuddin was one of them. He was introduced to the children as a younger brother of my grandfather,” she recalls.

Sadia’s grandfather would empty her schoolbag and fill it with pamphlets. She still remembers excitement of the bicycle ride, sitting on the back seat and secretly dispatching the pamphlets and Marxist literature among the activists.

“I was raised with books and a big treasure of progressive literature which was hard for a youngster to understand. But it triggered in me a sense of raising questions, challenging the norms and resisting the oppression and injustice of all kinds,” says Noorulain Sadia who adores her grandfather for her grooming.

He introduced her to Punjabi classics and poetry of Sain Akhtar Lahori and made her realise the importance of writing in Punjabi. Because of financial constraints, she discontinued formal education after the higher secondary school and joined Punjabi weekly, Rawail, in 1991.

Sadia considers it her privilege that she worked with Punjabi writer Jameel Ahmad Paal who trained her in journalism and encouraged her to write fiction and poetry. She worked for various Punjabi journals for almost a decade. She is currently documenting eminent writers and activists for a Lahore-based web broadcasting channel.

“I started writing pamphlets and slogans for farmers and women rights activists and gradually developed a passion for poetry and short stories. While working with women rights groups, I came across the women of various classes and age groups. The stories of their struggle to survive and to create a breathing space in mundane life inspired me to write,” she says.

Sadia thinks that working with the theatre group, Punjab Lok Rahs, and meeting legendary Punjabi poet Nasreen Anjum Bhatti changed her life.

“I believe every woman should learn theatre which gives one a confident body language. I consider confidence as an effective defence weapon against harassment in male dominated public spaces,” she believes.

Interaction with Nasreen Anjum Bhatti had lasting impression on Sadia’s life and writings.

“I meet her at a mature age and there was a lot to learn from her political struggle and creative expression. Above all, she was a generous motherly figure who made a strong impact on my personality,” she acknowledges.

Noorulain Sadia’s first book of poetry, Maucch, was printed last year. She is currently working on the compilation of her first collection of short stories to be printed next year.

Courageous and blunt Sadia’s life is marked with struggle. It’s a continuous struggle of a working class woman who stands firm against odds of male dominated society. Her poetry carries a wide range of emotions, including romance and resistance .She believes in resistance and being vocal, regardless of consequences rather than suffering silently.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2018

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