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Delhiwale: Court poet

Shehla Nawab works as a lawyer and lives as a poet. He verses are drawn from the people she meets everyday in north Delhi’s Tees Hazari court.

delhi Updated: Jul 10, 2017 15:17 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Shehla Nawab is as much at home with romantic words such as ‘ishq’ and ‘mohabbat’ as she is with ‘matrimonial cruelty’ and ‘domestic violence’ — subjects she handles daily at work.
Shehla Nawab is as much at home with romantic words such as ‘ishq’ and ‘mohabbat’ as she is with ‘matrimonial cruelty’ and ‘domestic violence’ — subjects she handles daily at work.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

She writes in verse though her field is ‘criminal matters’. Shehla Nawab works as a lawyer and lives as a poet. We meet her one afternoon at her chamber in north Delhi’s Tees Hazari court.

Ms Nawab is as much at home with romantic words such as ‘ishq’ and ‘mohabbat’ as she is with ‘matrimonial cruelty’ and ‘domestic violence’ — subjects she handles daily at work. “Every day I meet people wrecked by the crises of private life,” she says in her deeply melodic voice. “Unlike property disputes, these discords, even if violent, have to be addressed delicately.”

While the themes in Ms Nawab’s poetry mainly consist of heartbreak and love, she is deeply inspired by the revolutionary fervour of Ali Sardar Jafri’s poetic oeuvre. Ms Nawab often commutes to work on her Bullet bike. She says there are days when she finishes a nazm in 10 minutes and sometimes it takes as long as a week and even more. She shares a ghazal that she first delivered at a poetry gathering early this year.

THE GHAZAL

Your memory torments me so
As evening draws near it lights a lamp on my lashes
Images from memories emerge from the veil of the heart
Infidelity, too, points towards instances of faithfulness
Come again and look at me with surma-lined glances
There is enjoyment to be had from meeting as if unattached
Your melodies play on the strings of my heart
The memory of the past, lingering, calls out to me
May a bonfire burning ever not be turned to ash, Shehla?
This world of ours, as it is, fans the flames

(The poem is translated by Nicolas Roth, a PhD student writing his dissertation on the garden culture of 17th- and 18th-century India)