Razia Sajjad Zaheer: An Author and Translator

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Razia Sajjad Zahir, wife of the Sajjad Zaheer was an author in Urdu and translator. She was born on 15th October, 1918 in Ajmer and left for heavenly abode on 18th December, 1979. She was also prominent member of the Progressive Writers Association. She was awarded the Uttar Pradesh Sahitya Akademi Award and Soviet Land Nehru Award. Her father was the principal of Ajmer Islamic College. She received an undergraduate degree in Ajmer and she obtained a postgraduate degree from Allahabad University. Razia obtained a postgraduate degree from Allahabad University. In the 1940s, Razia and her husband were in Bombay, where they were active in the cultural sphere, organizing weekly PWA soirees. She acknowledged the influence of the PWA in radicalizing her politics, and was among the activist women who were beginning to question “Gandhian ideologies of women’s nature and place.”

By 1948, Razia had four daughters, and her husband was in Pakistan at the behest of the Communist Party of India, which had supported the Partition of India. She moved to Lucknow with her daughters.

Career

In Lucknow, Razia began to teach, write and translate in order to earn a living. She translated about 40 books into Urdu. Her translation of Bertold Barechts’ Life of GAliloe to Urdu was called powerful. She translated Siyaram Sharan Gupta’s Nari (published as Aurat (Woman) by Sahitya Akademi), and Mulk Raj Anand’s Seven Years (Saat Saal, 1962).

In 1953, her novella Sar-e-Sham was published, Kante (Thorns, a novel) was released in 1954, while Suman (another novel) came out in 1964. She edited and published her husband’s letters to her from prison, Nuqush-e-Zindan (1954). 

She worked on a novel on the poet Majaz Lucknowi, which remained unfinished. Along with her literary endeavors, she also edited and copied her husband’s writings. 

Her short stories have been characterized as having a socialistic purpose. For example, in Neech (Lowborn) she explored class differences between a privileged woman and a fruit-seller, and the prejudices the former has to set aside to obtain strength from the latter. Moreover, given the revolutionary ideology of the PWA, her works – as those of her colleagues in the group – explored gender relations and women’s oppression by men and other women, the development of a modernist identity among women, as well as the more deleterious effects of poverty and ostracism on marginalized women.

Zard Gulab (The Yellow Rose, 1981) and Allah De Banda Le (God gives, Man takes, 1984) were two of her short story collections published posthumously.

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