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Last evening saw the launch of Shaukat Azmi's book Kaifi & I, a book on her beautiful journey with late poet husband Kaifi Azmi.
Originally written in Urdu -- it was titled Yaad Ki Rahguzar -- it has been translated into English by Veer Zaara screenplay writer Nasreen Rehman.
The event was attended by Shaukat's children Shabana Azmi and her brother Baba Azmi, with his wife Tanvi Azmi. Javed Akhtar, Farhan and Zoya were also present.
Shaukataapaa, as she is fondly called, read excerpts from the book, about falling in love with Kaifisaab, their struggles and life in their communist group.
The book Yaad Ki Rahguzar has been translated into Hindi, Marathi and Japanese earlier. It has been translated into English to reach a wider audience.
Shabana spoke about a Hindi play that she had been a part of earlier, called Kaifi Aur Main. "When I did this play for the first time, I was not aware of certain things in my father's life. Kaifi and Shaukhat have believed that art should be used as an instrument of social change. The ups and downs of life was never a big issue for them," she said.
Till age nine, I lived in a house where eight families shared a bathroom and toilet. But that was life for us. When we shifted to Janki Kutir (a spacious bungalow in Mumbai's posh suburb Juhu), my mother used to wear a gold bangle. When the bangle went missing, we realised that it had been pawned because some guests were coming to our house. There was never drama in all this. She never told Kaifi that 'main apne zewar girvi rakh rahi hoon (I have pawned my jewellary)'. We would know because we did not see her wearing any bangles."
"If the youth of today understand that they are biggest power in our country, half the problems will be solved," Shabana said. "Fifty percent of the Indian population is below 25 years. Revolution is brought about by the youth. If the youth read this book, get inspired by Kaifi and bring about a change like him, it will be great."
Javed Akhtar read out one of his poems on Kaifisaab and spoke about how poets often don't lead the life they write in their revolutionary and romantic poems. But Kaifisaab lead the exact life that he wrote about," he said.
"If he wrote a poem called Auraat on liberalisation and the equality of women, then the women in his house -- whether it was Shaukataapaa, Shabana or Tanvi -- were treated equally. I have read this book and loved it because it talks about different things in life like poetry, theatre, films, the communist party and places like Hyderabad and Bombay."
I get angry with myself because I never learnt Urdu," Farhan Akhtar said. "I think that is a drawback because once a book has been translated, it loses its flavour. Still, I will read this book, as I found a few chapters interesting. Books can be made into movies but I don't know whether this particular book can be made into a film. I will have to read the book to know that. This book has both good and bad memories, laughter and sadness. It also has innocence."
Dia Mirza, who was also present at the event, said "When Shabanaji invited me for the book launch, I told her I didn't know what it was about. So she emailed me a few excerpts. I am sure this book is not about the relationship alone; it is a reflection of the social economic history that these two people have experienced in their lives. Kaifi & I is a gift for all the Indians," she said.
"I met Kaifisaab twice," Javed Jaffrey said. "He's much older than me, yet he had a great sense of humour. Towards the end of his life, he was living in a small town and helping poor people. Some say he had turned religious. But we know him for his writing and his poetry. I look forward to reading this book. I think Urdu, as a language, needs to be kept alive. We don't even realise that 80 percent of Hindi movies are Urdu."
Other guests at the event were Anil Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, Divya Dutta, Prasoon Joshi, Perizaad Zorabian, Ila Arun, Javed Jaffery and Rohit Roy.