When Dr Shamim Hanifi, Urdu professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia, visited Kishwar Naheed in Lahore, he knew, of course, that she was one of Pakistan's eminent poets, but he was hardly prepared for the effect her name had even on the Pakistanis at the customs counter. Hanifi merely mentioned that the silk sari the customs men at the airport were fingering so suspiciously was a gift for the poet, and, to his amazement, he found his bags being instantly closed and he being waved deferentially through to his waiting friends.
Poets like Kishwar Naheed, Ahmed Faraz and Fehmida Riyaz take their popularity very much in their stride but their stardom never ceases to surprise visitors from India. Publisher and writer Urvashi Butalia recalls last year's women's conference in Lahore which ended in a mushaira. "There were more than 200 people who came to hear poets like Kishwar Naheed and Zehra Nigah reciting their poems at the conference," she recounts.