Written by Arti Chauhan
Rana Tabassum was in a regular nine to five job, working as an accountant with a jewellery firm, when her life took an unusual turn in 2005, when an elderly poet from Allahabad recognised her talent with language and performance.
Alam Siddique, then in his 70s, was so impressed with Tabassum’s proficiency in Urdu language, her voice and diction, that he wondered what was she doing at an accountant’s desk. He immediately told her that if she loved poetry, she could become a popular shayra — a female poet — and perform at mushairas, poetic gatherings. “I loved poetry and wrote nazms and ghazals too, but I had never thought of taking it up as a profession. One day, I sat and thought over the suggestion. I told my father what Mr Siddique had suggested, and he asked me to invite him home for a discussion. He convinced both of us that there was a bright future for me in the field of poetry,” says Tabassum, who will be performing today at the Kavi Sammelan organised as part of Pune Festival.
Tabassum recalls how her father helped her overcome the fright and shyness during stage performances. “A great amount of credit for my success goes to my father, who not only supported me to take up this profession, which is unconventional for women from middle class Muslim families, but also helped improve my performances on stage. He used to accompany me to mushairas in various cities and many a times suggested what nazm or ghazal I should recite sensing the mood of the audience,” says Tabassum, a history graduate from Wilson College in Mumbai. Initially, she used to feel “extremely shy” performing in front of largely male audience. “I used to wonder to myself, can I perform love songs in front of my father? But he helped me understand that there was no need to feel embarrassed, as it was just a performance for the audience,” she adds.
Since her first performance in Malad in Mumbai on October 2, 2005, Tabassum’s popularity has only increased and she has performed across the country. She has also been approached to lend her voice as playback singer in Bhojpuri films. The focus of Tabassum’s poetry is mostly on love, romance and relationships, and it conveys different emotions such as shyness, love and fear for each relationship.
“A poet should have good presence of mind, acceptance and understanding of his/her audience for live performances, and should be able to make changes in his/her poetry according to the situation,” says Tabassum.
“Literature and books bind us with our values and culture. Advancement in technology might make our lives easier, but it has also become a weakness these days and is taking us away from books,”
For her latest performance at Hasya Kavi Sammelan at Pune Festival, Tabassum has chosen to perform a simple nazm, based on husband-wife relationship, where a wife wants to meet her husband on the terrace of her house but is busy completing household chores.