Married to an Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi, Shaukat Kaifi’s love story was nothing less than a Hindi film romance. We recall their beautiful love story, as told to The Quint by their daughter Shabana Azmi.
The two met in February 1947 in Hyderabad during a Progressive Writers Conference, which was followed by a mushaira. “He came and recited his poem which was already very well known, which was ‘Aurat’ and she was mesmerized by it. She felt that someone who speaks in such a progressive voice about women is going to be the man I’m going to marry,” said Shabana Azmi.
“She looked at Abba and she saw that he was surrounded by girls, so she just gave him a look and went to Sardar Jafri and got an autograph from him. Kaifi watched her doing this.”Shabana Azmi
However, she returned once the crowd dispersed and asked Kaifi Azmi to write something in her autograph book, and to her disappointment, he wrote a very silly limerick. Offended by it, she asked, “Why did you write such a bad sher?”, to which he replied, “Well, why did you go to Sardar Jafri first?”
“Like Hindi films, their romance blossomed. It was more like a Hindi film romance because at that time my mother was engaged to somebody else. So, her family cut off all communication between my father and mother,” said Shabana Azmi.
To everyone’s shock, Kaifi Azmi sent her a letter in blood, seeing which she ran to her father and said that she’ll either marry this man or no one at all. Her father decided to take her to Mumbai to see the kind of life communists spend in a commune and then she was to decide if she still wanted to marry him.
“Without telling anybody, he brought her to Mumbai, took her to the commune and then asked her if she still wanted to marry him considering that she had been brought up in luxury and he has no money at all. She said, “Even if he was a poor laborer and in order to be married to him, I would have to carry mud on my head, I’d still do that but I’ll only marry him. And so they got married in Mumbai without telling anybody. ,” says Shabana.
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 22 November 2019. It is now being republished on Kaifi Azmi’s birth anniversary.)