Hindi Belt Authors

Who is afraid of Faiz?

POET OF PROTEST Faiz Ahmed Faiz  

Although a good 34 years have passed since his death, the memory of Faiz Ahmed ‘Faiz’ continues to scare authoritarian regimes as it presents them with unsettling nightmares. One of the most loved poets of the subcontinent, Faiz was jailed and banished by Pakistan several times and military dictator Zia-ul-Haq had put a ban on public recitation of his poetry. Yet, thousands of people gathered in Lahore to observe his first death anniversary in 1985 and pay tribute to the memory of this romantic revolutionary. Iqbal Bano made history by singing his nazms and ghazals before the massive gathering in a clear defiance of the dictator’s ban.

One was reminded of this when news came in that Faiz’s younger daughter Muneeza Hashmi, who was invited to participate in the 15th Asia Media Summit organised by Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development and hosted by Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Prasar Bharati, was allegedly debarred from attending the conference without assigning any reason.And the question kept troubling one’s mind: Why is Faiz so much loved by the masses and loathed by the rulers?

Refashioned Urdu poetry

One has to look for an answer at the great poet’s life and work because he was able to unify them in a single, integrated whole. Most people know him as a Leftist poet of protest and romanticism who refashioned Urdu poetry to bring it closer to its roots and, consequently, to the masses. Although I am not aware that he ever made a reference to this particular couplet of the 18th century poet Mir Taqi ‘Mir’, but his entire oeuvre is a testimony that he faithfully practised it. Mir wrote: “Sher mere hain sab khawas pasand, Par mujhe guftgu awam se hai” (All my couplets are admired by the elite connoisseurs of poetry, but I am addressing the common people). Little surprising that Faiz is perhaps the most read and quoted poet after Mir and Ghalib.

Cover of Faiz

Cover of Faiz  

Born on February 13, 1911 in a village in Sialkot district and brought up in a deeply religious family, Faiz had memorised nearly half of the Quran by the time he was three. At the annual function of the Anjuman-e-Islamia, Sialkot, the three-year-old Faiz was made to stand on a table and recite the Quran from his memory in front of Iqbal, the great Urdu poet who also hailed from Sialkot, and received his blessings for performing the tilawat so well. Later in Amritsar, he became friends with communist writer couple Mahmuduzzafar and Dr Rashid Jahan, and began to take part in trade union activities. It was here that Saadat Hasan Manto first became his student and then friend. Not many would believe that one of his most famous nazms “Mujhse pahli si muhabbat mere mahboob na maang” (My beloved, do not expect that old love from me) was not written during or after a love affair but after reading Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto!

When Independence came accompanied by the Partition and massacres, plunder and rape took place at an unprecedented scale, Faiz wrote that this hazy dawn had a dagger of dark night thrust in its heart and was not the one he had been waiting for. Soon after this, in 1951, he was arrested as an accused in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case and spent four years in incarceration.

Saare Sukhan Hamare

Saare Sukhan Hamare  

When General Ayub Khan staged a coup d'état in 1958, Faiz was arrested again. While spending time in jail, he wrote another of his very famous nazm that has become a favourite of all freedom-loving people across the world: “Nisar main teri galiyon pe ae watan ke jahan, chali hai rasm ke koi na sar utha ke chale” (I dedicate myself to my country where nobody can walk with his head held high). During the Emergency years in India, this nazm provided solace to countless young men and women and has become as relevant now as it was then.

Revolutionary optimism

During the two India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, Faiz consistently refused to write “patriotic” poems to boost the morale of the Pakistani army and incurred the wrath of the Establishment. However, when he visited Dhaka in 1972, he wrote a very poignant ghazal: “Ham ke thahare ajnabee, itnee mudaraton ke baad, phir banenge aashna kitnee mulaaqaton ke baad” (Even after such a long association, we remain strangers. How many meetings would it take for us to become friends again?”)

Faiz taught Arabic in Beirut and wrote poems in support of the Palestinian cause. He was active in the progressive writers’ movement in Pakistan and the world at large. Faiz was detested by all the oppressive regimes in Pakistan and, after initial proximity, he drifted apart from Zulfikar Ali Bhutto too.

Yet, he never gave up his revolutionary optimism. His daughter Muneeza, while leaving India, very evocatively recalled two very famous lines of her father’s: “Dil naumeed to nahin nakaam hi to hai, lambi hai gham ki shaam magar shaam hi to hai” (My heart may be full of failures but is not without hope. True, that the evening is very long, but after all it’s only an evening.)

The writer is a seasoned literary critic

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2021 5:55:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/who-is-afraid-of-faiz/article23918842.ece

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