a poem, or one particular piece of writing casts a long shadow and comes to be
seen as most representative of a writer’s work. Such is the curious case of Hum
Dekhenge and Faiz Ahmad Faiz, despite the fact that that he enjoyed a fairly
long innings and wrote on a range of subjects. What is more, poetry and
politics ran as the warp and woof of his life, creating a rich tapestry that glows
with life to this day.
an easy-going young man, shy with strangers but equipped with a ready wit in
the company of friends, given to a liberal Left inclination, heavily influenced
by classical Persian traditions though he studied and taught English
literature, Faiz evolved his own prosody and vocabulary that was at once
contemporary yet exquisitely musical. Like his contemporary Majaz, Faiz too
began to use the Nazm for increasingly political, even revolutionary purposes.
Unlike Majaz, however, Faiz had an academic bent of mind. Being a teacher, he
retained a scholarly disposition which he brought to all subsequent vocations
Took the Message of Marx Where Iqbal Had Left It...
useful comparison would be between Faiz and Iqbal. Both from the Punjab, they
took to Urdu (not their mother tongue) as a bird takes to song. They wrote
poetry that was at once passionate, direct, impetuous – that appealed with a
startling near-prophetic call to the collective consciousness of their readers.
Both used traditional poetic forms such as the elegy, the ode and the anthem,
and infused them with a fresh note of social consciousness.
remained a Marxist long after the decline of the Movement, but never an in
doctrinaire one, nor was he ever a member of the Communist Party.
Lent His Weight to the Progressive Cause Whenever Needed
the help in setting up the Lahore PWA, Faiz lent his weight to the progressive
cause whenever called upon to do so. He, along with Krishan Chander, emerged as
a leading light of the Punjab progressives. He organised the Punjabi
progressive writers’ conference in Amritsar in the historic Jallianwala Bagh on
the same venue as the annual meeting of the Punjab Kisan Committee in
February-March 1940. Denied permission to hold their conference in the MAO
College (where Faiz taught and where his brother-in-law MD Taseeer was by now
the principal), Faiz sought permission from the organisers of the ‘Kisan
conference’ to use their marquee. Sitting on grimy rugs under a torn canopy, an
eclectic group of intellectuals from all over the Punjab responded to Faiz’s
call: Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Firoz Deen Mansoor, Teka Ram Sukhan, Mohibbul
Hasan, Taseer, Raghuvansh Kumar Kapoor, Raghupati Chopra, Sanat Singh, Faiz
himself and Sajjad Zaheer and KM Ashraf in the unlikely role of representatives
from the UP sent to attend the ‘kisan conference’!
Juxtaposed the Beloved’s Beauty Against the Ugliness of the World
produced seven volumes of verse. His first collection, Naqsh-e-Faryadi
(Imploring Imprints, published in 1941 while he was still in Amritsar, but
written over a period of ten years) shows a strange intermingling of the
romantic and revolutionary. It reflects the aches of a sensitive, somewhat
sheltered young man, but also the sorrows of the world. The early poems have a
haunting, dreamlike quality, such as Mere Nadeem, Husn aur Maut, Aaj ki Raat.
This trance was broken as he came in contact with Marxists and increasingly
influenced by social realism.
Pahli Si Muhabbat Mere Mahboob Na Mang (My Beloved, Don’t Ask Me to Love
You as I Once Did), for instance, the poet acknowledges the heart-tugging
beauty of the beloved, but talks of the other sorrows of the world which claim
his attention. He juxtaposes the beloved’s beauty against the miseries and
ugliness of the world, a world which has hunger, disease and deprivation, a
world that can never let him love her as he once did, for a love that is
divorced from social reality is too individualistic, too meaningless:
Aur Bhi Dukh Hain Samane Mein Mohabbat Ke Siwa
Raahatein Aur Bhi Hain Wasl Ki Raahat Ke Siwa
other sorrows too apart from love
pleasures too apart from that of union)
Labh Azaad Hain Tere’
poem, Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan, again has the poet addressing his beloved and
comforting her that the days of cruelty, oppression and helplessness are about
to end. The humiliations inflicted by strange hands (the British), he assures her,
shall be short lived:
Zulm Ki Chhaon Mein Dam Lene Pe Majbur Hain Hum
Aur Kuchh Der Sitam Sah Lein Tadap Lein Ro Lein
Apne Ajdad Ki Miras Hai Mazur Hain Hum
constrained to breathe in the shade of tyranny
just a little longer, endure thus oppression
suffering that is our inheritance, and we are helpless...)
from Naqsh-e-Faryadi that bear the stamp of progressivism are Raqeeb Se,
Tanhai, Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Tere, Mauzoo-e-Sukhan, Hum Log. If in Bol, he is
inciting his people to speak up and reminding them that they are free despite
Bol, Ki Labh Azad Hain Tere
Bol Zaban Ab Tak Teri Hai
Tera Sutvan Jism Hai Tera
Bol Ki Jaan Ab Tak Teri Hai
your lips are free
your tongue is still yours
body is still yours
your life is still yours)
Truly Concern a Poet?
In Hum Log,
he seems to be chastising them for the fear, regret and sorrow that do not let
them rise in revolt:
Dil Ke Aivan Men Liye Gul-Shuda Shamon Ki Qatar
Nur-E-?Hurshid Se Sahme Hue Uktae Hue
Husn-E-Mahbub Ke Sayyal Tasavvur Ki Tarah
Apni Tariki Ko Bhenche Hue Liptae Hue
row of snuffed out candles in the niches of our hearts
of the light of the moon, wearied of all things
remembrance of love’s beauty now faded
our darkness, and being cloaked by it)
Mauzoo-e-Sukhan, he makes the most direct statement of what should concern a
poet: should it just be the darkness of a beloved’s tresses or the delicate
tracery of henna on her pale hands or should it be all that has happened to the
sons and daughters of Adam and Eve from time immemorial and all the tragedies
and misfortunes that shall continue to happen? Should he not ask?
Inn Damakte Hue Shahron Ki Faravan Ma Hluq
Kyuu Faqat Marne Ki Hasrat Men Jiya Karti Hai
Ye Hasin Khet Phata Padta Hai Jauban Jin Kaa!
Kis Liye In Mein Faqat Bhuuk Uga Karti Hai
countless souls who inhabit these glittering cities
live simply with the desire to die one day?
fields whose youth is bursting forth
only hunger grow in them?)
I Mourn if My Tablet and Pen are Forbidden...’
two volumes, Dast-e-Saba (The Breeze’s Hand, 1953) and Zindah Nama (Poems from
Prison, 1956) buttressed his reputation as one of the leading intellectuals of
Mata-e-Lauh-O-Qalam Chhin Gai To Kya Gham Hai
Ki Hun-E-Dil Men Dubo Li Hain Ungliyan Main Ne
I mourn if my tablet and pen are forbidden
When I have
dipped my fingers in my own blood?)
Execution Yard (A Song)’, he seems to be consoling himself and all others who
face oppression by saying that this night too shall pass. In the same poem he
goes on to speak of the ‘Street of Scorn’ (ku-e malaamat), a familiar trope in
Urdu poetry, used to refer to the ‘wrong side of the street’ where the
prostitutes lived; in Faiz’s altered landscape it becomes any street anywhere
in Pakistan where the summons can come for anyone at any time.
Voiced Ageless Concerns & Also Pointed Out New Ones
the summer of 1951, Faiz wrote Subah-e-Azadi, his first, and only, poem that
directly addresses Independence and makes an allusion to the trauma of
Yeh Daagh Daagh Ujala, Yeh Shab-Gazida Sehr
Yeh Woh Sehr To Nahi Thha Intizar Jiska
patchy darkness, this night-bitten dawn
This is not
the dawn of freedom we had waited for)
Suroor, writing the foreword to the Indian edition of Zindah Nama, praised not
merely the melodiousness of his poetry but also its technical finesse.
really struck a chord with millions of lay Urdu readers was the manner in which
Faiz was voicing ageless concerns and also pointing out new ones. Not only was
he drawing the readers’ attention away from the ecstasy and agony of love, but
he was also no longer content to talk of deen (faith) or qaum (community) in a
narrow sectarian way.
Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and
literary historian. She writes on literature, culture and society. She runs
Hindustani Awaaz, an organisation devoted to the popularisation of Urdu
Headline: What Makes Faiz Timeless and Accessible to Lay Urdu Readers?
Source: The Quint