Faiz Ahmed Faiz (February 13, 1911-November 20, 1984)
Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
The poem Meray dil meray musafir ("My heart, my traveller") was written in 1977 when Faiz left Pakistan after the overthrow of Bhutto. He was to stay in exile for many years. The poem Kya Karain ("What should we do") was written when Faiz was in Beirut, where he missed his friends and family terribly. He was in distress about the repressive rule of Zia-ul-Haq. This poem, which I have in Faiz's hand, was written at the end of a letter he sent me from Beirut to Vienna: Meri teri nigha mein/jo laakh intizar hain ("Countless yearnings/ Petrified/In your eyes and mine"). Faiz was still in exile when Bhutto was executed, plunging him in grief. Faiz was a man of few words but when he was mourning, he would become very, very quiet, something I witnessed myself when I told him in London that his beloved teacher and friend Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabussum had died in Lahore.
The ghazal he wrote over Bhutto's death contains the verse: Aabad kar kai sheher-e-khamoshaan hur aik soo; Kis khoj mein hai tegh-e-sitmgar laggi hui ("In every direction, there now lies the city of silence/So who does the sword of the oppressor seek now?"). Another of Faiz's celebrated couplets was written during Zia's dark rule: Challo aao tum ko dikhayain hum jo bachha hai maqtil-e-sheher mein/Ye mazar ahl-e-safa kai hain ye hain ahl-e-sidq ki turbatain ("Let me show you what has survived in the murder yard of the city/Here lie those who were pure of heart and there are the graves of the truthful ones").
But I would like to end this with one of the most beautiful love poems that can be said to exist in any language. Agha Nasir, quoting the late Dr Aftab Ahmed Khan, a close Faiz friend, also lifts the veil on the one who inspired the poem. It was a woman Faiz was smitten with in his youth and years later, when she was married and living in Karachi, Faiz went to see her. This poem immortalises that meeting with all its longing and sadness. It begins " Gulshan-e-yaad mein gar aaj dum-e-baad-e-saba. " This is how I translated it: "If the breeze wants to blow today in the garden of memories/If it wants the flowers to bloom again, let it do so/The pain that lies in a forgotten corner of days past/If it wants to rise again, let it do so."
We who have lived in the times of Faiz should forever be grateful for that privilege.
(Khalid Hasan, Friday Times, 12 Sep 2008)
Faiz is and remains the most outstanding Urdu poet of the second half of the last century. During the last few years of his life, however, he wrote some Punjabi poetry as well which can be found in his last two books namely Shaam-e-Shehryaraan and Mairay Dil Mairay Musaafir. The following is one of his most famous Punjabi poems, which is the lamentation of a beloved for her lover who had become a prisoner of war in India:
Kidhray naan paindiyan dassaan
Pardesia vay tairian
(I don't hear anything about you
My lover, living far away)
These very simple lines reflect the agony and suffering of the Punjabi woman in the most effective words possible.
Shaam udikaan, fajarudikaan
Aakhain tay sari umar udikaan
Ahand gawandi deevay balday
Rabba sada chanan ghalday
Jug vasda ay main vi vassaan
(I am waiting in the evenings and mornings
If you so desire I can wait the whole of my life
There are lights everywhere in the neighborhood
O God, Send my light also
The whole world is living and I might also live)