Faiz centennial: A right way to remember a man of the Left

From childhood tales to poetry in action, friends, lovers and foes remember the poet.

Noman Ahmed November 19, 2011


While the country remembers Faiz Ahmed Faiz as a revolutionary, poet Shabnum Shakeel remembers when she was seven years old how Faiz chacha stepped up to marry her beloved doll after a young Salmaan Taseer broke the gudda’s legs.

This tantilising anecdote was real aloud from an article by her daughter Malahat Awan on Friday for one of the centenary events held at Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim. Shakeel, the daughter of poet Syed Abid Ali Abid, recalled how Faiz was forced by poet Sufi Tabassum to take them all out for paan to celebrate the union. “After they had paan, they realised that no one had any money,” she said. “Faiz chacha suggested that he would stay with the paan wallah as a security deposit till someone went and got the three rupees they owed him.” Shakeel wrote the article on his eighth death anniversary and was unable to attend Friday’s event because she was unwell.

The opening ceremony kicked off with a musical performance by Fakir Juman Shah and was followed by journalist Mujahid Barelvi’s recitation of a few verses by Faiz. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan executive director and president of the Faiz Centenary Celebrations Committee, IA Rehman, walked up to stage next to deliver the welcome address.

“Faiz documented the socio-political history of Pakistan in his poetry,” he said. “It is time for us to combine his poetry, political ideology and philosophy and incorporate it in our lives.” He added that Faiz was very fond of festivals as he believed that every gathering should yield some results. Rehman gave the example of the 1970 Kisan conference in Toba Tek Singh. Faiz was quite upset as the conference had been successful but did not yield any results.

A young journalist from Denmark, Sadaf Mirza was also called on stage to say a few words about Faiz. “The West portrays Muslims as proponents of negativism,” she said. “They should be told about people like Faiz, who fought for peace, love and equality.”

According to Dr Ali Javed, a scholar from India, Faiz’s poetry broke away from geographical boundaries and barriers of language. Journalist Raza Ali Abidi said that Faiz’s spirit was still alive in his ideology and poetry.

The session ended with one of Faiz’s contemporaries, satirist Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi making the audience roar with laughter. “An individual can disagree with Faiz’s politics,” he said. “But no one can disagree with his poetry.”

Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palijo also attended the event.

The second session of the opening ceremony kicked off with a musical performance by Nirat Taal, a group of students from National Academy of Performing Arts organised by Awan’s Tehzeeb Foundation. The students presented their adaptation of Faiz’s ‘Kuch ishq kiya, kuch kaam kiya’. Singer Fariha Pervez and Indian artist Seema Sehgal also participated in a ghazal session which took place afterwards.

Excerpt from Faiz’s letter to his wife Alys

This country is now nearly five years old and in five years we have not given the people one real exhibition of anything of beauty, of culture, of ennobling pleasure. And yet there has been no dearth of ‘tamashas’. But all that we can think of is to collect some silly old grey-beards from all over the world, make them talk a lot of bilge that no one cares a damn farthing about, give a few people an opportunity for lots of eating and lots of shouting and then forget all about it. India may be a bigger country but culture is not a matter of size but of the ways of living and thinking, and why should the people of this country not be given a chance at least to look at culture even if they can’t live in it. Anyway it will all come some day perhaps and perhaps I shouldn’t be talking about it.

Passed by the censor


Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2011.


Ibrahim | 10 years ago | Reply

Why so much fuss over a man who was no better then the people he opposed keeping in mind how he tried to engineer a coup in early 50s. But i guess its okay as long your liberal dude is doing the same thing.

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