Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry relevant even today, says daughter

By Ruchika Kher, IANS
Saturday, February 5, 2011

MUMBAI - Be it “Mujhse pehli si mohabbat” or “Hum dekhenge”, the works of Pakistan’s Faiz Ahmed Faiz - a leading Urdu poet of the 20th century - still capture the essence of social and political challenges for the world, says his daughter.

Moneeza Hashmi says she derives hope from her father’s poetry, adding that it’s fascinating that his work continues to be relevant even 26 years after his death. His birth centenary this year will be marked in India too with a function in Delhi Feb 25.

“I admitted quite openly that I never quite understood my father’s poetry when he was around. Now in the last year or so I have developed an understanding of it. The Faiz Ghar, a museum that we have set up in his memory…we have sessions there on his poetry where people talk about it and so I have begun to understand what he wrote,” Moneeza told IANS in an interview from Lahore.

“His poetry has layers and is not very easy to understand. All of them are written with a certain perspective, all of them are written for that time but are relevant even today because we are still facing huge challenges - political, social and human rights challenges.”

Faiz (1911-1982) had mostly an adversarial relationship with the Pakistan government since his arrest in the 1951 Rawalpindi conspiracy case and spent some time in jail. In the next two decades, he spent a lot of time in exile - often in India and the Soviet Union.

Most of his works were banned during the military dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul Haq (1977-88). These included “Hum Dekhenge”, an anthem for liberty from tyranny, with its lines “Sab taaj uchale jayenge, Sab takht giraye jayenge (all crowns will be tossed up, all thrones will be brought down)”. However, defying the diktat, famous ghazal singer Iqbal Bano recited it at a 1985 programme in Lahore to a 50,000-strong crowd, which took up the chant.

“That is the beauty of his poetry. That the relevance of it even today is intact. That’s the greatest thing that his talent remains alive in spite of the fact of his passing off and time passing on. The issues that his works raised are something that are so true even today.

“They are so emotionally charged but even though they do present the dark side of what is happening around, in every single poem, there is a message of hope and that is the message that we need to spread to the world,” Moneeza added.

To spread the message of Faiz’s poetry and to celebrate his centenary, NGO Routes 2 Roots along with the All India Progressive Writers Association and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has organised “1911-2011 -Faiz Lives On - Centenary of a Legend” Feb 25 in New Delhi.

The event will bring together singers Jagjit Singh and Tina Sani, who will recite famous works of the poet. President Pratibha Patil and other dignitaries along with Faiz’s daughters Moneeza and Salima Hashmi will also be present.

“It was a matter of great pride and honour for my family that we got this invitation to attend the celebrations in India. The fact that even the President of India is attending the event is something quite beyond our expectations. We are very grateful to Routes 2 Roots and the Progressive Writers Association and to ICCR for putting this whole celebration together,” Moneeza said.

Similar events are slated to take place in Pakistan too, all round the year.

“We are actually calling this year as the Faiz year. We are hoping to spread this celebration across the whole year and that is what is happening. Already preparations have begun. We are having film festivals, seminars, dialogues, concerts, book launches, ‘mushairas’ (recitals) throughout the year. It is kind of gathering momentum, you can say,” added Moneeza.

Faiz’s major works include “Naqsh-e-Faryadi” (the title inspired by the first line of the first ghazal in Ghalib’s diwan), “Dast-e-Saba” and “Zindan-Nama”. Faiz’s poetry has been translated into many languages, including English and Russian.

Asked what her most distinct memory of her father is, Moneeza said: “I remember visiting him in jail and being annoyed with him that he didn’t get a doll for my birthday, but he had written me a poem.

“There are many other memories of his coming home. There isn’t one special. Each of them is special.”

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at ruchika.k@ians.in)

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