Portrait of a Revolutionary Writer
Hundred years on, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz still strikes a chord when his poems are revisited. The partitioned India and Pakistan have geographical and political limitations, but his poetry holds the two together, culturally. The book, Celebrating Faiz, edited by DP Tripathi, touches a few unknown aspects of the poet’s life.
Former Prime Minister IK Gujral tells us how efforts were made to keep the neighbours culturally intact. Gujral, in his capacity as the Information and Broadcasting Minister, once asked Faiz to present a TV show in Delhi. And, Faiz in his capacity as the Director of National Arts Council made two demands — one, of organising Satish Gujral’s exhibition in Pakistan; and, two, of sending Shila Bhatia’s opera Heer Ranjah to India. Faiz’s demand, though, couldn’t see the light of the day.
Chapter by chapter the book takes a journey into Faiz’s life and times. Certainly, the era he was born in was disturbing — World Wars, freedom struggle, imperialism, fascism, murder of hopes! No wonder, Faiz’s poetry echoes revolutionary sentiments across. And his works stand for the rights of the oppressed, besides warning the oppressors — “Sab taaj uchale jayenge Sab takht giraye jayenge… Hum dekhenge.”
There was a time when Faiz appealed to poets to move out of the comfortable themes of writing poetry and make revolution their beloved. Writer Mulk Raj Anand says, “In Faiz’s poems of that period, the beloved became the symbol of revolution… Only, unlike Mayakovsky, Faiz did not write poster verse, but a new kind of melodious ghazals, with onomatopoeic words, used as symbols for new beginnings.”
Politician Sitaram Yechury quotes what Agha Shahid Ali said about Faiz’s poetry, “Faiz extended the meaning of beloved to include the revolution… Waiting for the revolution can be as intoxicating as waiting for one’s lover.”
Besides the notes from eminent personalities like Ashok Vajpeyi, who adulates Faiz’s poetry as “so contemporary because of that pure core of humanness,” there are articles from his family members — like granddaughter Mira Hashmi who has realised that there’s nothing in a name unless it is Faiz. Readers will also enjoy Faiz’s play — Private Secretary. The highest point of the book, however, is when Faiz’s wife shares with Amrita Pritam the highs and lows of being Mrs Faiz.
Faiz had a step bond with dreams, sometimes these didn’t take off like his ambition of being a cricketer and sometimes these were tainted, like the freedom at the cost of Partition. One can feel his anguish through these lines: “This blemished day, and the night eaten morning. Is it what we waited for?” His unfulfilled dreams gave us our beloved poet, Faiz.