The Last TV Mushaira of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA
A few years back I was looking for some material about Faiz Ahmed Faiz on the internet when I stumbled upon a recording of a Mushaira which was held in London by the BBC Urdu Program. Urdu language must be grateful to the BBC because it was not just an important source of news about the subcontinent but also a great treasure and archive of the cultural heritage of the subcontinent. BBC Urdu program assuaged the need of information and fortified the connection of people of the subcontinent with their cultural heritage; not just for the diaspora but also for its inhabitants.
I was pained to read in one of the reports circulated by a think tank in London in which it blamed Urdu for the evil plaguing the subcontinent. People, who are planning to impose their experiments in genetic, social, economic and political engineering, consider Urdu which is a treasure of the evolved consciousness of mankind to be a threat to their plans, and want to erase it. It is obvious that such characters with vested interest must have produced this report. Those who are unaware of the evils of the old systems and are unwilling to discard them, and do not understand the benefits of the new and are unwilling to embrace them, are partners in this tango with those who in their ignorance and arrogance consider all old values irrelevant to modern life.
Coming back to the Mushaira of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, it was presided over by Gopi Chand Narang who was the professor of Urdu at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, and a well-known literary figure of India. He said: Urdu poetry is not about advancement of regional culture and parochial ideas and ideology but represents the universal aspirations of mankind. Faiz sahib has such a command over its vocabulary that he expresses the most delicate and the most complex thought with ease to establish its universal appeal. He has thus found a place for himself among the masters of poetry of yesteryear like Ghalib, Meer, etc. and the doyens of modern times like Josh. Even though Faiz is a revolutionary poet his poetry is full of romantic expressions. The tone of his poetry is musical and not that of a marching band. He speaks about the tragedies of the time, the pain of the people and their aspirations about the problems of the society and about the political issues, not to inflame conflicts but to engender love. He wants to open new vistas of understanding illuminating the mind and energizing the heart. The message of Faiz sahib touches the aching heart of humanity with tender love to make it understand the reason of his pain rather than inflame it more, said Gopi chand Narang.
Faiz is conscious of this quality of his poetry and that is why he titled one of his poetic collection as Dasthay Saba, (The hand of morning breeze), and another one as Dasthay Thahay Sang (The hand under the stone) to let his readers know that as he is engaged in healing the aching heart with the touch of his gentle hand, his tormenters have limited its efficacy by crushing his hand under the stone to stop his poetic struggle.
After the introduction by Gopi Chand Narang the announcer of BBC with her sweet voice gives us this sad news that what we will be hearing from Faiz is his rendering at the last Mushaira of his life. Faiz Sahib takes over the mike to present one poem and one ghazal in a voice that emanates from his heart and touches the hearts of the listeners arousing rapturous appreciation. The two pieces of his poetry which he rendered in this Mushaira were not only an example of a hand stoking gently the surface of wounded hearts to give relief to it, but an expression of the limitations of his poetry and its touch.
The poem was a lullaby titled “The Crying Child” and the ghazal is a ghazal, like Rose is a Rose. The ghazal has no title. It is a bouquet consisting of flowers of various hues and types; everyone completer with its own beauty and its unique fragrance. Every couplet in a ghazal likewise is each individual complete and perfect in its meaning. Every couplet tells about a different aspect of life in symbols and similes to arouse thoughts hitherto unfamiliar causing ecstasy. A couplet is more than a picture, it is a video; the two lines of a couplet pack a punch and a pun defied by a thousand words.
I may be accused of moral equivalency, but in my opinion both Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Field Marshal Ayub Khan who incarcerated him, tormented him and exiled him were sincere in the progress of their country and the happiness of its people. Our civilization has progressed to reach the present stage by the intellectual honesty of intelligentsia and the hard work of artisans. Ever since characters born with golden spoons in their mouths in the castles of big towns and trained in the art of grabbing power have dominated the political landscape of democracy, the brain and the brawn are in conflict with each other. This artificial intelligence trained in liberal universities is adept in political intrigues to make false promises to get the support of the people to occupy the seats of power and kick those who were occupying it in disgrace. This tussle for power grab between Ayub Khan and Bhutto had many casualties of which one was Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
Someone’s misery is someone’s memory. Misery helped Faiz sharpen his understanding of realities around him and present it to awaken the people, it also gave me my memories of him. If Ayub Khan had not exiled Faiz, he would not have got the visa to visit India to attend the literary meet at Aloka Mysore sometime in the late seventies and given me the opportunity to see this great poet and interview him (Pakistan Link April 3, 2011). May Allah forgive both Gen Ayub and Bhutto Sahib. May Allah protect the dim light of social justice left by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and promote its brilliance to enlighten the darkened hearts of exploiters of mankind and endow them with magnanimity to repent for their past mistakes and make social justice their new goal instead of the next billion. Amen.