Urdu Academy ’s Rich Tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Pictures by Nagesh Avadhani & Jawed Umerani


Speakers and vocalists pay tributes to Faiz Ahmed Faiz

February 13 th marked the 99 th birth anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a great poet who brought a revolutionary change in the way poetry was written, combining socio-political messages and revolutionary ideas with the sweetness of the Urdu language.

The Urdu Academy dedicated its February 21 st monthly literary evening to the life and work of Faiz. The event, held at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark, CA, drew a large crowd of Urdu lovers from the Bay Area. The event was presided over by Parvin Shere, a well-known artist, musician and poetess.

More than a dozen poems, recited at the event, covered the multi-dimensional aspects of Faiz’s poetry that is seen as a beacon of light for the oppressed segments of society and the voice of the poor people’s conscience.

Among those who presented the poetry of Faiz were: Abdul Razzak Adenwala, Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Affif Siddiqui, Asim Bajwa, Asim Khan, Dr. Akhtar Jabeen  Lateef, Fauzia Timberlake, Hameeda Banu, Iftekhar Hae, Inder Mohan Singh, Khalid Rana, Ken Sherfy, Mukesh Kacker, Meraj Sultana Ghazali, Misbah Rahman, Naveeda Ellahie, Nagesh Avadhaney, Dr. Tahir Mahmood.

It was news to many that Faiz also composed poems in Punjabi which was his mother tongue. Dr. Tahir Mahmood recited his mystic Punjabi poem.

The program was organized very skillfully to present the popular poetry of Faiz and also to educate the audience about the life and work of the great poet.

The recitation of each poem was preceded with interesting anecdotes about the life of Faiz by Tashie Zaheer, the Urdu Academy President and Dr. Tahir Mahmood, the main organizer of the program. Their informative comments included a brief life sketch and evaluation of his poetry.

Tashie Zaheer was of the view that Faiz used the medium of poetry to create awareness among the masses about the importance of freedom and individual identity for which he suffered a lot during his life, but never compromised on his principles and national interest. Apart from being a great revolutionary poet, he was a great romantic poet and his love for humanity is free from the prejudices of race, color and nationality.

Faiz was born on February 13, 1911 in Sialkot. He achieved command over Arabic and Persian languages during his high school life. Faiz did his Masters in English in 1932 from the Government College Lahore and MA in Arabic from Oriental College.

Faiz became a lecturer in English at the M. A. O. College, Amritsar in 1935 and then at the Hailey College of Commerce, Lahore. He briefly joined the British Indian Army and was promoted to the rank of Lieut-Colonel in 1944. He resigned from the Army in 1947 and returned to Lahore.

Faiz started a branch of Progressive Writers' Movement in Punjab in 1936. Also he was a Member and Secretary of this branch. Faiz was also Editor of Mahanama Adab-e-Lateef (1938-1942). Faiz distinguished himself as a journalist and was editor of the Pakistan Times, the Urdu newspaper Imroze and the weekly Lail-o-Nihar. After the miltary coup led by General Zia ul Haq in 1979, Faiz lived in self-exile in Beirut writing for the Afro-Asia Writers Association journal, Lotus, until his return to Pakistan in 1982.

Faiz was charged with complicity in a failed coup attempt known as the Rawalpini Conspiracy Case and was sentenced to four years' imprisonment in 1951. The jail term gave him first-hand experience of the harsh realities of life, and provided him with the much-needed solitude to think and write poetry. Two of his greatest works Dast-e-Saba and Zindan-Nama were products of this period of imprisonment.

In the matter of diction and style, Faiz may be called the inheritor of the tradition of Ghalib.  His admiration for Ghalib is also reflected in the title of his first published work, Naqsh-e-Faryadi, which comes straight from the opening line of the first ghazal of Diwan-e-Ghalib.  

 

Faiz is a "committed" poet who regards poetry as a vehicle of serious thought, and not a mere pleasurable pastime.  Faiz was a nominee for the Nobel Prize and in 1963 was the first Asian poet to win the Lenin Peace Prize. He recorded for the Library of Congress in Lahore in 1977. The Library of Congress has fifty-two works by him. Faiz passed away in 1984.

 

The Urdu Academy literary evening was divided into three sessions. The first session was devoted to the recitation of Faiz’s poems and presentations about his life. In the second session, Arshad Rashed, Afiff Siddiqui and Tashie Zaheer paid tribute to the great poet in the form of poetry. In the third session, the audience was entertained with musical renditions of the popular poetry of Faiz.

Popular ghazal singer, Kuldip Singh, amused the audience with the presentation of the ghazals:

RaNg perahan ka, khushboo zulf bikhraney ka naam

Tum aaey ho na shab-e-intezaar guzri hey

 Almas Shabvani was next to enthrall the audience with her melodious singing of two ghazals:

Aaj bazaar meN pa ba jaulaaN chalo

Ham ke Thehrey ajnabai, itni mulaqaatoN ke baad

 Dr. Anshuman Chandra charmed the audience with his unique style of presentation on guitar:

Raat yuN dil meN tiree khoee hooi yaad aaee

Kab Thehrey ga dard aey dil, kab raat basar hogi

ChaNd nikley kisi janib tiree zebaee ka

 Tina Maan also mesmerized the audience with her singing of three ghazals:

Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mirey mehboob na maaNg

DonoN jahaan teree mohabbat meN haar ke

Laazim he ke ham bhi dekheN gey

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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