Faiz Celebration in Sacramento
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Glimpses of Faiz celebration at SHAZ Restaurant
The caravan of celebrations to honor the life and poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz reached California’s capital city on April 2, 2011 with a Mushaira or Urdu poetry recital held at the local SHAZ Restaurant. About 100 people attended the program, a high turnout for Sacramento, a town known better for its “agriculture” and not “culture” (especially one associated with the Urdu language) as described by Khalid Saeed, host of this event, and a major force behind the local Pak-American Culture and Arts Council (PACAC).
In our local South-Asian American community, names matter, and that of Faiz Sahib attracts people like no other. Pakistanis and Indians may disagree on many issues but our common and delicious food, the Urdu-Hindi language arts and cricket somehow still bring our people together. And in this case, one of Pakistan’s and South Asia’s most recognized left wing personalities, Faiz Ahmed Faiz has the distinction of having an appeal between and beyond classes and societal stratifications. The rich elite and the literate poor and middle class all sing and recite his works. Plus one additional surprise which just cannot be ignored is that both educated religious conservatives and left wing liberals can be found praising his work.
The Sacramento event was conducted by local luminary Naeem Syed. Host Khalid Saeed first introduced the program and welcomed everyone. “ Sacramento has arrived,” he said. Asking for community feedback and involvement, Khalid said that the PACAC wanted to encourage the arts in the area so that we can see more such events.
Samina Faheem Sundas, a community activist, started the formalities with a rare dua or prayer written by Faiz Sahib. Next, the keynote speech was not memorable since it was delivered by journalist Ras Siddiqui or “Yours Truly” to highlight the life and work of Faiz, possibly the biggest inspiration for many in Pakistan from a generation which still remains committed to its liberal and democratic ideals. It is no wonder that the 100 years of Faiz Sahib are being celebrated worldwide including in countries like Bangladesh and Sweden. It reminded this writer of what Zia Mohyeddin said just two weeks earlier in the San Francisco Bay Area while describing Faiz Sahib: “Bara Shayir. Azeem Insaan”.
Of the people who recited the works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one has to give Javed Iqbal credit for warming things up for everyone with a passionate “Hum Dekhain Gey”. Javed reminisced about his college days when progressive poetry was what carried the day. He also reminded everyone that the poetry of Faiz was mostly banned during General Zia’s rule in Pakistan but Mohtarma Iqbal Bano made “Hum Dekhain Gey” an anthem of sorts at the time.
Maqsood Ali Sahib next tried to lighten things up with some comic relief and succeeded. Dr. Nirmal Mann presented “Kyoon Nahin Detay?” and then his own work highlighting the Indian resistance to British rule by people no longer with us from right here in the Sacramento area. His “Mohabbat ki kahaani aakhon say beyan hoti hai” was well received.
Next Naeem Syed, presented “Mujh Sey Mut Pooch”, “Rah mein Faiz Na Paaya to Kiya Mila?” Following Naeem another good reader from the Bay Area, Shahzad Basir presented three political poems of Faiz Sahib which were well received.
During this event the most outstanding presentation of the works of Faiz had to be from special invited guest Shakila Khorasani. “Urdu poetry is my greatest love,” she said starting off in English. She said that she never had the good fortune of meeting Faiz Sahib personally (most of us did not have that wish fulfilled either). But in presenting “Chand Nikley” and “Dashtey Tanhain Mein”, the silence of the listening audience during and the applause afterwards was very well deserved. Shakila is a seasoned vocalist of Bangladesh-Pakistan extraction who is scheduled to entertain the community at a fundraiser in June for “HOPE,” a foundation actively helping the disadvantaged in Sindh, Pakistan.
Next, Dr. Zia Zafir presented “Aik Sukhan Aur”. Zia told the gathering how he was inspired by Faiz Sahib before becoming a Maulvi (and it appears that he still remains so). His “Ab Lahu Lahu Hain Sab Darya, Aur Qatal Huwa Sacchai Ka” was brilliant. Once again Dr. Zia and Dr. Nirmal Mann carried the day for original poetry.
Sacramento ’s farmaishy shaira, Mrs. Durriya Syed, next provided some entertaining moments with “Maa ki Dua” and ended with Faiz Sahib’s “Mulaqaat”. And continuing with strong presentations Khalid Siddiqui next entertained everyone in his tarannum style with “Nahin Nigah Mein Manzil to Justuju Hi Sahi” and the very difficult “Gulon Mein Rang Bharay”.
New to Sacramento, Aziza Rahman next presented this scribe’s favorite “Mujh se Pehli si Mohabbat Meray Mehboob na Maaang” made famous by singer Nur Jehan. She was followed by Asif Haq who presented two fine ghazals of Faiz Sahib. Dr. Irfan Haq next closed the first session with Faiz’s works including “Nisar Mein Teri Galyon Key” and “Meray Dil Meray Musaafir”.
To conclude a tribute to Faiz Ahmed Faiz in California’s Capital City honored not just the great poet himself but our tolerant past as well. Faiz Sahib is more relevant in Pakistan and the world today than at any other time. And the main reason for that this continued relevance can be attributed to the humanity which saturated his poetry. Within his verses, the humanist in Faiz overshadowed politics. Peace.