Faiz Mela in London
By Dr Syed Ehtisham
It was a surprisingly large gathering, about 1200 persons, and started on time, well nearly on time - 2.30 pm instead of 2 pm.
The proceedings started with a Faiz ghazal and a skit based on Faiz Sahib’s famous ‘Hum bhi dekhein gae. Speeches, mercifully short, followed.
I.A. Rahman, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, spoke about Faiz Sahib’s defiance of tyranny, oppression of faith, and his elevation of peasants to near divine status.
Abid Hasan Minto, one of the pioneers of the student movement in Pakistan, a barrister, HR and political activist marveled at the affection Faiz commanded among the people of the Third World and respected by the West as well.
He exhorted the audience to emulate Faiz’s example and work against imperialism and globalization at the grassroots level. Imperialism was on a fast downhill track and bailouts of banks and corporations had not worked.
This was followed by a remarkably realistic skit about the life of Faiz Sahib behind bars. A young lady enacted the part of his wife Ellis, with two security guards in uniform wielding sticks and a young man acting the part of Faiz, exhibiting anguish, grief and hope.
At the end of the skit, daughters of Faiz Sahib presented a bouquet of flowers to the team.
Moneeza and Salima Hashmi spoke about their life with their father, how they missed him during his incarcerations and how they were inspired by his example.
Zia Mohiuddin stole the show. He recited ‘Hum jo tareek rahoan mein marae gyae’ and recounted Faiz Sahib’s life in jail in his inimitable style.
One story he told was about a ‘religious minded’ minister who on seeing a young girl dressed in a frock remarked that moral decay among Muslim girls has reached a level that they are unabashedly exhibiting their (andaam e nihani) private parts in public. The gentleman sitting next to him asked what he was complaining about. “Her frock goes well below her knees.” The minister snapped back that the parts extended right up to the ankles! Zia was the only one to get a standing ovation.
Iftikhar Arif, Chairman of the Academy of Letters, had the difficult task of following the superb performance of Zia. He spoke about the life of Faiz in exile. Faiz regarded art as part of life and struggle. Faiz wrote about the struggles of Palestinians, on China, Russia, Pakistan.
The presentations were followed by several entrancing dances by Tehreema Mitha.
After the dinner break, several speakers including Tariq Ali spoke about the life, times and ideas of Faiz. The song and dance sessions following the speeches were exhilarating.