Why Faiz Did Not Write in Punjabi?
By A.H. Cemendtaur
Scholarly papers were read and Faiz's poetry was recited in a Faiz centennial program arranged by the Pakistani American Democratic Forum (PADF ) on October 15, in Newark. Moderated by Ashraf Chaudhry the program was presided over by Dr. Waheed Siddiqee.
In his opening remarks Ashraf Chaudhry said the October 15 program was the third in the series of Faiz centennial programs that the PADF had arranged -- the first program was held in Chicago and the second one was at Harvard.
Whereas the theme of the commemorative program was 'Faiz, The Third World Revolution and Palestine' most presenters read papers paying their general homage to Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
How did Faiz, a humanist, feel about his national identity? Ijaz Syed read an excerpt from "SheeshoN ka Maseeha", a book by Toronto-based writer Ashfaque Hussain; in that passage, written by Faiz, Faiz explained how he saw Pakistan -- that a country is defined by whatever culture and material things it encompasses (instead of being defined by some presumed overarching ideology).
Did Faiz do a disservice to his mother tongue by not writing in Punjabi? Prominent Punjabi writer Colonel (retired) Nader Ali alluded to this question in a paper --written in Urdu -- that he read at the centennial program. Nader Ali said Punjabi writers feel Urdu is depriving Punjabi literature of valuable talent -- many writers from Punjab prefer writing in Urdu. Nader Ali's thesis was worth a thorough discussion and even audience participation.
How do languages deprive each other of talent? Or more precisely, what makes a poet or writer write in a certain language? And if Urdu should be considered robbing Punjabi literature of valuable talent, is English depriving other languages of their valuable talent? Who is holding a gun to the heads of writers (who don't write in their native language) and making them write in another language? Should the language loyalty be the first consideration of a writer when that artist feels churning creativity in her soul and puts her pen on the paper? But such a discussion did not take place and the program moved on.
Dr Abdul Jabbar who teaches at the City College of San Francisco read a paper on two Faiz poems 'Blackout' and 'Sinkiang', describing to the audience the circumstances in which that poetry was written.
Shahzad Basir read Faiz's 'Irani talaba kay nam' , 'Hum DekhaiN gaay', and other poems.
Raja Asad Ali Khan read a paper in which he compared Faiz's work with Maulana Zafar Ali Khan's poetry.
Dr. Agha Saeed is an amazing man. He has worked tirelessly for his community, even at the expense of his own health. Dr. Agha Saeed is the main force behind the PADF. 'Faiz, a poet of Mansour and Qais', an in-depth analysis written by Dr. Agha Saeed was read by Dr. Abdul Jabbar.
Talat Qadeer Khan sang 'Rat yooN dil maiN teeri khoi hoi yad aaee', 'Hum keh tehray ajnabee', 'Mujh saay pehli see mohabbat', and 'Yeh hath salamat haiN jub tak.'
Dr. Nazeer Ahmed read his paper written in English on the theme of the evening and said Faiz's humanity came from the tradition of Islam.
Ashraf Chaudhry read his paper written in the context of the ongoing 'Occupy Wall Street' movement.
Bay Area Urdu poet Tashie Zaheer read his poetic homage to Faiz. Syed Irfan Ahmed read two poems by Faiz.
Ashraf Chaudhry in his final remarks said he was seven years old when Saadat Hasan Manto was dragged in the court for writing 'Thanda Gosht.' Besides others, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Shorish Kashmiri, and Hameed Nizami were on the side of the government in declaring Manto a pervert who was writing vulgar stories. Colonel Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Dr. Taseer were defending Manto. And early this year we saw the murder of Governor Salman Taseer. Some are calling Taseer's murderer a 'ghazi.' Chaudhry asked the audience to read Faiz's poem 'Bol keh lub azad haiN tere' and understand the poet's message.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Waheed Siddiqee said Faiz is popular among singers because his poems have inherent music in them.