Remembering Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born in Sialkot, on Feb 13, 1911. He received his early education under the tutelage of the renowned scholar Sayyid Mir Hasan, known as Shamsul Ulema at the Scotch Mission High School in 1921. Faiz was to become one of his favorite students just as Iqbal once was. Faiz showed a natural affinity for languages and excelled in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English. He graduated from the Scotch Mission in 1927 with honors. After graduating with the highest honours from Murray College, Sialkot, Faiz left for Lahore in the autumn of 1929. Faiz became a student at Government College, Lahore. It was the best college in the region at that time, not only for its academic excellence, but also for its democratic environment which encouraged frequent interaction between students and teachers both on and off campus. Ahmad Shah Bukhari ‘Patras’, a towering literary figure, who later became Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations, taught English language and literature at the college. Bukhari was to become one of Faiz’s closest friends and an early mentor. Bukhari, and later, Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, represented the best of the modern intelligentsia of the subcontinent. Tabassum was Faiz’s earliest mentor in poetry to whom he regularly turned for opinion and criticism of his poetry even after Faiz had become a recognized poet himself.

Faiz was not very satisfied with this early poetry and included only a limited portion of it in his first collection. Faiz accepted his first job offer to work as a lecturer of English at the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College, Amritsar in 1935. He taught at the MAO College from 1935 to 1940, and in those years, according to his biographer, translator and friend, Dr Ludmilla Vassilyeva, “A new Faiz was born in this city who perceived the world entirely differently from before.”

He was one of the pioneers behind the idea of the All India Progressive Writers’ Association, which later developed into a literary movement. That movement gave birth, in one form or another, to some of the best literary and poetic talent of the 20th century Urdu language, and included adherents like Krishen Chander, Ismat Chughtai, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Mirza Adeeb, Sibte Hassan, and many others.

Faiz was married to Alys at the house of M.D. Taseer in Srinagar in October 1941. Their nikah was performed by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the leader of the National Conference.It was a simple wedding ceremony, ending with an informal house party attended by the progressive poets, Josh and Majaaz among them, in addition to the family.

Alys was in Kashmir at the time of Partition along with her young daughters. They were lucky to avoid the bloodshed, and managed to reach home safely. Faiz at this time was the Editor of the daily The Pakistan Time.; His most famous poem from that era influenced a whole generation and is always quoted whenever Partition is discussed. ‘’Subh-i-Aazad’’ was Faiz’ first poem written after the creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947.

Rawalpindi Conspiracy case----Faiz was arrested from his house in Lahore alongwith many of his other colleagues, in a case which came to be known as Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. Faiz was treated as the ‘chief conspirator’, representing communists. For Faiz, this resulted in an imprisonment lasting four years, a time that was very painful for him as well as for his family. However, his poetry flourished and two collections were published during the four years of prison. Dast-i-Saba' (The Breeze’s Hand) and Zindaan Nama (Prison Notebook) contain some of his best poetry. By the time Faiz was freed in 1955, he had become famous.

Faiz received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962 in Moscow.  The prize ceremony was held in the grand Kremlin hall in Moscow. Faiz’s acceptance speech at the ceremony, which appears as a brief preface to his collection Dast-i-tah-i-Sang (Hand under the rock) is a great piece of humanist literature.

The break-up of Pakistan in 1971 in the form of Bangladesh prompted Faiz to write one of his best poems ‘’Dhaka se Wapsi Par’’ which he wrote in 1974 after visiting Bangladesh as part of a delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Bhutto.At this juncture in it’s history when Pakistan is fast descending into chaos, its ugliness and its vulnerability is best described by another of his famous poems ‘’Subh e Azaadi’’. This tattered raiment of darkness, this sputtering of dawn, this is not the dawn that we had hoped for.

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