Faiz’s poetry and ideals hailed
By: Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: An extremely interesting dialogue (mukalima) presented by an Indian group Dastan Go covering the trajectory of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s life and work and well-researched theses on the poet were the highlight of the inaugural day of the Faiz Ahmed Faiz International Conference titled Dil-i-Pur Khoon Ka Hunar at the arts auditorium of the University of Karachi on Tuesday.
The three-day moot has been organised by the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, in collaboration with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and the Jinnah Medical and Dental College.
The first session of the day was presided over by Karachi University Vice Chancellor Dr Pirzada Qasim. The Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, I.A. Rehman, was the chief guest.
The session commenced with Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed’s speech in which he spelt out the objectives of the conference. The keynote address was delivered by Dr Anwaar Ahmed, head of the National Language Authority, on the topic of Faiz Aur Kalam-i-Faiz Ki Mehboobiat.
Dr Ahmed established his thesis by trying to draw the confluence of the creative (takhleeqi) and personal (zati) Â‘self’ in Faiz Ahmed Faiz. He said it was his riyazat (practice) that nurtured his creative self to a degree where his poetry touched the sublime. He said his work had all the elements that measured up to the standards of great poetry. He said that Faiz’s attitude (rawayya) was reflective of the qualities – aesthetics, freedom, truth and virtue – that remain intact despite the constant changes that occurred in the world. He said it was the experiences that he had in life (imprisonment, persecution, etc) which imparted a magical quality to his couplets. He told the audience that many critics tried to put Faiz down by finding faults in his technique but didn’t succeed. On the contrary, after Iqbal, Faiz was the second internationally recognised poet of the Urdu language.
Touching upon the self-effacing aspect of the poet’s personality, he said Faiz found it hard to talk about himself, which was why he seldom used the first person singular even during conversations. Dr Ahmed warned, albeit between the lines, that documents related to Faiz had made it easy and difficult at the same time to love him.
I.A. Rehman in his succinct speech cautioned those who were celebrating Faiz centenary by suggesting it was not enough to commemorate the poet’s work; it was also important to do something concrete about what he stood for and believed in.
He said our efforts should be aimed at changing the world. “We talked about dethroning (takht giraey jaenge) but who would do that and when?”
Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim said Faiz was the most popular poet of his time as well as of the time to come. He said one of his marked features was that he infused vitality into a whole movement (Progressive Writers Movement) and himself gained strength from it. He said his reaction to the disparities that existed in society was healthy (sahat mand radd-i-amal).
The second session of the day, presided over by Prof Sahar Ansari, altered the mood of the conference from the academic to the celebratory. It began with the kalam of Sindh’s sufi poet Shah Latif presented by Faqir Mohammad Khan and his companions. It was a remarkable 20-odd minute performance and the way the three musicians sang and tapped the wooden base of the string instrument they were playing with their palms to create the beat, and strum the strings with the fingers, was something special.
The highlight of the day was a dialogue performed by Mehmood Farooqi and Danish Husain from an Indian group called Dastan Go in which they brilliantly covered Faiz’s life and some important poems by stringing them together in the form of recitation, narration and interviews. They started off with reading out the famous nazm Aaj Ke Naam and followed it up with the poet’s early days through a series of narrations tinged with humour; carried on to his early love poetry and then transition from the romantic phase to revolutionary thinking; moving on to the imprisonment in the Rawalpindi conspiracy case; and then exile. It was an intelligent act which kept the audience glued to their seats and even had someone like Prof Sahar Ansari (in his presidential address) say that it was indicative of how many possibilities there were in Faiz’s poetry. Mehmood Farooqi and Danish Husain’s unspoiled diction and understanding of the subject was appreciated by the audience.
The third session in which scholarly papers were read was presided over by Dr Fahmida Husain. Dr Tahir Taunsvi’s topic was Urdu Shaeri Ka Sadr Darwaza: Faiz. His paper was a combination of homage in verse and scholarly prose.
Dr Ali Ahmed Fatmi of Allahabad University read out his thesis on Faiz and Iqbal. He said both poets were born in the same city (though Faiz in a village), Faiz’s father was Iqbal’s friend and Faiz was influenced by Iqbal from an early age. He said Iqbal turned philosophy into poetry while Faiz made poetry into philosophy. He said the two great versifiers had read English romantic poets and were also inspired by Ghalib (hasrat-i-tameer, fikr-i-admiat). The difference was that Iqbal wanted to awaken the khudi (ego, self-esteem) of the individual thereby making it a shared effort through religion, whereas Faiz wished for a collective awareness or consciousness (ijtimaee baidari) and go beyond religion to achieve an egalitarian, classless goal.
Iqbal’s style was grandiloquent; Faiz’s gentle and soft. If Iqbal said Ye Ghazi Ye Tere Pur Asrar Bandey, Faiz wrote Ye Galion Ke Awara o Be Kaar Kuttey, a marked departure in style and content. Quoting a critic he said to understand Iqbal, he had to be seen against the backdrop of Hali and Ghalib; and to comprehend Faiz, he had to be seen against the backdrop of Ghalib and Iqbal.
Dr Humaira Ashfaq expressed her views on Faiz as a critic of fiction.
The last paper of the day was read out by Dr Ziaul Hasan.