Word Is The World: Tumhaari Amrita Completes Twenty Years On Stage

February 27, 2012 at 9:15 AMFeb (Letter, Literature, Media, Theater)

It was two decades ago that the play Tumhaari Amrita was first staged. It was in Prithvi Theaters of Mumbai, the then Bombay. A recent report in The Hindu reveals that Feroze Abbas Khan, the director of the play, while preparing the play for its first show, thought that the play wouldn’t go beyond four shows. But after two decades the play still continues to pull the crowd and today the play is being staged in Mumbai after yesterday’s show in New Delhi, to mark the completion of twenty years.

Tumhaari Amrita is a play telling the story of two individuals Amrita Nigam and Zulfikar Haider through the letters exchanged between them for 35 long years. Amrita and Zulfi sit on the stage with a pile of letters and read out the letters. This play with no stage movement unfolds before us and enacts itself in the realm of our minds through words. Experimental in its own way the play actually challenges the traditional norms of staging a play and succeeds in giving a fresh and euphoric experience.

Amrita and Zulfi are not just different individuals belonging to two different religion but are also different in terms of their outlook, approach, intensity, temper and also taste. But these differences stop them neither from loving each other nor from writing letters to each other. They pamper each other, they play pranks with each other, they advise each other, they fight with each other, they criticize each other they encourage each other. In one sentence, they live with each other through the ups and downs of life, through letters. Though they do not come together they do not stay apart too for they cannot stay apart.

Two worlds meet through words. At one point of the play Zulfi says that writing letters to Amrita has become an essential part of his life. Amrita once after meeting Zulfi writes to him saying she loves him more in letters than in real life. It is not just two worlds meeting through words but two worlds coming to life, for themselves and for each other, through words. In the play where the ‘word’ is the king, the worlds of Amrita and Zulfi get unfolded before the audience through words and thus the word becomes the world, in the moving tale of Tumhaari Amrita.

Through these words what unfolds is not just the tale of Amrita and Zulfi but also the tale of the times in which the play is set. The play begins in 1940 and goes to the time of Emergency in India. The pains of partition, the insecure position of Muslims in the post independence India, the communal riots in Meerut, the turbulence of the 70s and the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi cuts through the lives of Amrita and Zulfi and thus becomes a part of the narrative of the play, which while encapsulating the lives of Amrita and Zulfi in words also encapsulates the tale of the times.

Feroze Abbas Khan, in the recent interview to The Hindu, said that a friend from Gujarat gave him a copy of A.R. Gurney’s play Love Letters which he thought was not a play for the Indian audience, even though he liked the play. Being at the peak of his theater career then he thought of staging the play for the Prithvi festival and contacted Javed Siddiqui to write the very same play with Indian context. Javed Siddiqui, who says that he liked the form of A.R. Gurney’s play but not the content, went on to write a play with the same form in mind but a play of his own. Thus flowered Tumhaari Amrita which though started off to become an adaptation of A.R. Gurney’s play went on to become an independent play which Javed Siddiqui prefers to call a play by him ‘inspired’ from A.R. Gurney’s play.

The play has not been published yet and all the rights of staging it is with the Feroze Abbas Khan team. But interestingly the play has not just been translated into Kannada but also published. As the Kannada translator Jayanth Kaikini mentions may be this is a unique incident in the history of literature and publication where the translation is published first and not the original. It was translated by Jayanth Kaikini, in the year 2002, for the Saket team of Arundathi Nag who wanted to stage the play as a precursor to her major project- Ranga Shankara. The play was directed by M.S. Sathyu, who incidentally was the person who, in 1992, had escorted Feorze Abbas Khan to Javed Siddiqui. The play won the hearts of the people of Karnataka and so did the play, in written format, when Manohar Grantha Maala in the year 2003 published the play. The beautiful translation of Tumhaari Amrita as Iti Ninna Amrita, for many a Kannadigas, has made the play a play of Kannada itself. So, when Tumhaari Amrita is celebrating twenty years Iti Ninna Amrita is also celebrating its decennial.

Shabana Azmi, who plays the role of Amrita in Tumhaari Amrita once said that the original pile of letter to be read out on stage had increased from 100, during its first show, to 300 now for the change in eye power over the time. This also speaks of the amount of river water that has flowed into the sea from the time of the first show of the play. She says that often she jokes with Farooque Sheikh, who plays Zulfi in the play, that the play will follow them even after their death and that the two will have to perform the play in the other world too.

The play follows the audience throughout their life by moving them deeply and by pulling the chords of their hearts. It lives with them. It can also be read like a novel or a novella being alone in silence, without being staged. I know of many, including myself, who with friends read out the entire play. They live out the play, while reading it either in a group or in seclusion.

Amrita at the moment of death pleads Zulfi to keep writing to her even after her death. She commits suicide and asks Zulfi to keep writing to her! She lives her death. This passion, this intensity, this eccentricity captivates! It could even scare death. So, the death is also lived. The play also continues to live- on stage, through words- even after two decades when it was assumed that it wouldn’t go beyond four shows.

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In This Battle Of Right Against Might…

February 19, 2012 at 9:15 AMFeb (Activism, Literature, Media, Musings, Poetry)

An important issue went unnoticed by the larger mass and mass media of Karnataka while everyone’s eyes were set on Porngate and the triple ex-ministers. Medha Patkar, an icon of democratic struggle and third power in India, declined the Basawa Puraskar 2010 conferred on her by the Government of Karnataka.

Medha Patkar who is the founder of Narmada Bachao Andolan, founded 27 years ago, is not an unknown figure in Karnataka. She has been an active participant and voice in various struggles and movements in Karnataka including the recent resistance and opposition against the POSCO and also the fight against the Mangalore Special Economic Zone.

While declining the award she said, “”It would have been an honour to receive Basava award in the name of revolutionary saint poet, philosopher Shri Basaveshwara of 12th century who promoted social change, reform and communal harmony. However, collective opinion of movements I am associated with suggests thatKarnataka Government has not been able to deal with the mining scam and other scandals” and added, “The Lokayukta controversy is not yet over and there are disagreements with people’s movements on certain policies related to farmers, workers, unorganised sector workers, slum dwellers and government’s attempt at privatization and corporatization of scarce natural resources – land, water, forests and minerals. I, therefore, would like to state with humility my inability to accept the award which you may be free to give to any other deserving activist.”

Department of Kannada and Culture, Government had announced presenting the Basava Puraskar 2010 to Medha Patkar by a government notification dated December 3, 2011. The award is inclusive of a citation and Rs. 10 Lakh. The award is given for those who contribute towards social change and promote the principles which Saint Basaveshwara championed.

The declining of the Basawa Award for the above mentioned reasons came at the time when the state and also the nation was raising ethical concerns regarding the Porngate, which happened at the same time. Though the latter one created more ripples than the earlier incident the issues raised by the earlier is of greater weight than the latter one. Undoubtedly Porngate is a shame. A mistake. A blasphemy. But it is quite unhealthy that while the issues mentioned by Medha Patkar like scams, illegal mining, privatization, corporatization, policies etc becomes, for the mass and the mass media, more of a legal and policy matter and not an ethical matter while the issue of Porngate becomes a major ethical and moral issue.

In such a juncture Medha with her declining of the award and by pointing at the reasons for the decline, makes the issues of scams, illegal mining, ploicies, privatization, corporatization an ethical issue. For the conscience keeper of the nation that Medha Patkar is, she has rightly declined the award and also raised important issues of which the state has to be ashamed.

Returning of the Knighthood by Tagore in 1919 as a protest against the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre, the returning of the Padmabhushan award by Shivaram Karanth in protest of the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in its heart not just mark a protest but also turn events of history into ethical issues and also perform a kind of politics of identification by partying themselves with some and against some. Such acts performed by the greats have a Gandhian quality to them for they make the oppressive state to look within and rethink about the issues for which its honour and awards have been refused and returned. Medha in a similar fashion while protesting against the policies of the Government has also pushed the government to rethink about its policies. In that way, the declining of the award is not just a dissent but also a political act and also participatory act in democracy for it is also an attempt in negotiation with the government on behalf of the people for the people.

While this article is being written Medha Patkar said, “Awards bring you a new identity and erases your earlier identity which is your identity interlinked with the movement. This erasure of one identity and bringing in of another identity can cause damages to the movement. Hence it is important to decline such awards.”

In the short story ‘Tale of Three Stairs’ by Hristo Smirnenski a man of the people when goes to represent his people to the king he is stopped at three steps by a devil each and each devil asks him for a gift to move ahead. The first devil asks for his ears the second for his eyes and the third devil asks for his heart and memory. So in the end when he meets the King he speaks the language of the King as he cannot hear the cry of his people, cannot see the naked bleeding bodies of his people and also has no memory about their suffering. Thus the man of the people becomes the man of the state.

The Maulvi in Girish Karnad’s play Tughlaq is a critique of the King. On realizing that the Maulvi is a threat the King honours the Maulvi which is plotting to erase the trust of people on him.

While a lot can be spoken about why Medha doesn’t take part in active politics and what is the big deal in accepting an award conferred by the Government one should look at her act of politics in the light of the story by Hristo Smirnenski and the play by Girish Karnad. Remember the line from Basavanna in whose memory and name the award is being given, “Hogali Hogali Honna Shoolakke Erisidarayya,” (Praises held my hand and took to the golden gallows) which calls for refusing of “hogalike” i.e. praises in words or in material or in kind in any form for it can lead to “honna shoola.”

At the same time what needs to be understood is that the act of Medha Patkar in refusing the award is not an anti-state act, as many who romanticize the idea of nation state and who are drugged by the idea of development, would want to. She puts the state and the government to shame but doesn’t insult them. She in her act of dissent is participating in democracy by pressurizing the government to relook at their policies.

While she is not very hopeful about the state giving a thought to its policies she did say, while contacted, that the people in the movement and those who are sympathizers of the movement will gain some moral and ethical strength from this. About the policies of the state being changed she said, “I am not so powerful nor is the state so sensible and caring.”

No foreign fund or any foreign cash award has been received by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, said Medha and in the same breath while accepting that movements need money she said, “We cannot have a movement with answering people with lots of ifs and buts regarding its funding and its cash awards.” In saying so she shows the ethical strengths of the true democratic fights which are lacking in economical strength.

There may be many doubting if the act of dissent, the act of returning the award is actually a constructive act a political act and if the state will be affected in any way in this battle of the right against the might. When such doubts pop up one needs to revisit the lines of Basavanna:

Kari ghana ankusha kiridennabahude? Baaradayya
Giri ghana, vajra kiridennabahude? Baaradayya
Tamandha ghana jyoti kiridennabahude? Baaradayya

To mean

Can the huge elephant underestimate the mammoth’s stick? It shouldn’t.
Can the huge mountains underestimate the tiny diamond? It shouldn’t.
Can the vastly spread darkness underestimate the little lamp? It shouldn’t.

(Written for the Sunday Magazine of the Kannada daily Udayavani.
Published on 19 Feb 2012)

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Being A Guest At Nero’s Party

February 13, 2012 at 9:15 PMFeb (Cinema, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

It was almost dark with a small amount of light peeping in from the other side of the bar while we were seated in a corner separated from the other side by a wall with a window. While my two friends smoked a cigarette to pause their intake of Brandy somehow the topic of discussion went to the documentary Nero’s Guests by Deepa Bhatia. One of the two had brought in the topic and the other one had not seen the documentary. So, I took the initiative to explain the story of Nero and his guests, which Sainath does in the film. I began to quote P. Sainath from the film:

Roman historian Tacitus writes about “Nero and the burning of Rome”. Tacitus, though he hated Nero was honest enough to say that Nero in-fact had not set Rome on fire, but Nero was scared as hell, as people believed he did (set Rome on fire). So, Nero had to do something to distract the population of Rome. He decided to hold the biggest party ever held in the history of the Roman Empire. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle. They had a problem with this party because his garden was a concave kind of place surrounded by higher spots and it was a bit dark. The problem was how to provide nightly illumination for the party to which anyone who was anyone in Rome was an invitee. The intelligentsia, the gossip columnists, certainly the political correspondents, anybody who mattered in Rome was at that party. And they had the problem of nightly illumination. How did they solve the problem of nightly illumination? They solved the problem, writes Tacitus, by bringing the wretched criminals and prisoners and burning them at stake around the garden.

It might sound quite filmy but trust me, when I gave a pause for my friend to digest the fact, at this point of the re-narration of the story that Sainath tells, the light above our table lit up! It lit up because there were a few others came to the area of the bar where we were seated and the area was not occupied only by us now. The lamp lit. There was an artificial illumination right above our head. I remembered what Shiv Visvanathan once told us, during a guest lecture, in our class, “The moment you switch on the fan and light you have killed ten adivasis.

Not long before coming to the topic of the documentary Nero’s Guests we were discussing the issue of Uttar Kannada district in the state of Karnataka, which is said to be having the highest number of tribal population in Karnataka and which is the district which has the highest number of developmental projects important and major ones being the dams constructed to generate electricity!

The memory of Shiv’s class, our discussion about Uttar Kannada, my visits to Tadadi (in Uttar Kannada district) where the government wanted to set up a thermal power plant all crossed my mind at once. My shadow was under my feat while I looked up at the hanging light over the table. The pause had to end. The story had to be completed. I continued, after a sigh. I continued to tell my friend what Sainath says after telling the story of Nero and the party. “Sainath says, we know that Nero was mad. The issue is not Nero. The issue is Nero’s guests. Who were the guests at that party? What sort of sensibility did it require to pop another fig into your mouth as one more human being went up in flames nearby to serve as ‘a nightly illumination?’”

We sat silently for a while after I narrated the story of Nero, as narrated by Sainath. When I went back to my glass of a cool (thanda) drink I remembered Plachimada village in the Palakkad district of Kerala.

There are many Neros. There are many garden parties. There are many going up in flames to create an artificial illumination in the garden party. There are many and many and many Nero’s guests. I too happen to be one. What sensibility did it require to let flow the cool (thanda) drink down the throat while sitting under the hanging light, soon after narrating the story of the inhumane guests of Nero?

Guilty. Ashamed.

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Who Is ‘Faraaz’? What Is ‘Faraaz’?

February 4, 2012 at 9:15 AMFeb (Activism, Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

It was late in the evening. The sun had set and darkness was settling on this part of the earth. I was on my way to meet some friends. I was walking and as I was crossing a small shop on the way I heard somebody call me by my pseudonym. I stopped wondering who would call me by my pseudonym in the middle of nowhere. I turned back and couldn’t see anyone. I continued to walk. Again I heard my name being called. I stopped and turned back to see someone coming to me.

“Hi do you remember me,” asked the person and revealed his name. I remembered him. His face and his name too. He used to be playing basket ball in the court where my friend and I used to meet always, nearly a decade ago. We had interacted very less those days and did not know much about each other than each other’s existence. But thanks to facebook we still share some space together and in a way in touch with each other though no interaction takes place. After updating each other about what and where about our lives I told him I was going to meet my friends and hence had to leave immediately. He asked me if he could drop me. I said, “Yes” and started walking with him towards the shop where he was smoking his cigarette and where he had parked his bike. He started the bike and when I was about to get on to his bike he said, “I have one thing to ask.” Wondering what was it I said, “Feel free.” Then he shot the question at me, “Who is Faraaz?”

I laughed.

Couple of times on Facebook I was asked, by a couple of friends, “What is Faraaz?” and I did not know whether they were asking for the meaning of the word Faraaz or asking what that THING called Faraaz was!

For those who are on my friend’s list on Facebook, ‘Faraaz’ is a name they cross paths with almost on a daily basis for almost every day I write a couplet of the Urdu poet  Ahmed ‘Faraaz’ on my wall.

Urdu Ghazals, though not always and in every Ghazal, in their last couplet reveal the name of the poet and this last couplet revealing the name of the poet is called as ‘Maqtaa’. So usually when I quote a couplet of Ahmed Faraaz it is a Maqtaa. To quote an example:

Uss Shaks Sey Faqat Itanaa Sa Taaluq Hai ‘Faraaz’,
Who Pareshaan Ho Toh Humein Neend Nahi Aati.

Or

Shayad Tu Kabhi Pyaasa Laut Aaye Meri Taraf ‘Faraaz’,
Aankho Mein Liye Phirtaa Hoon Dariya Teri Khaatir

The two couplets quoted above are just enough to demonstrate not just what a Maqtaa means but also to reveal the magical quality of Faraaz’s poetry which can cause an addiction. The repetition of ‘Faraaz’ in every couplet that I quote/post everyday kind of made the friends on Facebook get curious as to who Faraaz is or what Faraaz is.

Who is Faraaz? An Urdu poet from Pakistan. Born in the year 1931 the poet was named Syed Ahmad Shah who later took the takhallus (pseudonym) of Faraaz.  Ahmed Faraaz may not be THE greatest of Urdu poets, though he is one of the greatest. The greatest of Urdu poetry has to be Ghalib, Faiz and Iqbal. But to me Ahmed Faraaz pulls that chord in the heart which even the greatest cannot. And that is what makes Faraaz so special to me and bring him so close to my heart.

But, what is Faraaz? He is pure magic to me. He is an addiction. He is the voice of those silent moments of many of us which we haven’t heard ourselves. Like Ritwik Ghatak once told in an interview that Tagore has voiced all that he wanted to voice. Similarly, at many a times, I too have felt that Faraaz has enveloped in words all those emotional details which I would have loved to enveloped in words. His words speak for my silence and in his words I live, many a moments of silence. He has a magical way of saying what he has to and he speaks for the most delicate of the emotions and can speak of most complicated things in a very simple manner without simplifying it and also capturing the complexities of it. An example would be the second couplet from his Ghazal, “Zindagi Yun Thi Kay Jeeney Ka Bahaana Tu Tha,” where the second couplet reads:

Humne Jis Jis Ko Bhi Chaaha Tere Hijraan Mein Woh Log,
Aatey Jaatey Huye Mausam Tey Zamaana Tu Tha.

Here Faraaz doesn’t say that in the absence of the beloved whom he is speaking to, he did not get emotionally involved with others. But he says that those others were like “aatey jaatey huye mausam” and the person he is referring to is the “zamaana”, the eternal.

Another example can be taken from his Ghazal, “Zakhm Ko Phool Toh Sar-Sar Ko Sabaa Kehatey Hai,” where in the fifth couplet Ahmed Faraaz says,

Jab Talak Door Hai Tu Teri Parastish Karein,
Hum Jisey Choo Na Sakein Usey Khuda Kehatey Hai.

There is no complaining that Faraaz does here about the distance between the two. But he turns the distance into a divine element by saying that even the Almighty, who is worshipped, is also distant always. The uncomplaining element of Faraaz is seen also in one of his famous Ghazal where he consoles himself about the separation trough a beautiful image of the dry flower kept in between the pages of the book. He says,

Ab Kay Hum Bichadey Hai Toh Shayad Khwaabo Mein Miley,
Jaisey Murjhaye Huye Phool Khitaabon Mein Miley.

Or may be in the ‘Matlaa’ (the first couplet of a ghazal) of the ghazal “Sangdil Hai Woh,” where the Matlaa reads:

Sangdil Hai Woh Toh Kyun Iska Gilaa Mainey Kiya,
Jab Ki Khud Pathar Ko But But Ko Khuda Mainey Kiya.

Neither does Faraaz complain nor does he carry any kind of hatred in his heart, even for his enemies. A non violent and a humane look at the so called enemies too.

Main Kya Karoon Merey Kaatil Na Chaahney Per Bhi,
Terey Liye Mere Dil Sey Duaa Nikalti Hai.

Or

Umr Bhar Kaun Nibhaata Hai Ta’alluk Itnaa,
Aye Meri Jaan Kay Dushman Tujhey Allah Rakhey.

Or

Hum Ki Dushman Ka Bhi Ehsaas Nahi Bhooltey Hai,
Too Adaawat Mein Humein Aur Bhi Pyaara Hua Tha.

These are some examples to the way Faraaz looks at those who are called his enemies. These examples of non-hatred show how the poetry of Faraaz has its heart in the right place.

The couplet “Hum Ki Dushman..” is from the Ghazal “Umr Guzari Hai Kahaan Yoonhi Guzaara Hua Tha..” and in another couplet of the same Ghazal, Ahmed Faraaz writes:

Pehnaey Phirti Hai Jisey Naaz Sey Lailaa-E-Bahaar,
Pairahan Woh Mere Jaanaan Ka Utaaraa Hua Tha.

Faraaz in his lines on love becomes the best of the best in voicing love in the most romantic and realistic ways. The above quoted couplet is a great example and so would be his Gazal:

Yeh Aalam Shauk Ka Dekha Na Jaaye,
Woh But Hai Ya Khuda Dekha Na Jaaye.

Yeh Kinn Nazro Sey Aaj Tuney Dekha,
Ki Tera Dekhanaa Dekha Na Jaaye.

Hamesha Kay Liye Mujhsey Bichad Jaa,
Yeh Manzar Baarhaa Dekha Na Jaaye.

Yeh Mere Saath Kaisi Roshani Hai,
Ki Mujh Sey Raastaa Dekhaa Na Jaaye.

Or to quote a few couplets from his yet another popular Ghazal ‘Suna Hai Log Ussey Aankh Bhar Kay Dekhtey Hai..”:

Suna Hai Rabt Hai Usko Kharaab Haalo Sey,
So Apney Aap Ko Barbaad Karke Dekhtey Hai.

Suna Hai Usko Bhi Hai Sher-O-Shayari Sey Shagaf,
So Hum Bhi Muazze Apney Hunar Kay Dekhtey Hai.

Suna Hai Boley Toh Baaton Sey Phool Jhadtey Hai,
Yeh Baat Hai Toh Baat Karke Dekhtey Hai.

Ifthikaar Ali who was a year junior to Ahmed Faraaz in Islamia College, Peshawar in the year 1954 recollects that, “He was remarkably handsome, full of life but very much into poetry. He would gather students around him and read out his mostly romantic poems. There was no open mixing of male and female students in those days. But somehow his poems managed to reach girl students who felt greatly attracted to him. He would receive dozens of hand written letters from them, not only those at the university but from a women’s college in the city as well. The well-to-do ones would have their servants deliver their letters while others would drop them in front of Faraz at bus stops.” With the examples of the above quoted lines it wouldn’t surprise us to learn the facts from Faraaz’s college life and the magic he created among the youths which his junior recollects.

Even when it came to voicing the pains of separation in love and the desperation in love Faraaz spoke the silence of the suffering souls. He wrote:

Silsiley Tod Gaya Woh Sabhi Jaatey Jaatey,
Warna Itana Toh Maraasim Tha Ki Aatey Jaatey

And

Itaney Bhi Toh Woh Khafaa Nahi Tey,
Jaisey Kabhi Who Aashnaa Nahi Tey.

And his most famous Gazal:

Ranjish Hee Sahi Dil Hee Dukhaney Kay Liye Aa,
Aa Phir Sey Mujhey Chod Kay Jaaney Kay Liye Aa.

My friend Srajana who has been singing Ranjish Hee Sahi since her childhood once asked me, like many friends, who Faraaz was, after listening to my repeated quoting of Faraaz couplets. I told her that he is the one who wrote Ranjish Hee Sahi and her eyes twinkled. This is not the ignorance of my friend or others who keep singing Ranjish Hee Sahi but the magic of the Ghazal which people have come to believe as theirs and have internalized it so much that it has become their poem and has not remained as the poem of Ahmed Faraaz. Recently in an article Rakshanada Jalil recollected an incident where Ahmed Faraaz missed his flight from Delhi to Pakistan when he was recognized at the airport checking as Ahmed Faraaz. The person at the counter asked Faraaz, “Are you the same Faraaz of the Rajish Hee Sahi fame” and Faraaz nodded his head to say yes and as a result his flight got delayed.

Faraaz, like his contemporary Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was extremely popular even in India and not just in Pakistan. He is known to be successor of the tradition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz after the death of Faiz in the year 1984. In one if his Ghazal Ahmed Faraaz writes,

Hum Apney Aap Mein Gum Tey Humein Khabar Kya Thi,
Ki Maawraa-E-Gam-E-Jaan Bhi Ek Duniya Thi.

This almost echoes the mood of the most famous poem of Faiz, “Mujhse Pehali Si Muhobbat Mere Mehboob Na Maang”.

There is a poem remembering his contemporary Faiz Ahmed Faiz where he calls Faiz, “Maathi Kay Laal” where the beautiful usage of the word “Laal” means not just a dear one in an affectionate manner but also to mean the colour red usually associated with revolution and rebelliousness. The colour of red with which Faraaz sees Faiz is also a colour which can explain Faraaz too for red stands not just for love but also for revolt and Faraaz like Faiz, through poetry, did not just explore the emotion of love but also stood against injustice and inhumanity.

Ahmed Faraaz, like Faiz, went on a self imposed exile during the regime of Zia Ul Haq after being arrested for reciting the poem ‘Peshwar Qatilo Tum Sipaahi Nahi’ also published under the title ‘Qaatilo’, criticizing the Pakistani military in a mushaira. During exile he wrote his most rebellious and most famous poetry of resistance and protest, ‘Mohasra.

Ahmed Faraaz is said to have not been affected by the partition like Faiz and many other writers of Urdu did. So, it is argued by some that initially his poetry was more about love, separation etc which looked inside more than outside. But as Faiz writes about Faraaz after speaking of Faraaz’s initial days with the form of Gazal and the baggage that the form of Gazal comes with, “However Faraaz was too sensitive a poet to be oblivious to the demands of the more urgent social realities around him, the heart-break and suffering, the threats and blandishments, the anger and frustration, the hopes and despairs, that a tyrannical social order inflicts on its victims. For a perceptive mind these exterior factors enter into and colour even the most intimate subjective experience. And this is the stuff that Faraaz’s later poetry is made of…”

While it is interesting to note that most of the protest poems or poems of resistance by Faraaz are in free verse and a non-Gazal form like Khoon Farosh, Kaali Deewaar etc what one cannot deny is the fact that Faraaz was not a political poet like Faiz or the internationally renowned poet and friend of Faiz, Pablo Neruda. But the student movement, labor agitation, the formation of the Pakistan People’s Party, the first free elections of 1970 and the political opposition to American-backed military dictatorships, all had a profound influence on his consciousness. Yet he remained more a poet of love and heart even when a new poet was unfolding inside him as the world was changing and so was Pakistan in the 60s.

So now wonder Faraaz wrote lines like:

Meri Qalam Toh Amanaat Hai Merey Logon Ki
Meri Qalam Toh Adaalat Merey Zameer Ki Hai
Isliye Jo Likha Tapaak-E-Jaan Sey Likha
Jabhi Toh Looch Kaamaan Ka Zabaan Teer Ki Hai

In his poem Mohasra and he started off his poem Peshawar Qaatilo or Qaatilo with the lines:

Mainey Ab Tak Tumhaarey Qaseedey Likhey,
Aur Aaj Apney Naghmo Sey Sharmindaa Hoon.
Apney Shero Ki Hurmat Pey Ho Munfazal,
Apney Fan Kay Taqaazo Sey Sharminda Hoon.

When Faraaz returned from the self imposed exile he became the founding director general of Pakistan Academy of Letters. It was during his exile that he had written Mohasra and after several years when asked why he hadn’t written a poem like Mohasra again he said that Mohasra was still relevant and hence the times did not demand another Mohasra as it still held good to the unchanged times even after several years.

When Zia was in power Faraaz went on a self imposed exile. Then when interviewed he had said that he was in Karachi when an order was served on him, externing him from the province of Sindh. “I said to myself, ‘What have we come to when a man is exiled from his own land! Today, it is Karachi, tomorrow it will be Peshawar, the day after, Lahore. That is when I decided to leave.’”  But not much had changed with the change of regime and calendar in Pakistan. But the will of Faraaz was changed. In later years once while giving an interview to BBC he said that he would never leave Pakistan because he was against military regime and dictatorship and wanted to fight them being home.

In 1947 when the uprising in Kashmir against the Maharaja’s rule began, among the volunteers who went in to fight on the side of the Kashmiris was the teenager Ahmed Faraz. He once said in a conversation with Khalid Hasan that his heart “bleeds at the military aggression to which the people of Waziristan and Balochistan have been subjected.” He said what we know today as Azad Kashmir was not liberated by the army but by Wazir tribes who went into the state to fight the Maharaja’s forces.

When he was conferred with the prestigious Hilaal-E-Imtiyaz award in 2004 he had started changing his views about Mushraff being a savior after the regime of Nawaz Sharif, like many liberals. So in 2006 Ahmed Faraaz returned the prestigious Hilaal-E-Imtiyaz award and while returning it he said, “My conscious will not forgive me if I remained a silent spectator of the sad happenings around us. The least I can do is to let the dictatorship know where it stands in the eyes of the concerned citizens whose fundamental rights have been usurped. I am doing this by returning the Hilal-e-Imtiaz (civil) forthwith and refuse to associate myself in any way with the regime…”

A blogger had written a piece on Faraaz after he was angered by the fact that people without knowing what Faraaz was were using the name of Faraaz in funny SMS’. Faraaz, the blogger argued, based on his interaction with many youngsters, was a man of funny messages on sms, according to many youngsters. Similarly for many Faraaz is a romantic poet who wrote about love, its agony and ecstasy. He was a romantic poet, true but not just that. He was romantic, yes. But he was also a rebel.

Sab Kuch Sahi ‘Faraaz’ Per Itanaa Zaroor Hai, 
Duniya Mein Aisey Log Bahut Kam Hai Doston.

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