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