By Ashraf Lone, JNU, New Delhi
Faiz Ahmad Faiz is rightly considered one of the greatest poets of Urdu and world literature as well. Faiz was a progressive poet, attached with the Progressive Movement of Urdu Literature in India and later in Pakistan. Not only Progressives consider Faiz a great poet and rightly so, but he is now considered great by non-progressives or modernists as well who were hesitant before and were very skeptical about his art. While the political and resistance tone in Faiz’s poetry has played a major role in his popularity, but it also his poetic artistry which has made his poetry very popular among the masses and elite class as well and this is the reason why Faiz’s poetry has transcended the boundaries and is revered world over. The problem with resistance poetry or any resistance art is that a poet or artist has to take extra care. There is strong possibility that a piece of poetry ends up as sloganeering or pamphleteering, as has happened with many. Faiz has taken every care to make his poetry appealing while taking good care both of his political leanings and the art of poetry.
In the beginning Faiz wrote some romantic poetry, but very soon he came out of this phase. As Faiz came to know keenly the political atmosphere of his times, his tone changed and in a very short time he made his mark in literary circles. His revolutionary poetry began to be revered everywhere. Faiz became aware of the colonial game of exploitation and oppression, and with it, his poetry attained more revolutionary tone with each passing day. Faiz now aware of the exploitation of the poor by colonialists and feudal chiefs began to think about a new revolution through which old system(of exploitation) would be dismantled and new and fair system thus implemented.
Speak—your lips are free.
Speak—your tongue and your upright body
Are still yours.
Speak—your life is still yours.
Look—in the blacksmith’s shop,
The flames soar and the iron is red-hot.
Look—the mouths of the locks are beginning to open,
The links of the chains are coming undone.
Speak—the little time before your body and tongue give out
Speak—truth is still alive.
Speak—say whatever you wish you’d said.
(Poem: Speak Up<Bol>)
This revolutionary and revolting tone of Faiz is more relevant today when neo-colonialism/imperialism has attained new dimensions. Imperialism has taken the place of old form colonialism. New ways of exploitation and oppression have been forged. Poor and marginalized are being oppressed in one way or the other. Faiz has through his poetry given voice to the voiceless. The greatness of the poetry of Faiz is that his poetry doesnot become a sloganeering or shouting but with his frim grip on poetic art, Faiz’s poetry has a kind of taste that sooths our mind as well:
Forever will I nurture pen and paper,
forever express in words whatever my heart undergoes,
forever proffer ingredients of the sorrows of love
and quicken into life the wasteland of time.
Yes, the bitterness of time will keep on spawning,
just as the tyrants will persist in their cruelty.
Cheerfully I’ll give in to bitterness, this tyranny too I’ll endure
so long as there’s breath, I’ll seek ever new cures for torments.
If the tavern still remains, I shall embellish every door
and balcony of the haram with the redness of wine.
If the heart is not drained of all the blood, I’ll color every tear
with the redness of the beloved’s lips and cheeks
This posture of indifference, let it be her prerogative-
For me it will always be my desire’s entreaty.
(Poem: Tablet and Pen<Loh-O-Qalam>)
Even artists especially the poets have accepted this fact, that the idea or imagination to poet’s or artist’s mind comes from heavens but we cannot deny this fact too, that every artist or poet has been influenced or is being influenced by his society in which he has lived or living and Faiz is no exception to this phenomenon. But the difference between ordinary and great is that while the ordinary gets influenced only, the great after getting influenced by his peers and his society, influences the coming generations. Faiz holds this position of greatness firmly, and with times, the relevance and meaning of his poetry is increasing. With the new modes of exploitation and injustice and exploitation world over, Faiz’s poetry is attaining new heights and reaching new destinations. Faiz is also becoming the voice of marginalized and other poor and oppressed sections of the society:
If they snatch my ink and pen,
I should not complain,
For I have dipped my fingers
In the blood of my heart.
I should not complain
Even if they seal my tongue,
For every ring of my chain
Is a tongue ready to speak.
(A Poem from Dast –e- Sabaa< Fingers of the Wind>)
We shall Witness. Surely, we too shall bear witness
To the promised day etched on all eternity
When mountains of tyranny will blow away like cotton
When the ground beneath the feet of us who are the oppressed will shake and tremble
When thunderous lightning will hover over the rulers, we shall surely witness
When idols of falsehood would be cast aside from the abode of God (Kaaba)
When we – the pure, the outcasts of sacred place (haram) would be placed on thrones
When crowns would be tossed around, when thrones would be demolished
Only the name will remain, which is both invisible and visible
Which is both the spectacle as well as the beholder, the cry of truth will upsurge,
Which is I and you, and God’s own creations would reign
Which is I and you
We shall Witness, definitely we too shall witness.
(Poem: Hum Dekhenge<We Shall see>)
In these two poems , we can see Faiz clearly standing on the side of oppressed and exploited. He takes a stand against exploiter. He is of the firm belief that time is very near when mountains of oppression will be blown away into the air like a cotton, the day will come when cruel rulers will be thrown away like the idols of Kaaba (Mecca) were thrown away.
Faiz criticized Pakistani rulers several times through his poetry. He was aware of the oppression, deceit and corruption of Pakistani rulers. He spared none. Even he has to go to jail for his opposition and criticism of rulers and for speaking truth to power, but true to his commitment, he did not run away from his stand:
My salutations to thy sacre, my nation
Where, the rule is that no one should
Walk with their heads held high,
If one is to embark on a journeyin search of truth,
One must walk with eyes lowered,
With the body and soul under threat
(Poem:My Salutations to The Sacred Streets<Nisaar Mei Teri Galiyu Ke Ae Wattan>)
Faiz is rightly considered among the great poets of 20th century. Faiz has beautifully and artistically put his thoughts in his poetry. Faiz through his poetry gave voice to the poor, marginalized, oppressed and exploited. He always stood for the truth and against oppressor and exploiter. The poet Faiz is becoming more relevant with each passing day and his poetry is entering new lands and spheres and here lies the greatness of Faiz Ahmad Faiz.