Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remembering Faiz Ahmed Faiz

A legendary poet like Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) needs no introduction. In Pakistan, where one authoritarian government has made way for another since 1947, Faiz’s person and work is largely known as a symbol of resistance. In his poetry, he represented the people’s longing for freedom and democracy and became a source of inspiration for those seeking to build a just society.

Faiz began his career as a lecturer in English at Amritsar, but switched to journalism after the Second World War. He went on to become the editor of The Pakistan Times. In 1951, he was charged with complicity in the Rawalpindi conspiracy case and imprisoned. It was his four-year term in prison that gave him first-hand experience of the harsh realities of life and provided him with much-needed solitude to translate his thoughts into poetry.

As a poet, Faiz began writing on the conventional themes of love and beauty, but soon these thoughts were submerged in the larger social and political issues of the day. An admirer of Karl Marx, Faiz was also honoured by Soviet Russia with the prestigious ‘Lenin Award for Peace.’

Faiz died 25 years ago at the age of 73. He is regarded as the greatest Urdu poet of his time. Here is a sample of Faiz' poetry in the original Urdu, with English translation following:

Raat yunh dil mein teri khoee hui yaad aayee
Jaise veeraaney mein chupkey sey bahaar aa jaye
Jaisey sehra on mein howley se chaley baadey naseem
Jaisey beemaar ko bey wajhey Qaraar aa jaaye

English Translation

Last night, your lost memories crept into my heart
as spring arrives secretly into a barren garden
as a cool morning breeze blows slowly in a desert
as a sick person feels well, for no reason.


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