Category Archives: Poetry

Faiz Ahmed Faiz: A window to what could have been

Most of us recognize Faiz Ahmed Faiz for his immortal poetry. Few are aware that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was also a prolific prose writer and that too in English. In 1947, he was asked by the great progressive of his times, Mian Iftikharuddin, to edit The Pakistan Times. In addition, Faiz was made the head of the editorial board of the Urdu daily Imroze and was also associated with the literary weekly Lail-o-Nahar.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

This foray into journalism came after a five-year stint with the welfare department of the British Army that hired Faiz in 1942 for its publicity wing. This decision to join the army was made due to his clear stance against fascism.

After Independence, Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote for The Pakistan Times for four years until 1951, when he was arrested for supporting the Rawalpindi Conspiracy. Faiz wrote extensively on a variety of issues in the voice of a conscientious commentator. The writer was less of a revolutionary and more of a journalist trying to pursue a balance.

In an editorial dated September 13, 1948, Faiz Ahmed Faiz paid rich tributes to Jinnah, the founder of the nation. He also added how India and Pakistan in quick succession lost two great leaders — Jinnah and Gandhi. Faiz had termed Gandhi’s assassination in an earlier editorial as “one of the darkest crimes in history” and “comparable only to the crucifixion of Jesus.”

Continue reading

Why fanatics of today would not have spared Kabir

The murders of rationalists and threats to writers, negate what was achieved through centuries of cross-cultural exchange and intellectually robust reformist movements.

  • “Friend
  • You had one life
  • And you blew it”

Encountering Kabir in Ithaca, a small town in upstate New York, was an unreal experience. The occasion was a reading of new translations of the 15th century mystic bard by the eminent Indian poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. This slim collection entitled “Songs of Kabir” has been published by the New York Review of Books. At the homey Buffalo Street Books, Mehrotra recited some of his own powerful poems before he turned to Kabir.

This is not the first translation. For years, Tagore’s translations have been popular. In recent years,  Linda Hess and Shukdev Singh, Vinay Dharwadker, and many others have attempted to interpret these poems in myriad styles. Mehrotra explained how the performers, who sing Kabir’s songs in their regional dialects and present his profound ideas for their particular audiences, inspired him. In a similar manner, he had treated Kabir’s verse as a modern poet. The result of Mehrotra’s endeavors is delightful as it retains the essence of the poetry, makes it accessible with the right level of punch for the contemporary reader. For instance, note the directness here: Continue reading

The verse of freedom

In a powerful exploration of resistance poetry in indigenous languages, I discovered marginalized poets challenging mainstream Pakistani identity in moving verse.

 PoetsFaiz Ahmad Faiz

Much has been said about the literary and artistic revolution of Pakistan. Undoubtedly Pakistani writers, artists and musicians are now recognised globally for their work which engages with the world and brings forth perspectives which alter the unidimensional image of the country. At home, the new wave of literary and creative output is celebrated each year at the Karachi and Lahore literature festivals which have emerged as major venues for conversation and showcasing of what is being produced in the mainstream.

Away from the spotlight of international media and TV channels, Pakistan’s regional poets and writers are waging a far more perilous battle by engaging with their subaltern, marginalised audiences in the local idiom, thereby putting themselves at risk. The days of Faiz and Jalib are not over as we often moan. Instead they have deepened and regionalised. Our region has had a rich, ongoing folk tradition and it continues in myriad forms and expressions now. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan poets and artists continue to challenge power and injustice. More so in Pakistan where instability, extremism and uncertainty have impacted people in a profound manner for the past few decades.

Continue reading

Kal bhi woh darte the

A few lines I wrote after Malala’s
Nobel and some of the reactions of Pakistanis on social media

MalalaKailash

(English translit. below)

کل بھی وہ ڈرتے تھے
نہتی لڑکیوں سے
آج بھی نالاں ہیں
وہی مذہب کے بیوپاری
اہک ننھی ملالہ سے!
وہ جھوٹے دعوے کرنے والے
وہ بے ایمانی کے سوداگر
دہشت کے پجاری
کیا تم جانتے نہیں؟
یہ ننھی بچیاں
تم کو ہر بار شکست دیں گی!
یہ بھی سچ ہے کہ
ابھی دور ہے حق کی جیت
اس میں بھی مات تمھاری
تم گولیاں برسا کر بھی
بازی ہار گۓ

ابھی بہت سے موسمِ بارود گزرنے ہيں
ابھی ملالہ کو جلا وطن رہنا ہے
اور کوۓ ملامت کو سنبھلنا ہے
لمبا ، کٹھن سفر ہے باقی
اور کچھ ہو نہ ہو
تمہاری شکست کی آواز
تمھاری بزدلی کے چرچے
سارے جہاں میں عام ہو گۓ
ایک نہتی لڑکی نے
پھر سے ہرا دیا

سب بندوق والوں کو
بندوق دینے والوں کو
بندوقیں ماننے والوں کو

Kal bhi woh darte theMalalaKailash2
Nihati laRkiyoN se
Aaj bhi nalaaN haiN
Aik nanhi Malala se!
Wohi Mazhab ke beopari
Woh Jhoote daawe karne wale
Woh be-aimani ke saudagar
Dashat ke pujari
Kiya tum jante nahiN?
Yeh nanhi bachiaN
Tum ko har baar shikast deiN gi!
Yeh bhi sach hai keh
Abhi door hai haq ki Jeet
Is meiN bhi maat tumhari
Tum goliyaan barsa kar bhi
Baazi haar gaye
Abhe bohot se mausam-e barood guzarne haiN
Abhe Malala ko jilaawatan rehna hai
Aur koo-e malamat ko sanmbhalna hai
Lamba, kathan safar hai baaqi
Aur kuch ho nah ho
Tumhari shikast ki awaz
Tumhari buzdali ke charche
Saare jahaN meiN aam ho gaye
Ik nihati laRki ne
phir se Hara diya
Sab bandooq waloN ko
Bandooq dene waloN ko
Bandoqen manane waloN ko

‘Hum Bhatak bhi Gaye au Kia Hoga’

After a long time, I attempted to write a poem. Here it is – pretty raw and unpolished. Will translate it later for readers who may not understand the language. It is entitled —
(so what if I went astray..)

Tum apni dunya kay baasi

Hum apni chah kay aseer
Milay jo ik din
Anjani rah per
Dekhna yeh hai keh
Who rah jis peh safar
Dushwar hi nahin
Shayad namumkin ho
Kis moR peh ja niklay
Ya phir
Kaun pehlay rastah badal day
Yeh hua bhi to
Koi ‘Nai’ baat nah hogi
Sun rakha hai
Muhabbat baad mein hogi
Jo mil nah saken
In ki yaad mein hogi
Hum Musafir-e-Dil
Bhtakna Jantay hain
Dil gariftah, Dil Nawaz
Hawadis aashna
Yeh bhi jantay hain
Muhabbat na bhi mile to
Hijr kay phool
Sanbhalna jantay hain

تم اپنی دنیا کے باسی
ہم اپنی چاہ کے اسیر
ملے جو اک دن
انجانی راہ پر
دیکھنا یہ ہے کہ
وہ راہ جس پہ سفر
دشوار ہی نہيں
شاید نا ممکن ہو
کس موڑ پہ جا نکلے
یا پھر
کون پہلے رستہ بدل دے
یہ ہوا بھی تو
کوئی ‘نئی’ بات نہ ہو گی
سن رکھا ہے
محبت بعد ميں ہوگی
جو مل نہ سکیں
ان کی یاد ميں ہوگی
ہم مسافرِِ دل
بھٹکنا جانتے ہیں
دل گرفتہ، دل نواز
حوادث آشنا
یہ بھی جانتے ہيں
محبت نہ بھی ملے تو
ہجر کے پھول
سنبھالنا جانتے ہيں

(A poem in Urdu – written casually – comments & criticism is welcome)

The day I’m killed

Dr Azra Raza – a fearless and sensitive soul – sent me this poem via email.

Travel Tickets

The day I’m killed,
my killer, rifling through my pockets,
will find travel tickets:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one to the conscience of humankind.

Dear killer of mine, I beg you:
Do not stay and waste them.
Take them, use them.
I beg you to travel.

Palestinian Poet, Samih Al Qasim, Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Mustafa

The image is of slain Mustafa – my colleague & a member of my family- who was killed by terrorists while they attacked me in Lahore.

Continue reading