Farewell Faraz

Guest contribution by Sadia Dehlvi for Pak Tea House

 

Lovers of Urdu mourn the death of Ahmed Faraz, undoubtedly the greatest romantic and revolutionary poet of our times. Earlier this week, Faraz was laid to rest in Islamabad, the city he made his home. One by one, the torchbearers of Urdu literature fade away.

 

I heard of Faraz’s in the mid seventies when his “ranjish hi sahi, dil hi dukhaane ke liya aa,” became a huge hit with ghazal lovers. I met the burly rugged looking Pashto speaking Pathan on a trip to Islamabad in 1988 and we became close friends. He spoke of initial apprehensions of writing in Urdu but was encouraged by the response to his first diwan, “Tanha Tanha”. He wished to become a pilot but a romance in college turned Faraz into a poet. 

 

Despite long periods of self exile and solitary imprisonment, Faraz remained cheerful with witty repartees. During the seventies when some students were killed while at a rally protesting Bhutto’s raids on Baluchistan, he wrote “Peshawar Qatilon”(Professional Murderers) that led to a two month solitary confinement at Attock jail. “ There were no sounds for the guards were not allowed to talk to me. After days when I heard the chirping of the birds, I wrote, “ door ek fakhta boli hai shakh e shajar, pehli awaaz mohabbat ki sunai di hai.”   In jail Faraz wrote the collection, “ Be Awaaz gali Kuche Main”. 

 

Undeterred in opposing oppression, on  his release Faraz recited “Muhasara” (The siege) at a Karachi mushaira and was rearrested, this time by Zia ul Haq. It remains one of the most powerful condemnations of military rule. I recall Faraz telling stories of political and personal upheavals including his self imposed exile for seven years.

 

A favourite in mushairas, audiences stayed till well past midnight on to hear Faraz, always the last to recite. If he forgot a line, listeners reminded him for they know his verses by heart. Even in verses of agitation, Faraz’s poetry is simple, sensitive and lyrical.

A citizen of the world, Faraz stood for friendship between India and Pakistan. At his last Mushaira in Delhi he recited “dosti ka haath”, the last lines are  

 

tumhare desh main aya hoon doston,

ab ke na saaz o naghmon ki mehfil na shairi ke liye

agar tumhari hi ana ka hai sawal

to chalo main haath badhhata hoon dosti ke liye

 

In recent years Faraz visited Delhi regularly for literary functions, becoming a familiar face at the India International Centre where he loved to stay. In a gesture of friendship, the Indian authorities had honoured the poet, granting him unlimited entries to India.

We met often and one evening I would take Faraz to Khushwant Singh’s house. Joining him for an evening drink became a ritual for Faraz’s Delhi trips. We met in April this year when Faraz typically dipped his cigarette in whisky and delighted us with poetry and prose. Alvida, Farewell dear friend. 

 

Also published in the Hindustan Times (Delhi edition)

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