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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/Ehtasham Khan

September 05, 2003

At 72, his eyes haven't lost their twinkle.

Ahmed Faraz, wearing a†pink half-sleeve shirt and blue trousers, seems alert, cheerful,†almost jovial.

But the twinkling eyes cannot hide the fire that has†made him one of the†finest†Urdu poets of all time.

A poet†who has been compared with Mohammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz,†the†greatest Urdu poets†of the last century. A writer†who has fearlessly opposed†tradition, tyranny and†military rule in his country, Pakistan.†

The poet, who visited†Delhi last week to attend a seminar on†'What Poetry Means to†Me' at the Sahitya Akademi, was born January 14,†1931, in Naushahra,†then India, and christened†Syed Ahmed Shah.

He recalls how his father, a teacher, once bought†clothes for him on Eid. Faraz didn't like the†clothes, but was impressed by†the ones bought for†his elder brother.†That was when he wrote his first†couplet:

Layen hain sab ke liye kapde sale se
Layen hain† hamare liye kambal†jail se

He has brought clothes for everybody from†the sale.†And for†me he has brought the blanket from jail

Following a bitter fight with his father, Faraz later left†home to pursue†education and†poetry in Peshawar.†

Syed Ahmed Shah became Ahmed Faraz.

"Mera mizaz shuru se hi ashikana tha. (I was†romantic from the very†beginning)," he says.

At†school, there was†a girl in his class he was friendly with.†His parents asked him to learn mathematics†from her during the summer vacation.†"I was weak†in mathematics and†geography. I still†don't remember maps and roads,"†he says with a grin.

But math took backstage when the girl†"asked me†to play bait-bazi†with her." Bait-bazi is a game in which one person recites a†couplet and the other†one recites another couplet starting from the last letter of the†previous couplet.†

"She was very good at it. So I started memorizing†hundreds of couplets for her," he says, smiling†at the memory. "But I†always lost. So I started†manufacturing my own couplets, and she couldn't catch†me."

As the poet†matured, he took†on Pakistan's†authoritarian†rulers.†He was jailed and†later exiled during Zia-ul Haq's tenure in power†for writing†poems against the†military regime.

He stayed for three years in†Britain, Canada and†Europe†before†returning to Pakistan where he is now chairperson of†the Islamabad-based Pakistan Book Foundation.

Maintaining a†tradition established by†his mentor, the†revolutionary†Faiz, he wrote some of his best poetry†during†those days in exile.

Faiz and Ali Sardar Jafri†were the best†progressive poets. I was impressed by them. They†became my role models.†After†Partition, I saw a†photograph of†some Indian poets in a magazine. They†were well dressed†and looked good.†Poets had an impression of a suppressed community.†Some didn't have proper clothes, others couldn't buy a cup†of tea.†When I†saw the photograph I†was baffled and thought it was not a bad idea to†become a poet."

"Indian poets always impressed me," he says.

His†poems, like those of†Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi, are equally popular with†common†readers and scholars.†Full of remorse and anguish, most of them have†social and political†themes. He firmly believes in the philosophy of†the progressive movement and†is hopeful of history repeating itself.

"The USSR has failed, but the philosophy is†still† the same. And it will†emerge sooner or later. It is not a religion that it
will die. It can be†amended and with corrections and lessons from the†past, it will come up†again."

As for America,†"It (the US) is promoting terrorism†across the globe.†I even said this in America. They are pushing
humanity†towards destruction."

What about the†India-Pakistan relationship?†"People are trying to promote peace. But after†reading the newspapers and
looking at violent incidents and†statements made by the leadership of both†countries†I am not very optimistic," he says.† "Ordinary people want to live together. I don't know†what the†politicians want."

He has led several peace delegations to†India, but he expresses†helplessness at the state of affairs today.

"We are poets. What can we do? Today, it is difficult†for us to manage†our†homes. How can we save a country?"

But, despite all his travails, Faraz expresses satisfaction with his life.†

"Poetry has given me†happiness and sorrow.†Happiness in terms†of the respect that I have earned in†life. No other
profession would have†given me so much of love and respect from the†people."†

What about regret?†

"Faraz ishq ki duniya to†bahut achchi hai. Ye†fitna hijr-o-judai kis ne rakhi hai?

The world of†love is so good.

Who has created the problem of separation?

What now for the poet?†

Ab us ke shahar mein thahren ke kooch kar jayein

Faraz chalo sitare†sehar ko dekhte hain

Should I stay in her town or†move ahead?

Faraz††go, stars are looking at the dawn.†

The Rediff Specials

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Number of User Comments: 2

Sub: Poetry

I have admiration for Ahmed Faraz and the stand that he had taken against Pakistanís military establishment. It was either Shelly or Keats that remarked ...

Posted by khandu patel

Sub: poetry

I was never into poetry and always used to think that its about something not easily understandable,game of words for which u have to have ...

Posted by sobya



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