Celebrating Faiz: An insight into the life of the revolutionary poet

How was Faiz as a person? As a father and husband?

Ebad Ahmed
Celebrating Faiz: An insight into the life of the revolutionary poet

KARACHI: Faiz Ahmad Faiz's poetry is timeless because in every era there are always a few who are at home with his words. They are the ones who vary from those who have compromised their values. They despite all odds continue to romanticise the idea of a revolution.

But how was Faiz as a person? How was Faiz as a father and as a husband? How was Faiz sans leftist activism?

‘Celebrating Faiz’ – a session at the Karachi Literature Festival on Sunday – was a successful attempt to delve into the question. A personal perspective on him from his family and close friend provided the opportunity to unveil hidden dimensions of the celebrated poet.

The session was moderated by Ali Madeeh Hashmi, with panelists: Zehra Nigah, Salima Hashmi and Adeel Hashmi.

In the words of Zehra Nigah, “There are few people who are as good in person as they are in their respective creative spaces,” she added, “Faiz was big-hearted. Unlike many others I have never seen him being petty on self projection.”

Nigah said that Faiz wrote some of his best works during his four years in prison. It must have been tough, but he never spoke about it. When once his wife Alys Faiz asked him the reason for his silence, he replied, “During my time in jail, a jailer used to smuggle a cigarette packet with a pen in my cell to give me an opportunity to write. I used to send my writings to him. The jailer returned all my writings when I was leaving jail,” he added, “I only want to remember his love rather than the pain of loneliness.”

Nigah said that Faiz mentioned in one of his writings that despite all the hardships he faced in his life he did not face any regrets.

Speaking on the occasion, Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi said that one of the biggest support her father received was from her mother, even though they were complete opposites, the couple braved all lows of life together.

“I remember my father telling me that I am able to do whatever I can because I know at the end of the day your mother can also feed you,” she said.

Hashmi remembered that when Alys Faiz visited her husband at Hyderabad jail, she informed him that the authorities have raised prison walls by 2.5 meters, Faiz responded, “[My] poetry will still travel.”

She said that Faiz`s mother initially had reservations on accepting Alys as her son's wife. She eventually agreed on the condition of changing faith and doing away with Western dress – the conditions were readily accepted by Alys throughout her life.

“When father was in jail, our mother used to keep telling us that your father is not a thief, he is not a dacoit or smuggler, he is in jail because he speaks the truth,” Hashmi told the audience.

Adeel Hashmi ended the session with recitation of poetry by Faiz.