Doyen and Dear Heart
Tribute to the legendary Urdu poet
MINDSCAPE BY S. SARWAR
At times mere coincidences lead our thoughts to a fruitful exercise. This I experienced a week ago, when my friend mentioned, of Mrs. Taseer’s visit to Srinagar around 1974 and when later in the day my parents spoke of English teacher, Dr. M. D. Taseer- embarking me on the path of writing the story of a legendary figure; whose birthday falls on 13 Feb. Though I have no time or source to ascertain presently the factual veracity of this tale yet interesting it is in itself & yes I wish to dedicate the present write up to my beloved humsuffer.
It was the year 1941 when Dr. M.D. Taseer was principal of S.P College Srinagar(1941-42), a 27 year old London born dame and a 30 year old Lecturer of Hailey College Lahore were married in Srinagar, it is said, at a simple ceremony, presided over by no less a towering personality than Sheri-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Bilquees- elder sister of the dame & wife of Dr. Taseer, and Tufail- elder brother of the man, together with Freda Bedi- mother of actor Kabir Bedi, were possibly around.
The groom was the Sialkot born son of Barrister Sultan Muhammad Khan, who became a legend with the publication of eight poetry books and the bride was a poetess cum Member of Communist Party of Great Britain, who later authored two books- first being a compilation of letters written to her jailed hubby; titled Dear Heart. She was the one who refused to return to London with her two daughters, Saleema & Muneeza, when her husband was jailed during 1951- 1955 AD for complicity in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case( - the coup plan of his associate: Major General Akber Khan); who followed her lover to London & Lebanon during his years of self-exile( 1962-64 & 1979-82) and stayed to suffer his separation of 19 years, after his death in 1984; keeping herself busy with Asma Jehangir’s Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; with Children’s Theatre, and with physically challenged children in Karachi. Embodiment of graceful western woman as she was, this lady named Alys stood besides this doyen named Faiz Ahmad Faiz, in life and even in death; for buried she lies by his side in Lahore graveyard, since her death on 12 March 2003.
Playful moments- that characterize a normal childhood, being considered frivolous by elderly women folk of the house, were somewhat denied to Faiz and even for reading poetry books and Urdu novels- hired from a shop next to his house Faiz was admonished, it is said, and instead advise to read English novels that were available in City Library Sialkot. Old Haveili-in front of his house attracted Faiz to Mushairas that were held there when he was studying in Scotch Mission School and later his Urdu teacher Prof. Yousuf Salim Chisti of Murray College Sialkot encouraged him to write Urdu Gazals. Faiz did his M.A English in 1932 from Govt. College M.A Arabic in 1934 from Oriental College Lahore. In former college Faiz came to know Ahmad Shah Bukhari Pitras, Hafeez Jullandheri and Akhter Shirani. In 1935 Faiz became Lecturer in English at M.A.O College Amritser and later in Hailey College Lahore from 1940-1942.
In summer holidays of post-graduation days Faiz used to come to Srinagar to see his elder brother Tufail or to Dharamsala where his elder sister was. He always felt struck by the sheer beauty of hilly landscape but never the less enjoyed the strange beauties of cities- including Lahore, especially on moonlit nights and this transported into his verses as well. One of his London friend once said Faiz loved streets like High Gate, Regent Street in London as well and ‘street’ is a recurring image in his poetry- the facet my readers shall find barely touched in this preface like part of my write up, today.
Faiz was a frequent visitor to the newly come-up Lahore Radio Station along with Dr. Taseer- whom he had met in Amritsar. Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabasm, Chirag Hassan Hasrat also frequented the station, it is said. It was in Amritser that Faiz joined the Progressive Writers Movement. He traveled to Delhi often to meet friends like Israr ul Haq Majaz, Ali Sardar Jaffrey, Jan Nissar Akhter, Makhdoom Mohidin and Muin Ahsan Jazbi- all poets; born between 1912-14 while Faiz was born on 13 Feb. 1911.
During his student days Faiz underwent a major transformation from traditional urdu “poetry for poetry sake”- exemplified by his idol Ghalib, to “ poetry with social- purpose”; in other words “ art for art sake” to “ art for life’s sake”. Probably the wave was too strong to resist and under the influence of Sajjad Zaheer(- to whom a poem was addressed in Sept 1973 that exists in Shaam-e- Shehr-e-yaaran) this change became visible in one poem, that figures in Naqsh-e- Faryaadi ; published in 1941; rendition of which by Noor Jahaan brought this affectionate doyen to her house to thank her for singing it so well.
Mujh say pehlee see mohobbat meray mehboob na maang
Ask me not for that love, o’ sweetheart
That made me think you alone illumined life
Afflictions catch my attention what to do
Multiple heartaches and woes exist besides love
Many a comforts beside rendezvous togetherness.
Ask me not for that love, o’ sweetheart.
In deeds and words, the soul-mates preached love, peace, human values, social justice & freedom of speech and all that could make world better.
Allow me dear reader a respite till we meet here in this strait- jacketed column, after a week because gamme roazgar too goads me besides, gamme Ishq, so adieu.
(Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 11 Jan 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 11 Jan 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 12 Jan 2010 00:00:00 IST
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