Love and Defiance

“Bedil, weep not for your losses

this party that is life
is after all held in a glassmaker’s shop”

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AHMAD FARAZ enjoys a near cult status in the pantheon of revolutionary poets. Of him, Faiz Ahmad Faiz (the greatest Urdu poet of the last century) had said: “He protests against injustice as passionately as he professes his love.”

Dreams do not die
Dreams are not hearts nor eyes or breath
Which shattered will scatter
Or die with the death of the body

His poetry was considered so subversive in Pakistan that he was blind-folded, thrown into solitary confinement and exiled. His verses captured the sentiments of an oppressed generation and he became the voice of those living in poverty under military rule in Pakistan and beyond. Widely read, his poems were set to music and sung during evening gatherings across Pakistan, and he enjoyed a popularity similar to that of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwich.

My enemy has sent a missive
That his soldiers are thronged around me
On every corner, every minaret of the city
With stretched strings are waiting his archers
Tell him he has already lost
If to fight me he must send an army…

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Although he became a symbol for the struggle, Faraz was unapologetic about his ghazals (love poems) written in the Sufi vein, seeking the eternal beloved. Their bittersweet verses about unrequited love and desire are deeply touching:

Come back, even if just to hurt the heart again
Come back, even if just to leave me again….
Still, the deluded heart has a few hopes
Come back, if only to blow out this last faint light
Even if there is anguish, come still, to torment my heart
Come, even if to leave me again
If we part this time, we may meet in a dream
Like dried flowers found in the pages of old books

They say she has an affinity for her sufferers
Let me then destroy myself, and see
They say she hosts pain in the arc of her eyebrows
Let me then pass through that curve, and see
They say she too has an indulgence for verse
Let me then try the miracles of art, and see

The world of love is so good.
Who has created the problem of separation?
What now for the poet?
Should I stay or move ahead?
Faraz go, stars are looking at the dawn….
Faraz left this August. He was 77.
Maybe he is looking at the stars….

She said: listen
Don’t come back if
you think it is
to fulfill your promise.
People with obligations are
either compelled or
are tired of separations.
Go and fulfill others’ desires
and fall in love with other women.
I will not call you.
But when you burn inside
with the blaze of wanting me,
needing me,
and your heart weeps,
you can then
come back to me.

Ahmad Faraz (January 14, 1931 – August 25, 2008)

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* Urdu, the national language of Pakistan is an Indo-Aryan language with about 104 million speakers, including those who speak it as a second language.

The New York Times (9/1/08)
International Herald Tribune (9/1/08)

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