Recently Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of the most celebrated poets of the Urdu language, equally revered in both Pakistan and Northern India has come into the spotlight once again. With his name trending on Twitter, there were also reports that a panel in IIT Kanpur would look into his poem “Hum Dekhenge” to ascertain if it was anti-Hindu after it was sung by students at an anti CAA protest.
Although later the panel decided against it, being a poet myself I couldn’t help but think how a poet lives on even after leaving the world, irking the ones in power, demanding justice through their poems. I decided to write Faiz Sahab a letter since it is also his birth anniversary today.
Dear Faiz Sahab,
You have been gone long, but they still hear and read your poems and tremble. You would be surprised they tremble on both sides of the border. I have been reading your personal letters these days—ones that you wrote from prison to your love, your respected wife. I read them sitting in your beloved Delhi.
In one of the letters you write, “I feel happy today after a mild attack of a blue period lasting over a few days. It must be the weather. It is more like spring than summer”. “It is more like spring than summer”, these words have been ringing in my head since the past few days for some reason. Oh! And you should know that the people in the seats of power on this side of the fence are really annoyed at your poetry these days, they’ve been analysing it.
Panels have been set to see if it somehow violates the sanctity of their beliefs, they would probably imprison you today for your poems were you alive and here, but you’re pretty used to that aren’t you? Zias and Hitlers, they die and come back, so do the poets and revolutionaries, don’t they?
Years have passed, and we are still fighting the same fight you fought in your own time in your nation. Students are on the streets, so are men and women and old people—the people who go to work and later rush to the streets, all genders, all ages, there are also poets like me and you, they’re all asking for a future that isn’t bleak; they’re all asking for their liberty, the promise of equality, they’re all speaking up snatching the power back from the tyrants and power centers. And they’re singing your poem “Hum Dekhenge” when they do so.
Maybe that’s why the poem has suddenly turned mere words devoid of metaphors and rhythm for them. Maybe it is because when the poem says, “The slogan of, I am truth will echo everywhere”, their cosmetic truth crumbles, such is the might of your poem. You wrote in one of your letters “Someday I might end up as a poet”, and you ended up as a poet long back. But the tyrants are still scared of your verses. Clearly, you’re still one in their hearts and the hearts of the ones singing your poem.
Imagine the ones with all the might and power being bothered by a poem. As a poet, Faiz Sahab, I have never felt more scared and empowered by words. When I recite a verse questioning the vile power, and it reverberates amid the scores of people all seeking the same sense of Justice and Inquilab, my heart rumbles like a volcano and gets filled with hope.
I often wonder if you used to feel something similar in those days when you were alive and fighting a similar fight. But this is a regime that punishes its poets, living and dead, so I wonder if we as poets should be more scared of them or should we be happy that they are more scared of their poets.
What do poets do when they see the high and mighty crumble the ones devoid of any power under their feet just because they can? What do poets do when they see the poison of hatred being spilled in the rivers and veins of their nation? Do they write about love and the moon? I, for one, have not been able to do that, Faiz Sahab.
Every single time I write a verse about my beloved, a voice echoes which says “Aur bhi gham hain zamane mein, mohabbat ke siva”, and the words march towards a protest, their footsteps reverberate the sound of Inquilab. I am reminded that a poet can only speak truth to the power in times like these; I am reminded that only the poets can name the nameless.
I believe it is indeed more spring than summer like you said, but I know summer will be here one day too. Till then, poetry will persist and resist. Our generation might never be able to repay the debt of your words, but they’ll keep inspiring us to fight for a world where poets can write about their beloved, and do not have to think of everything else. Until then, we’ll keep echoing them till the dying of the light and in the bleakest of the nights.
– Aseem Sundan