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On the evening of 25th August, while most of the Pakistani electronic media was lamenting the breakup of the Ruling Coalition, a four-word sentence appeared in a small popup at the bottom of the TV screen: 'Ahmed Faraz passes away.'

My first feeling was of sheer incredulity! This surely wasn't correct. How could the chivalrous body that had endured the displeasure of callous rulers and hardships of undeserved prison so bravely, subside to a mere kidney disorder? And how, I thought, could the life of a man like him, who had spent it playing with infinite words, depend so simply upon that four-word sentence?

Slowly, reluctantly, with tremulous fingers, hopefully but fearfully, I reached for the remote control and changed the channel. Fear pervaded and hope capitulated, for what I read at the Breaking-News slide there was, 'Eminent poet Ahmed Faraz not with us anymore'. Then another TV channel, then another, then another, everywhere the news of his demise flickered, like a smoldering flame, in the Breaking News column.

Born in Nowshera on  January 14, 1931, Ahmed Faraz (actual name: Syed Ahmed Shah) gained his early education from the famous Edwards College in Peshawar, and then did his Masters in Urdu and Persian from Peshawar University. The time he was in college, was, in progressive poetry, the reign of the maestro, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who impressed him and became his role-model. Faraz initially worked as a script writer at Radio Pakistan Peshawar and then moved on to teaching Urdu at Peshawar University. In 1976, he became the founding Director General of Pakistan Academy of Letters.

Outspoken about politics, he was apprehended for reciting at a mushaira certain poems that criticised the military rule of General Zia-ul-Haq, the then ruler of Pakistan. He then stayed for six years in foreign countries under a self-imposed exile. The government's disdain could hardly dampen his spirits, for much of his most appreciated poetry came during his time in exile. In this way, he maintained the tradition established by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. When he returned to Pakistan, he was initially appointed Chairman Academy of Letters and later he became the chairperson of the Islamabad-based National Book Foundation. He received numerous awards, most prestigious of which was perhaps the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, conferred upon him in 2004 in recognition of his literary achievements. He, however, returned it back in 2006 saying, "My conscious will not forgive me if I remained a silent spectator of the sad happenings around us. The least I can do is to let the dictatorship know where it stands in the eyes of the concerned citizens whose fundamental rights have been usurped. I am doing this by returning the Hilal-e-Imtiaz (civil) forthwith and refuse to associate myself in any way with the regime…"

Even during the recent Judicial Crisis (2007), he, despite his deteriorating health, was quite vibrant encouraging his colleagues to protest against the government.

The poetry of Faraz is unique ; the revolutionary touch is mingled with simplicity and beauty. As I sit here, groping in my mind to grab something, some word that could be used for Faraz's poetry, I simply fail to do so. Never before did I realise my vocabulary to be so weak. One reason for this is the diversity of Faraz's poetry that doesn't allow me to use one single word for it, and the other is that there is no word of praise I know that could do justice to Faraz's poetry. In Faraz's own words, 

Chaand ko chaand se barh kar koi kia kehta hay!

Such simplicity, such pithiness, such beauty, such notion – this is Faraz! Not many poets in any language are blessed with such a faraz as is Faraz.

People like Ahmed Faraz are born once in many centuries. His death is a severe loss to Urdu literature. And actually, I heard someone remarked that it's not a person's death; it's the death of an era – the Faiz-Faraz era. With this one incident, our nation has lost a lot: an ardent patriot, an outspoken critic, a dauntless revolutionary, a remarkable poet, and much more that we don't yet realise. We might not have given him, in his life, the esteem that he deserved, but at least now we can pray for him. So, come on guys! Don't be thrifty with your prayers. That's the least we can do for Faraz. Let's pray to Allah that his soul rests in eternal peace. In Faiz's words,

Aaiye hath uthayen hum bhi

Hum, jinhein rasm-e-dua yaad nahi

Hum, jinhein soz-e-mohabbat kay siva

Koi butt, koi khuda yaad nahi

 

May Allah bless the departed soul! Amen!

 


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