A Greeting and an Ode

When The Viewspaper approached me to write a guest column, I was thrilled, but at the same time, confused. What exactly could I write about that would strike a chord across the border? Despite shared culture, jokes, and recipes, and despite the fact that I can quote Dilwale Dunhanyia Le Jaenge from credits to credits, I was still nervous about getting my first interaction with India right. At the end, I decided to introduce you all to my favorite poet. Poetry, after all, is a shared weakness.

Raat yuun dil mein teri khoyee hui yaad ayi

Jaise veeranay mein chupke se bahaar ajaye

Jaise sehraon mein holay se chalay baad-e-naseem

Jaise beemar ko be-wajah qarar ajaye

(Last night your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly,
As, slowly, in the desert, moves the breeze,
As, to a sick man, without cause, comes peace.)

Translation: Vikram Seth

I was not yet fifteen when I first experienced Faiz Ahmed Faiz. This quatrain from a weekly magazine caught my eye-and as is the case with most of Faiz, I kept reading it silently, over and over again-with starry eyes only a teenager who does not know but would give absolutely anything to know about romantic love can manage. Faiz is known all over Pakistan and the world as perhaps the best poet the country has produced. His poetry has been quoted, recited, sung, and used as titles for drama serials-he is perhaps the most fashionable literary figure in the country. For me, though, Faiz is more than all this-he represents all that I hold dear.

Faiz’s poetry is streaked with the colors of a rebellion which is quintessentially youthful. It will remind you of burnt summer nights when you were too restless to fall asleep or call to mind the angst-ridden energy of movies like Rang De Basanti. Faiz, more than anyone, taught me that passion is not simply a tool in life-it is in fact a way of life.

Shayad qareeb pohonchi subh-e-visaal humdum

Mauj-e-saba liye hay khushboo-e-khush-kinaaraan

(Perhaps the sun is dawning on the day I meet my beloved

The morning breeze certainly seems to indicate so)

Through Faiz’s poetry, I first came to realize the beauty of words-and how this beauty of perfect words and lilting sentences can work magic in making you forget your pains.

Most importantly, perhaps, Faiz taught me to never conform just because it was the easy way out. By making me sway to rebellion-filled verses, he instilled in me, as he did in so many others, the importance of questioning, of being thirsty for knowledge and for change.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz has been my favorite literary companion for so many years, and hence in my first meeting with India, I felt compelled to write about the man who, in my view, is not only the best literary export from Pakistan, but also an embodiment of all that the concept of youth, be it anywhere in the world, stands for.

Dur e Aziz Amna

The author will be starting her undergraduate at Yale University this fall. A deep interest in the international realm has previously led her to educational and cultural programs in the US and UK. She is a freelance writer and blogger who can make wicked mattar pulao and talk forever about the Monsoon.