13th February, 2014 marked the 103rd birthday of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, a poet of immense status and high standing, whose work -- illustrious for its unwavering progressive ideas and an alluring, poetic vision -- brought the oppression of the masses and the injustice prevalent in society to the vanguard of literary speech. As a poet of progressive ideals in a society laden with inequality and discrimination, Faiz endured difficult times. A brilliant poet, a valiant journalist and editor, a trade unionist, a philosopher and most significantly an educator, he sought to develop his people by inculcating in them a sense of conceit and accomplishment. The theme of equality and dignity for all mankind, was recurrently used in his writings as he penned down his ideas to persuade his readers to combat oppression. He had hopes of improving their lives, making a difference through which the world would shun its unfair practices. ‘Hum dekhen ge, lazim hai k hum bhe dekhein ge’ depicts the very hope of a peaceful and just Pakistan. Today, years after his death, the hope continues, the dream stays and the struggle persists.
A wary sanguinity exists in the midst of the atmosphere of what seems to be a perpetual crisis __ dilapidated bazaars and troubled vicinities owing to the continuous sectarian violence and terror attacks. The Faiz Aman Mela or the Faiz Peace Festival was an attempt by Faiz Ghar and the Punjab Council of Arts to sustain the hope for peace, by highlighting Faiz’s vision of a tolerant and progressive Pakistan. The weekend was dedicated to the great poet and celebrations kicked off with a musical evening ‘Girah’, a performance by the Tarz Group at the Alhamra Arts Centre on February 13th, 2014. Artists from Karachi displayed the grandeur of the tabla and the sitar in an innovative orchestral style. Dastaan Goi, also referred to as ‘The Lost form of Urdu Storytelling’, that took place on Friday at the same venue was performed by the Indian artist Mahmud Farooqi and his team. The event was attended by a large number of people and the narrators left the audiences spellbound as they recited medieval stories in Khalis (Pure) Urdu.
The Festival attracted a large number of people from all strata of society at the Open Air Theatre, Bagh-e-Jinnah, on February 16th.
The Poetry session constituted the first half of the show and was chaired by Dr. Khalid Javed Jan who recited Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s revolutionary poetry to keep the audience affianced with the great message it entailed. Many progressive and revolutionary poets like Baba Najmi, Aslam Gurdaspuri, Abid Ali Abid, Shafiq Ahamd Shafiq, Arif Prohana, Professor Hasan Askari Saif-ullah Cheema and Rabia Shahzadi read their work. Most verses recited at the festival demonstrated discontentment and resentment towards the social and political condition of our society today. Baba Najmi, a well-known Punjabi poet, received the most praise with his poem ‘6 di roti, 10 da naan, badal gaya jai Pakistan’ which was a satirical take on the Punjab government’s performance so far, after their historical win in the elections last year.
Folk singer Rahat Multanikar rekindled the memory of both Iqbal Bano and Faiz, as she sang the beautiful ghazal ‘Dasht-e-Tanhai’. The crowd couldn’t help but sway in tune with the amazing melody. Arif Lohar enthralled the audience with his dazzling chimta and dance moves. The spectators couldn't stop tapping their feet and singing along with the gripping ‘Jugni’ being performed on stage. ‘Hum dekhein ge’ became the showstopper as Nida Faiz recited these verses in her captivating voice. The singers who entertained the audience with some brilliant music included Waris Baig, Tarunam Naaz, Meena Sadaf, Akram Rahi, Anwer Rafi, Sara Raza and the Jatt brothers.
Outside the theatre, stalls had been set up with books displayed on them for sale. People showed particular interest in the stalls showcasing Faiz’s books. It was overwhelming to see people, young and old, gathered at Bagh-e-Jinnah to spread the message of love and peace. Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s family, including Muneeza Hashmi and Saleema Hashmi, also graced the occasion with their presence and thanked the viewers for their immense support to the cause of a tolerant, thoughtful and understanding Pakistan.
The poems Faiz wrote had a sense of sorrow, but this was always trailed by an optimistic tone. The message he gave was of hope and peace. The images his words generated were real; images of our people, images of our neighborhood, images we seek to ignore and images that make us pause and reflect. The idea of humanity that he conveyed inspired people all over the world, and goes on to be a strong voice even today as we see our country tattered to shreds by the evils of aggression and abhorrence. Perhaps, we need Faiz and his message of peace now more than ever, and the Aman Mela was a small effort to buttress this hope of a progressive Pakistan.
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