Faiz Ahmad is a Pakistani writer, poet and blogger from Pakistan. He is one of the most famous writers of Urdu and Punjabi literature. His two major works, Karachi Ka ladina (The City of Saints) and Mina nasik (The Star of Night) are some of his most famous books. His first novel, Manda (The Desolate Area), received wide acclaim all over the world. Now, his latest novel Manda Zia has been turned into a film starring Muhammad Ghazi.
Born as Mustafa Ahmed in Lahore, Faiz Ahmad’s childhood was spent in Italy. After completing his education in Ravi Waterhouse College, he joined the British Army, which he served in the Indian Wars. After the war, he was arrested by the British for participating in propaganda against the British during the IRA’s campaign. He spent seven years in jail and was released after proving to the court that he was not a terrorist. He later became a revolutionary poet. In fact, many scholars consider him to be Pakistan’s first revolutionary poet.
The most prominent period in the life of Faiz Ahmed occurred during the time of partition. He began writing Urdu poetry soon after the split between Pakistan and India. As the partition progressed, he went through many changes in his lifestyle, as his thoughts about India and Pakistan changed and he began to write about topics that did not focus on India or Pakistan at all.
As the partition progressed, his writings matured and started focusing on the separation between India and Pakistan. Shall see his early poems here:
First: A Ghazal written in Urdu, called Dagh Ghazal, is one of my earliest memories of Faiz Ahmed. It is also one of my earliest poetic memories of him. It is set in Lahore and depicts a scene from the beginning of the partition when both the Pakistanis and Indians were still calling the city’Pakistan’. It is an amazing love story between a man called Nazmul and a woman called Karila.
Second: Nazmul’s poetry is also one of my earliest memories of Faiz Ahmed. It is a collection of some of his early Urdu poetry. It describes scenes similar to those that were depicted in his final novel, Kashmir.
Third: One of my very favorite pairs of Dilbagh tattoos is from the book of Faiz Ahmed. It is a love story between a man named Nazmul and a lady named Karila. I think that it is a beautiful love story between two young lovers, who are barely teenagers in the book.
These three pairs of Dilbagh tattoos represent different aspects of Azmal’s work. The first is from his book of Lail Muhammad Shah Darwish, a collection of short stories and a number of essays. It is also known as the Azmal series. The second is from his short story collection, Nights in Makka (Nahin Haq), and includes a story entitled “The Delicate Boat”. The last is from his book of poetry, Kahina Jasmine. Azmal wrote a number of other fantastic books – most notably the poetry collection, Nahin Seen Teeka (Seek and Learn).
Now, let’s talk about the very first one of his Dilbagh tattoo, a sketch from his book of Lail Muhammad Shah Darwish. Azmal draws a rough sketch of what looks like a boat with two figures on its prowl. One of them is sitting on the boat with a white pail of water while the other is standing at the bow’s end. The one on the bow is giving the order to dive the ship while the kneeling man in the white pail is receiving the water from a hand-held monsoon. This is probably one of Azmal’s earliest attempts at figurative art, a preoccupation which translates very well into Muslim poetry.
Another early work of Azmal is his sketch called Nusate Manoos. In this sketch, he depicted a number of different animals lying on the ground, all of which are considered unclean. One of these includes a deer whose head is apparently severed off, an egg that has been cracked open, and a crow that flaps its wings. This work also seems to have been influenced by Islamic teachings about unclean and impure animals, especially birds. The concept of manoos, as mentioned above, comes directly from Islamic law, which prohibits man from defecating or touching any animal with his hands.
Then we come to the last in the set of Dilbagh tattoos – the one that got Azmal recognized by the British. It’s called Yaad Karoba. In this one, Azmal paints a series of pictures and geometrical figures on the upper portion of the subject. In the upper panel, we have the image of a mountain-range; in the lower, we have the silhouette of a man walking on a river; and in the middle, we see a figure of a tiger and a dragon – perhaps a commentary on the duality of existence (yours and your own). This particular piece of work was not as successful as the others, but was nevertheless very symbolic and relevant to the Indian mindset at the time.
All these artists have their origins in India, and from these, they’ve built their styles. Some are very spiritual, while others have a very secular point of view. Faiz Ahmad and his contemporaries have managed to fuse aspects of Indian and western art in ways never heard before. They’ve created pieces that have touched the hearts and minds of millions -and in doing so, they’ve given us something new to think about. It’s a shame that his poetry isn’t more widely known.