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Faiz Ahmed Faiz Remembered in Northern California
By Ras H. Siddiqui

(May 2003) The night of Friday, May 2nd., 2003 saw a very full hall at the Mehran Restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Newark, as a large group of Urdu language enthusiasts   gathered at a program put together by the Bazm-e-Arbab-e-Sukhan (Bazm for short) organization and took the opportunity to recite the work and remember the life of one of the finest writers of Urdu (or any language) that the 20th. Century had produced.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born in
Sialkot in British India in 1911 (now in Pakistan) and died in 1984 in the same country (Pakistan) that he was often exiled from and imprisoned in.  His wife Alys has just recently passed away. The couple is survived by two daughters Moneeza and Saleema Hashmi. But if this reporter may be so bold, Faiz still has a family of millions. And most of these millions that adore him and his work to this day have never met him. They have only known him through his written Urdu poetry (if they know how to read and understand it) or via songs mainly in the Ghazal form that Faiz enriched and singers like Iqbal Bano, Noor Jahan and Mehdi Hassan immortalized for at least three generations in South Asia. India it seems also has quite a number of this Faiz family of admirers. And now the same can be said about North America.
The event in Newark started off with a buffet dinner accompanied by a musical performance by two youngsters. After the nice meal Annie Akhtar, the main coordinator of the event and one of the main forces behind it started things off by giving us a brief history of Bazm in
Northern California and its recent 5 year anniversary (established 1998) and the number of programs that it has held in this area during this time. Bazm has hosted poet Ahmed Faraz on a number of occasions and has been very active in launching the Urdu works of American writers of the language such as and most recently Irfan Mutaza’s “Puraanay Ghar Kay Mausam”  (Seasons in my old home).  A number of others including poetess Noshi Gilani have also been hosted by Bazm.
Annie started off the Ziker-e-Faiz segment which included Urdu poetry recitals and speeches by Tashi Zaheer, Zafar Abbas,  Farooq Taraz and the keynote speech by Syed Jahangir Hamdani. A very moving slide/video/screen presentation on the life of Faiz was also presented that included a chronology, comments by Alys Faiz, daughters Moneeza and Saleema and a few of his friends. After the slide presentation poet Rehman
Siddiqui presented expressed his views. Rehman Sahib also presented a number of individuals with gifts of appreciation on behalf of Bazm for making this evening possible and helping the organization over the years. The names included Mrs. Naheed Zaheer, Farhan Qureshi and a certain Pakistan Link reporter. Zameer Khan was rightfully commended for putting together the slide show. The Zain Jeewanjee Insurance Agency was also thanked for providing the sponsorship for this event and
Nagesh Avadhany and  Tahir Mahmood were especially recognized for their efforts along with Fayyaz of Mehran Restaurant.  
Annie next introduced the final musical segment of the evening. She said that Urdu belonged to all that love this language no matter where they may be from. Singer Monidipa Sharma who sang the works of Faiz this evening was a case in point because she is from
Calcutta in Bengal (India) and Urdu is not her mother tongue. Accompanied by the very talented Ustad Tari Khan on Tabla, Monidipa gave a solid singing performance this evening. 
  In conclusion, it is difficult to grasp the mood of an event such as this in a short report. It is a heartening to note that a writer who continuously wrote about the rights of all human beings and their pursuit of dignity in an often unjust world was remembered at this gathering. Faiz has been called the greatest Urdu writer since Allama Iqbal.
But unlike Iqbal who took up the Muslim cause and tried to liberate a colonized people through his writings, Faiz appealed for rights of oppressed people under the Marxist ideological umbrella. It is for this reason that there are few jails in
Pakistan that have not had him as a guest as he was hounded constantly from 1951 onwards. Faiz also had a special place in his heart for the Palestinians. His relationship with them may have something to do with his not being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
  Like Tagore and Neruda, Faiz the observer extracted the essence of his people and converted into words their hopes, loves and aspirations. The Establishment did not care for his views. But the people did. And is it any wonder that as South Asian Americans continue to remember this master craftsman of Urdu today in North America, Pakistan itself still hesitates to (at a minimum) name a place of learning, of artistic pursuits or even a road or two to honor him?

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