The city from here

Anjum Altaf in Dawn:

The amazing thing about Faiz Ahmed Faiz is that you can never leave him behind. Witness how he emerged in the midst of the recent protests in India with ‘Hum Dekhenge’ being sung in half a dozen languages to the point where flummoxed authorities were forced to treat a man, dead for a good 35 years, as a threat to national security.

These days the title of one of his poems, ‘Yahan se Sheher ko Dekho’ (Look at the city from here) has gotten into my head and is driving me insane. That is because, if you think about it, the ‘here’ in the title can blow your world apart. What it is telling you is that the city looks different from ‘here’ than it does from ‘there.’ And, knowing that can forever change the way you look at your city.

I was recently part of a panel where the participants laid a lot of stress on Faiz as the poet par excellence of hope. Personally, I don’t relate to that as the lasting value of Faiz’s poetry; to me his major gift is that of awareness. Once again, the ‘here’ and ‘there’ have salience.

More here.