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A house of his own

February 17, 2011

A collection of books on and by Faiz and rare publications and magazines adorns the shelves in the library.

‘It’s lovely the way history has been so lovingly captured here. Makes it difficult for the younger generation to forget our nation’s heroes. So goes one of the impressions recorded in the visitors’ book at Faiz Ghar, Lahore. Many others have described the visit as a spiritual journey and a few fans paid homage to the literary giant by putting down his couplets that won him wide celebrity.

It is for such a legion of admirers and people from different callings that the house (126-F, Model Town) that has been donated by a close friend of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, has been converted into a centre of literary and cultural pursuits that promises to become a ‘landmark’ in the days to come. At a time when the city’s literary and academic horizon has worn a murky look, this place offers a silver lining to the connoisseurs of arts and literature.

With a simple exterior which seems to retain the original touch but certain pride of intellectual glow, Faiz Ghar plays host to scholars, researchers, academics, students and above all, his devotees who can revel in his memorabilia, including his personal effects, original manuscripts, certificates, medals and photographs.

A collection of books on and by Faiz and rare publications and magazines adorns the shelves in the library which is also equipped with a scanner and digital accessories to facilitate a visitor’s journey into the realm of knowledge. The small but beautiful library is fast gaining pride of a place among such venues. A hall downstairs serves as a stage for regular sittings, classes and documentaries as does the lawn outside.

An array of displayed items greets one in the entrance room which offers a unique learning experience. Among the cameos and archives preserved in glass showcases are the original manuscripts of Faiz’s ‘Nikahnama’ in Persian and its English translation, hand-written wedding cards of his daughters, drafts on the letterhead of The Pakistan Times, postcards to children and grandchildren, and Sadequain’s hand-written invite (to an exhibition) on Faiz’s 60th birth birthday. A specimen of Faiz’s visiting card and identity card also attract the curious eye.

The picture gallery showing many facets and seasons of Faiz’s life presents a perfect mosaic of memories. One can find a large collection of portraits, mounted and framed, in which Faiz enjoys the blissful company of his family and friends and appears in official assignments and on special occasions. Portraits of Faiz and Alys together with their children and grandchildren capture the happy memories and are an asset to his posterity.

One of them shows Faiz being interviewed by the BBC Urdu Service in London on Dec 31, 1968; others include Faiz’s group photo with Pakistani journalists at the ILO Conference in San Francisco (1949), Faiz in army uniform (Delhi, 1942), a BBC Mushaira in London (1980) and the editorial team of The Pakistan Times in Lahore (1947).

The upper portion of the building houses the library which holds special appeal to readers. Books from Faiz’s own collection on a variety of subjects reflect the range of his interest in literature, history, religion, arts and science, music and sports.

Besides works of Lenin and a collection on Marxism, An Introduction to the Study of Literature by Hudson, Sartre’s The War Diaries, Seven Pillars of Wisdom -- a triumph (T.E. Lawrence, 1946), the work of Muhammad Iqbal -- a collection of articles by Soviet scholars (edited by Abdur Rauf Malik), Jawahar Lal Nehru speeches, 1957-1963, The Awakening of Asia by H.M. Hyndman and The Eye of Picasso by Roland Penrose (a publication of Fontana Unesco Art Books) bear testimony to the diversity endearing to Faiz and his love for the written word.

Standing out for its sublime language and theme is the prized possession -- John Arlott’s The Ashes (Pelham Books). The one-line dedication “For Robert – an alibi for my summer absences” speaks volumes for the writer’s power of expression. The language section also preserves A Manual of Style which contains typographical and other rules for authors, printers and publishers and is recommended by The University of Chicago Press.

A Black Rainbow Over My Homeland, edited by Kalyana Sahni, is a tribute to Faiz’s literary genius as it commemorates him along with two other literati – Alex la Guma (South African novelist) and Mouin Besseiso (Palestinian poet).

A reminder of Faiz’s stay in Beirut, original copies of Lotus magazine (Afro-Asian Writers’ Association) in the library are a source of inspiration as are the volumes of the weekly Viewpoint, a journalistic endeavour of the late Mazhar Ali Khan.

A project of the Faiz Foundation Trust, a non-profit organisation which aims to promote the poet’s work and message, progressive vision and humanistic ideas, Faiz Ghar was launched on March 1, 2009. It promises to be the latest haunt of Lahore’s culture buffs and visitors to the city alike.