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Truth and fragrance

February 17, 2011

With jailmate Sajjad Zaheer

[Lucknow, January 13, 1956]: Dast-i-Saba came out printed while we were still in prison. With permission from jail authorities we threw a small party to celebrate it. I remember saying on the occasion that long after people have forgotten the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case, Pakistan’s historian would mention the publication of this book as the most historic event of 1952.

As for Zindaan Nama, most of the poetry in this volume was written by Faiz in Montgomery and Lahore jails, mostly between 1953 and 1955. We had been kept apart by then. After convicting us each with four years of rigorous imprisonment, the authorities had decided that we should not be kept together in one place. Faiz was sent off to Montgomery Jail in Punjab and I to Hyderabad, Sindh and later to Machh Jail, Balochistan. We were not allowed to even correspond even...

Now that life is quite pleasant and I can breathe in a free environment again, thinking about those days of mental, emotional and spiritual distress, as I read my dearest friend’s verse, I am at a loss to express my feelings… a look at Faiz’s poetry [in Zindaan Nama] reveals that the values enshrined in it are the same as were embraced by progressive humanism. Faiz has projected these values with such beauty that they do not seem foreign to the best of our own civilisation and culture, nor do they take anything away from the poet’s individuality, his soft, sweet and melodious way of saying things. His moving and flowing metaphors have the fragrance of our homeland’s flowers. His views reflect the truths and the democratic values which light up the hearts of the vast majority of our people.

If evolution in human civilisation means that one move beyond material and spiritual satisfaction to fill one’s heart with empathy, aim one’s vision at recognising the truth, and imbue one’s character with steadfastness and higher pursuits so that individual life is cleansed and fragranced outwardly and inwardly, then Faiz’s verse tries to touch all of these higher aims of civilisation. I think this is the reason for his extraordinary popularity in both Pakistan and India… All Faiz lovers expect and hope that his future works will be ever more highly valued than what he has written thus far.

Excerpted and translated from the foreword to Zindaan Namaby Murtaza Razvi