Saturday, March 05, 2011

Trip to Pakistan - A Photo Journal with Random Musings (Part 1)

February 12th & 13th - Alhamra Arts Council, Lahore:

The renowned Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was born on February 13th, 1911 and his birth centenary is being celebrated this year both in Pakistan as well as in many other cities all over the world. Faiz's family spearheaded the efforts to organize numerous events in Lahore to mark the occasion. This included an exhibition of photographs at Faiz Ghar in Model Town, release of some new books on Faiz, a colloquium on his life and work at LUMS, a session of readings and reminiscences by some of Faiz's friends and family and an evening of music with Tina Sani singing Faiz.

No photography was allowed at the performance events but I sneaked in a badly lit, badly taken photo just for the record.

On February 12th, I attended the session of readings and recollections at the Alhamra Arts Council.  The primary attraction for many attendees was the Indian contingent led by Shabana Azmi and her poet husband Javed Akhtar. (Shabana Azmi's father, the progressive poet Kaifi Azmi, was a close friend of Faiz and she had known "Faiz chacha" since she was a young girl). The Rajasthani singer Ila Arun also accompanied the celebrated filmi pair. The evening was a bit of a hodge podge. There were some sublime moments like Ila Arun's highly unusual and powerful rendition of Faiz's poem "Africa Come Back" with its haunting refrain of "Aa jao Afreeka". Also, the novelist Ali Sethi, whose vocals have been a big hit for a couple of years at the Jaipur Literature Festival, did a nice job singing Noor Jehan's famous "Mujh se pehli si mohabbat" and Farida Khanum's lesser known gem "Sab qatl ho kay teray muqabil say aaye haiN". Javed Akhtar is a natural storyteller and his narration of interactions with Faiz during the poet's visits to India had the crowd in stitches. Shabana Azmi was quite overshadowed by her husband's deft public performance. The rest of the evening was mostly a miss with Arshad Mehmood's pathetic introduction of Indian visitor and Faiz family friend Shama Zaidi ranking as the low point.

The musical evening with Tina Sani on February 13th was more uniformly enjoyable. The playlist had a good mix of the well-known ("Bahar aayee") and the new ("Kuch pehlay inn aankhoN aagay", "Woh butoN nay daalay heiN waswase") with the traditional finale "Hum dekheiN gay". Tina Sani also sang the beautiful number from the Shabana Azmi / Muzaffar Ali film "Anjuman" written by Faiz and composed by Khaiyyam ("Kab yaad meiN tera saath nahiN") and courageously dedicated a verse in that ghazal to Salmaan Taseer.

Jis dhaj say koyee maqtal meiN gaya woh shaan salamat rehti hai
Yeh jaan to aani jaani hai, iss jaaN ki to koyee baat nahiN

February 14th - Garden Town, Lahore:

Visited the Chughtai Museum. Abdul Rahman Chughtai (1899-1975) was the famous national artist known for his large watercolors as well as a distinctive style influenced by Islamic calligraphy and miniature painting. The museum has been established in the residence where the artist died and is owned and run by Abdul Rahman Chughtai's son, Arif Chughtai. Interestingly, Abdul Rahman Chughtai is buried on the property alongside his brother.

February 15th - Allama Iqbal Road, Garhi Shahu, Lahore:

Visited the Allama Iqbal Museum in the morning. This museum was established in 1977 in the house where the philosopher poet spent the last three years of his life and died in 1938. The government bought the property from Iqbal's son Justice Javed Iqbal. Iqbal himself named the house "Javed Manzil" and had bequeathed this property to Javed Iqbal in his own life even though his son was only a six year old boy. This was Iqbal's fourth house in Lahore. (His first house was inside Bhati Gate before he went to Europe for his education, second was in Anarkali and the third was on McLeod Road). This land and house cost him a princely sum of 42,000 rupees in 1935.

The museum houses many of his personal effects such as suits, shoes, bow ties, watch etc. It also has photographs, letters written by him to his family and contemporaries and his various books and educational degrees. There is also the room in which he received guests with its original furniture in place including the bed on which he breathed his last.


Aisha PZ said...

A tourist in your own, native city. I know how much you enjoyed this trip. Nice snaps and narrative.

Anonymous said...

Well done Zaks! How long have I been asking you for a piece on some aspect of Faiz?


Fawad Zakariya said...

Thanks Mian Sahib! Very kind of you.
I haven't really hit on a different angle on Faiz yet that I can write about but I remember your ask well. I have written several smaller things like Noor Jehan singing his poetry and now this. I have been reading quite a bit of Faiz recently so maybe something will click!!

Musab said...

Hey, you were at the Faiz celebrations too, I'd have said hi if I'd known. I was at both the Alhamra events. Did you attend the LUMS colloquiums too?

Fawad Zakariya said...

Musab, it would have been nice if we knew!! I did not attend the colloquiums at LUMS. I did not have enough time but also my professor father is a walking colloquium on Urdu poetry so I always feel my time with him is doubly well spent.

ajnabi said...

Fawad, your post brought back memories of a Lahore I had the pleasure of living in nearly 25 years back. It was the heady days of BB's return and everyday seemed to hold jalsas and melas in the city's many parks dedicated to the poety of Faiz. Raza Kazim was a guide to the intellectual background and riding my cycle through the city from Riwaz Gardens to Shadman Colony where we studied was ever exciting. I also recall a Bismillah Khan concert at Alhambra. So glad to see it is still thriving. I wish I could have attended the Faiz night.Shabana and Tina are among my favorites.