What Faiz would have written about AAP
By Gorvika Rao
Eh? AAP and Faiz? What? You mean that there is something poetic about AAP? Or you must be wondering if this is an article that will force feed the Pakistani rebel poet into contemporary Indian politics. My impatient reader, I ask for patience.
Faiz, in fact, would be giving a wry smile, if he had been asked to write how he felt about AAP and the ‘political revolution’ that it was supposed to bring about in the country. He would give a wry smile, maybe shake his head a bit, and tell you to just read a poem of his. Maybe he would quote the famous French saying: “The more things change the more they remain the same.” But, he will most probably prefer to use Urdu, instead. And that would be better.
AAP was an idea – an idea of change, an idea of hope, an idea of a revolution that is from the grassroots, an idea of poetry winning over cynicism.
And that is an idea that is dying. As it stands today, a party that claimed to be made of different stuff than the rest of the ‘dirty politicians’ has publicly humiliated its dissidents and thrown them out because they wanted to strictly adhere to lofty principles that AAP started with. This was coming in the way of ‘practical politics’. Dissidents were asked to go while sycophants were given lucrative posts. And all this while, AAP claimed that they are still the same party, with the same principles – only some ‘housekeeping’ needs to be done. And not forgetting to remind us that they are still the ‘best option’. And the millions, who had hoped, see their dreams subverted and trampled upon. Twisted to become very similar to the ones they had hoped to purge.
The dissidents have claimed these to be like a ‘Stalinist purge’ and there are clear parallels. Replace the dissidents with Trotsky and it would seem like a clear echo of the past. But that’s prosaic history – of facts.
Sometimes, when an idea dies, especially an idea that was nurtured spontaneously and given shape by unarticulated hopes of millions, prose fails, facts fail. Quoting Orwell and Koestler gives clinical satisfaction but somehow fails utterly to capture the emptiness and feeling of betrayal like poetry can. Especially poetry that is sad and angry at the same time.
“Yeh daag daag ujaala, yeh sabkajida sehar
woh intzaar tha jisaka yeh woh sehar toh nahi
yeh woh sehar toh nahi, jisaki aarju leke chale the”
(These freckled patches of light,
a night-like dawn – this is not the dawn we’ve been waiting for.
This is not the dawn we had wished for) [“Subh-e-Azadi , August, 1947”/The Dawn of Freedom, August, 1947]
He was writing about the time that an idea called Pakistan died. Could he have been foreseeing the death of the idea of AAP? Yes, in so far as timeless poetry like this can talk through the ages and speak to people in different times and different situations. Because when an idea dies, it dies in a similar ways – betrayal, impotent anger, sadness, rootlessness, and hopelessness.
Pakistan was born out an ideal, an ideal that appealed to many – that of a nation of the ‘pure’, a nation which had the perfect combination of religion and socialism – a liberal nation where everyone was free to choose his or her religion. Millions died, directly and indirectly, for that dream to be realized. A nation was divided.
How the dream of a liberal country with private religion fared is for the whole world to see. But even in the birth throes, Faiz saw how the dream was turning out. Saw it before others could understand it. And he spoke about it. He wrote about it in wonderful, moving poetry. Of how a dream dies:
“Moti ho kay sheesha jaam kay dur
jo toot gaya, so toot gaya,
kab ashkon say judh sakta hai
jo toot gaya, so toot gaya.”
(A jewel, a pearl or a cheap wineglass,
once broken, is broken –
no tears can make it whole again
what’s broken is fallen forever!) [“Sheeshon Ka Masiha Koi Nahin”/No Glass Messiah]
But maybe, as with all great poetry, what he was seeing at the present was incidental. Faiz seemed to be writing for all posterity with the knowledge that things move in a cycle. This was not the first time that a dream has been betrayed. That the betrayal is often done by the very architects of that dream; that the architects are often only opportunists looking to fulfill their own ambitions.
“Tum kehtay ho who jung ho bhi chuki
Jismay rakhkha nahin hai kisi nay kadam
Koi utra na maidan main dushman na hum
Koi saf ban na payi na koi aalam”
(You tell me the war is long over!
The one in which
No on ecam eout to fight
No one got in the arena
The enemy or us – ) [“TumYeh Kehtay Ho Ab Koi Chara Nahin”/You Tell Me It’s Hopeless…]
Pakistan turned out to be a corruption of a dream. AAP and the dream of ‘clean politics’ is going the same way. The words that were used to woo millions of Indians seem like a cruel joke – words meant to soothe but not meant. AAP used poetry and words to woo a populace. For appreciating the betrayal of the dream, we too would need a ‘counter-poet’, a poet who can turn their betrayal back on to them and express how we feel. To tell us that we are not the first and certainly not the last to be taken in by an idea of utopia, to be lulled by fiery and soothing words. To tell us that this too would pass and that we will dare to hope and dream again!
lazim hai ki hum bhi dekhengay
woh din kay jiska wada hai
jo loh-e-azal main likhkha hai
who julm-o-sitam kay koh-a-gran
rui ki tarah udh jayengay
hum mehkoomon kay paon-talay
jab dharti dhad-dhad dhadkegi
aur ahel-a-hikam kay sar upar
jab bijli kadh-kadh kadhkaygi
(We shall see !
We’ll have to see
the day we were promised
at the time of creation
We shall see,
when the mountains of oppression
blow away like wisps of cotton,
when this land
quivers under the feet of the oppressed
when lightning flashes
and thunder roars over
the heads of oppressors
We shall see!) [“Vyakba wajah-e-rabbka”/We Shall See!]
Gorvika Rao is Assistant professor of English literature in Motilal Nehru College (M), University of Delhi. She has started a Poetry Studies group Dead Poets Society along with some students of Delhi University. She regularly writes on her blog iwithmyself.wordpress.com.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.