Mirza Ghalib was a classical Urdu and Persian Poet from the Mughal Empire when the subcontinent was under British colonial rule. Forty two years after his death, another left-wing intellectual, revolutionary Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz was born. Both the poets had an almost similar stay on this earth spanning a period of seventy two and a half years. There is a remarkable similarity between the two in terms of their poetic excellence but there exists a complete diversification when one looks at the larger canvas of their lives.

The idea that life is one continuous painful struggle which can end only when life itself ends is a recurring theme in Ghalib’s poetry. Before Ghalib, the ghazal was primarily an expression of anguished love; but Ghalib expressed philosophy and the travails and mysteries of life, thus vastly expanding its scope. Ghalib’s poetry primarily revolved around the love of his beloved, while remaining immersed in her thoughts with utmost devotion.

Dil dhondta hai phir wo hi

fursat ke raat din

Bethay rah’en tasawwor-e-jana kiye hoye

Phir jee mein hai ki dar pe kisi

ke pade rahein

Sar zar-e-baar-e-minnat-e-darbaan

kiye huwe

The intensity of his emotion and richness of depth comes later in the verse with ravishing ferocity when he writes:

Ghalib hamein na chhed ki phir josh-e-ashq se Baithe hain hum tahayya-e-toofaan kiye huwe

On first glance, the forty two years of separation between the two great poets of the century did not change much in terms of love, as Faiz picked up the romanticism where Ghalib had left it. However, Faiz was concerned more with broader socialist ideas, using Urdu poetry for the creation and expansion of socialism in the country. Faiz’s works, political ideology, and poetry became immortal and he was often dubbed the “greatest poet” of Pakistan.

Tina Sani, the legendary ghazal singer, whilst commenting on the legacy of Faiz said, “He was like a comrade; his thoughts were soft but effective and inspired the classical singers as it did others in the plays we performed. Faiz’s poetry never gets old because the problems of this country have not changed. Today, we sing his verses because of his beautiful poetry, missing out on the reasons behind his poems, which were full of predictions.”

The intensity and depth found in Faiz’s poetry seems like a continuation of Ghalib’s work, wherein he mesmerizes the reader with his majestic poetic masterpieces. Perhaps his most loved piece, “Mujh se pehli si muhabbat mere mehboob na maang,” carries exactly this poetic stupor. When young, one is fascinated by love as it burns one’s soul and ignites every fibre of one’s being. Life seems all about knowing somebody, wanting to be with that person and belief in love becomes the ultimate saviour. In youth, when one is in love, all seems beautiful even if nothing is right with the world. But as we grow older, our reality becomes shattered by the brutal fragments of life. As Faiz poetically puts it;

Maine samjha tha ke tu hai to darakhshaan hai hayaat Tera gham hai to gham-e-dahar ka jhagdaa kya hai Teri surat se hai aalam mein baharon ko sabaat Teri aankhon ke sivaa duniya mein rakkha kya hai
Tu jo mil jaye to taqdeer nigoon ho jaye

From here onwards, the journey from Ghalib to Faiz enters into another dimension of looking at the atrocities of life occurring all around us.

Aur bhi dukh hain zamaane mein mohabbat ke sivaa

Raahaten aur bhi hain vasl ki raahat ke sivaa

Faiz starts looking towards the other dimensions of our existence; an existence steeped in infinite darkness. The imagery changes; it becomes more real, tackling issues of modernity and humanity, and the inevitable grief of the human condition. The poet evokes the memory of our ultimate reality, and lives surrounded by violence, death and loss at every turn. We live in a world where bodies and flesh are sold openly, where people die of hunger every day. As he later puts it, no matter how beautiful the love of the beloved is, one cannot turn one’s face away from these brutal realities.

Laut jaati hai udhar ko bhi nazar,

kya ki jiye

Ab bhi dilkash hai tera husn magar

kya ki jiye

Mujhse pehli si mohabbat mere

mehboob na maang

The zenith and the immortalization of the two poets starting from love and ending in the quest for enlightenment is a starting point for the seekers who strive to understand the mysteries of life. While we are surrounded by so many beautiful things in life, we just can’t miss out on the pain rationed around us. The starting point is to realize and account for all the missing segments in our lives; those voids that need desperately to be filled.

The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living in the Grave and several research papers.The writer prefers to avoid human interaction and finds peace & happiness being alone, in silence with his own self.

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