For some reason, whenever I think of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, I think of poets like Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz, which is not fair because Faiz was neither a South American poet nor were Neruda or Paz poets of exile like Faiz. God knows what led me to forge this image of Faiz in my mind because in 1984, when he passed away, I was still a child, and I might have seen the pictures of this celebrated poet in Urdu literary journals that were still alive and kicking in India at that time.
When I think hard about that image now, it dawns on me that I might have gathered this impression of Faiz because I remembered him as a cultural ambassador from the Indian sub-continent – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had appointed Faiz to the National Council of the Arts after his incarceration had ended. Later on, he had also won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963 for his poems that had been translated into Russian.
Besides that image of him as a cultural diplomat from Asia, a kind of a globalized figure, I remember Faiz as a poet of love and a poet of protest. In him, I see a lover who is also a revolutionary, a big-nosed man with a hard Punjabi face and smiling eyes, surrounded by curls of cigarette smoke, worrying about the injustices of the world, injustices that come in the way of a lover – rubbish that must be cleared away from the path of love.