Hum Dekhenge … We Shall See

Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911 – 1984) was a Pakistani poet par-excellence.  A staunch Marxist, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.  His strong opposition to illiberal political and religious ideologies resulted in frequent jail sentences and forced or self-imposed exile in England and Lebanon.  In 1990, Pakistan honoured him posthumously with Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the country’s highest civilian award.  Faiz’s body of work is legendary and many of his ghazals (poems) continue to be sung by top Indian and Pakistani performers and remain evergreen.

It appears that youth in India have now (re)-discovered Faiz and in particular, his famous nazm (poem) of defiant protest – Hum Dekhenge (We Shall See) – against the government of Pakistan at the time and in particular, the President – Zia Ul Haq.

Today, it is students and protesters in India who are reciting and singing this poetry to demonstrate against what they consider to be an authoritarian imposition of policies antithetical to the secular fabric of the country.

However, I do not wish to delve into political matters in this forum.  Instead, I wish to introduce readers to the romantic and philosophical aspect of the iconic poems composed by Faiz and others.

Perhaps it was Shakespeare who had said that “The eyes are the window to the soul”.  The following excerpt from a famous nazm by Faiz beautifully illustrates how a lover values the “eyes” of his beloved.  This nazm helped spawn other similar paeans to the beauty of eyes.

Mujh se pehli si mohabbat, mere mehboob naa maang Don’t ask me, my beloved, for that love from days gone by
Maine samjhaa thaa ki tu hai toh darakshaan hai hayaat I had believed that so long as I had you, life was resplendent
Teraa gham hai toh gham-e-dahr kaa jhagdaa kyaa hai What worldly sorrow could possibly rival the anguish of being without you


Teri soorat se hai aalam mein bahaaron ko sabaat Your face is what lends permanence to springtime in this world
…. Teri aankhon ke sivaa duniyaa mein rakhaa kyaa hai… What is there in the world except for the beauty of your eyes


Almost a decade later, a prominent Bollywood lyricist and poet Majrooh Sultanpuri borrowed “teri aankhon ke sivaa duniyaa mein rakha kyaa hai” from Faiz’s nazm as the opening line of a song he wrote for the movie Chirag (1969):

Teri aankhon ke sivaa duniya mein rakha kya hai What is there in the world except for the beauty of your eyes
Yeh uthein subaah chale, yeh jhuken shaam dhale The morning starts when they look up, darkness prevails when they are lowered
Meraa jeenaa meraa marnaa inhin palakon ke tale I live and die under (the spell of) these eyelashes
Palkon ki galiyon mein chehre bahaaron ke hasthe huey Through these eyes is seen the joy of spring radiance
Hai mere khaabonke kyaa kyaa nagar in mein basthey huey All that I dream of, resides within your eyes
In mein mere aanewaley zamaane ki tasveer hai Your eyes depict the images of my future
Chaahat ke kaajal se likhee hui meri taqdeer hai My destiny is written with the kohl of love adorning your eyes

For a change, let us turn our eyes away from the ugliness in the world and continue this journey next week with the theme of “eyes” to view more pleasant aspects of life.

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