Dedications that Dissent: Reading Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s “Intisab” Today

Photo: The Hindu

By Amrita Sharma

paḌhne vāloñ ke naam
vo jo as.hāb-e-tabal-o-alam
ke daroñ par kitāb aur qalam
kā taqāzā liye haath phailā.e
vo ma.asūm jo bhole-pan meñ
vahāñ apne nanhe charāġhoñ meñ lau kī lagan
le ke pahuñche jahāñ
baT rahe the ghaTā-Top be-ant rātoñ ke saa.e 

Dedicated to the students
Those who arrived at the gates of the officials
Petitioning with open arms for pen and paper.
But never came back.
Those innocents who, in their idealism,
took the fire of dedicated learning in their young hearts
and reached where
Were being promiscuously distributed the shadows of endless nights.

For a belief in the ‘act of reading’, a conviction in the ‘power of words’ and expressing a passionate provocation to a ‘narrative of subdued realities’, the above lines remain my personal favourite from a nazm composed by a poet who remains alive in his commitment to change. Remembered today as one of the radicals who enflamed Urdu poetics by the power of his progressive vigour, Faiz Ahmed Faiz continues to be one of the most popular Urdu poets. This article revisits his nazm “Intisab” that assembles a range of dedications, depicting a dark reality.

Written by a poet whose socialist approach had altered the notion of romantic love and gave us the immensely popular line, “aur bhi dukh hai zamane mein mohabbat ke siva” (There are other sorrows in the society apart from love), “Intisab” may also be regarded as an expression of a similar notion of poetic grief arising out of social unrest.

As the title indicates, the poem “Intisab” is a collection of ‘Dedications’ that range from the scattered sorrows that Faiz witnessed and to which he intends to draw his readers’ attention. Written to represent these prevalent yet unrecognized identities, Faiz introduces his dedications to construct a collage of modern realities. Beginning with a generic call to his contemporary morbid times, he addresses the working class men who remain a victim of the ruling ones. His dedications to these trampled men read as follows:

clerkoñ kī afsurda jānoñ ke naam
kirm-ḳhurda diloñ aur zabānoñ ke naam
post-manoñ ke naam
tāñge vāloñ kā naam
rail-bānoñ ke naam
kār-ḳhānoñ ke bhūke jiyāloñ ke naam 

Dedicated to the gloomy lives of clerks
Moth eaten hearts and words.
Dedicated to the postmen
Dedicated to the coachmen
Dedicated to the railway workers
Dedicated to the innocent beings in the factories.

Continuing his dedications that further include a realistic portrayal of a farmer who lives a life of poverty, a helpless mother who is unable to feed her children, the maidens who reside and die behind a veil, the wives who remain a victim of traditions and the widows who experience a similar plight, the poetic sketch transitions from these generalised identities to a wider canvas:

kaTḌiyoñ aur galiyoñ mohalloñ ke naam
jin kī nāpāk ḳhāshāk se chāñd rātoñ
ko aa aa ke kartā hai aksar vazū
jin ke sāyoñ meñ kartī hai āh-o-bukā
āñchaloñ kī hinā
chūḌiyoñ kī khanak
kākuloñ kī mahak
ārzū-mand sīnoñ kī apne pasīne meñ julne kī bū

Dedicated to the lanes in the slums and colonies
Whose scattered garbage and refuse the moon often contemplates and sanctifies
In the night.
From amongst whose shadows emanates
The hennaed hair under the veils
The clink of bangles
The scent of loosened tresses.
The stench of impassioned bodies burning in their own sweat.

Faiz’s last two dedications are to those prisoners who wither away in confinement and to the ambassadors of the coming days, who seem enraptured in their own cause. “Intisab” remains one of Faiz’s most popular and powerful poetic texts, that seems to have relevance in different social contexts.

During the outbreak of COVID-19, the marginal identities continue to face the most challenging adjustments. Faiz’s dedications are relevant today because they address the plight of the most marginalized sections of society. While unveiling the sketches that construct his contemporary times, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s provocative dedications remain crucial for an understanding of a socialist cause. As times and the social norms change, the opening lines of “Intisab” somehow continue to reverberate even today. It is with these opening lines that I wish to conclude:

aaj ke naam
aaj ke ġham ke naam
aaj kā ġham ki hai zindagī ke bhare gulsitāñ se ḳhafā
zard pattoñ kā ban 

Dedicated to these times, and the sorrow of these times.
The pain of today, that is set against the plentiful garden of life

Note: The translation has been taken from here.  

Amrita Sharma is a Lucknow-based writer, currently pursuing her Ph.D. in English from the University of Lucknow. Her works have previously been published in Café Dissensus Everyday, Muse India, New Academia, GNOSIS, Dialogue, The Criterion, Episteme and Ashvamegh. Her area of research includes avant-garde poetics and innovative writings in the cyber space.


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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, born in New York City and currently based in India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.


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