London Faiz Mela 2013
By Izhar Khan (Aberdeen)
September the 21st 2013 will always remain in my mind as a memorable day. I had travelled from Aberdeen the night before at the request of my dear friend and comrade Dr Umer Daraz Khan, who we know affectionately as UD.
Some months before UD had sent me the proofs of his novel “Dahshat Gard Ya Maasoom”, a riveting novella based in the war torn Northern Tribal areas of Pakistan. The protagonist of the novel is a child who is taken into a Madressah by recruiters to the Jihadi cause. I readily accepted UD’s invitation to help launch his book especially as it was to be held at the 2013 Faiz Mela in Euston’s Friends House.
For some years Asim Ali Shah, Rehman Khan and others, who organise this annual event had asked me to come but work and other commitments had prevented me from attending. I was not disappointed and the Faiz mela brought back so many memories of past gatherings of progressive comrades and fellow left wing comrades.
The hall was being refurbished and there was scaffolding throughout the venue. A sense of healthy nostalgic chaos prevailed which far from distracting the excitement of commemorating Faiz, the iconic giant of progressive thought from the East, enhanced the event in a strange sort of way.
The contributors included Zia Mohiuddin, a great essayist and narrator of poetry and prose. Zia regaled us with a great essay on Faiz by the late great Ibn Insha in a quaint rustic Punjabi accent (which Ibn Inshah himself had suggested). For me the highlight was the contribution from Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi, who recounted childhood memories of her father, who wrote some of his most passionate and moving poetry from imprisonment at the hand of military dictators.
To attempt to describe Faiz’s impact on poetry, literature and politics would require volumes and is beyond the remit of my short piece. Suffice it to say that his influence was evidenced by the fact that at the event the hall was filled to overflowing.
My one slight gripe was that the acoustics could have been better and perhaps the venue was a trifle small for the numbers attending, the latter, however, is testimony to Faiz’s international repute. To my comrades who organised this memorable gathering all I can say is thank you and bring on Faiz Mela 2014.