When Sajjad Zaheer wrote about Faiz Ahmad Faiz from the jail in Pakistan

(Following is a letter written by Sajjad Zaheer to his family in Lucknow, as published by the Tribune (Sydney, NSW), 28 November, 1951. In this letter  he quotes two couplets of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who was also imprisoned with him. These two couplets are still quoted during the different protests in subcontinent.)

Sajjad Zahher, Ludmilla and Faiz Ahmad Faiz, in 1973

“Of the various feelings that arise in one’s mind in the course of this meaningless hubbub, the strongest, as far as I am concerned, is one of sheer waste of time.”

Thus writes Pakistan peace fighter Sajjad Zaheer from Hyderabad (Pakistan) jail, Zaheer is a leading Indian writer and literary critic and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan.

“Imagine a person,” he adds, “who passed all his time in reading and writing, meeting people or speaking in public, being condemned to sit mum, four hours every day, just, listening to the long tale of the allegations made against him.

“And there are months to pass like this.

“From the day I was arrested I have been trying to manage the rest of my time so as to be able to fix up a program of some study and writing and thus satisfy my conscience that of precious life some part at least has been saved from running to water.

“Well in the Lahore Jail, for one whole month, things were at such a pass that my pen and even the smallest bits of paper were taken away from me. The police simply refused to given me my own books. I received some from the Jail library and read them all through, but these had been so familiar already.

“The situation is somewhat easier here, but I have not been able to secure the books I need. As soon as I do I shall start writing something.

“Of the prisoners the only one I knew before is Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The rest are all big military officers whose interests lie in non-literary fields and not much conversation or exchange of idea with them is possible.

“Of course you are aware that Faiz is among our top-ranking poets today. During this period in jail he has composed a few stray couplets. Here is a precious memento for you, two couplets, so opposite they are.

Though stripped of the fateful power of pen and book, why mourn?

I’ve dipped my fingers into my heart’s blood, for ink.

If lips are sealed by order of authority, oh then, what of it!

Into each link of the chain look a tongue I have put.

If I don’t get release from here maybe I shall start upon a novel. And the fingers ‘dipping in my heart’s blood’ should have a living effect, anyway.

“Write about the children and how they are doing. Their chicken-pox must have spoilt your and the children’s vacation. Heaps of love to all three of them and tell them they must write to me and do it in their own handwriting.

“Lucknow must have received its first showers already and here? We are in a desert but spring greets our home’. Write more frequently long and nice letters. They give more strength and one feels less fearfully lonely.”

(This letter is written by, Sajjad Zaheer, one of the accused in the notorious Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in Pakistan. The secret trial of these men, who face a death sentence because they opposed giving military bases to the Americans, has aroused world-wide protests. Further protests should be sent to the Prime Minister, Government of Pakistan, Karachi.)

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Saquib Salim

Saquib Salim is a well known historian under whose supervision various museums (Red Fort, National Library, IFFI, Jallianwala Bagh etc.) were researched. To his credit Mr. Salim has more than 400 published articles on history, politics, culture and literature in English and Hindi. Before pursuing his research and masters in modern Indian History from JNU, he was an electrical engineering student at AMU. Presently, he works as a freelance/ independent history researcher, writer and works at www.awazthevoice.in

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