Thursday, 22 June 2017

Preface to 'Dast e Saba' by Faiz Ahmad Faiz

An era has passed since Ghalib wrote that an eye that can’t see the river Tigris in a drop of water is not an eye that has sight but rather it is a children’s play. If Ghalib was our contemporary, then probably one of the critics would have called out that Ghalib had insulted the children’s play. Or that Ghalib appears to be a proponent of propaganda in literature. To urge a poet’s eye to see Tigris in a drop is utter propaganda. His eye is only interested in beauty and if beauty is seen in a drop then it should be of no concern to the poet if the drop belongs to either Tigris or a street. To show Tigris is the job of a sage, philosopher or a politician; this not the work of a poet.

If what these individuals said was right, then regardless of the fact that the honor of the ways of the skilled artists remained intact or not, their job would have become much easier. But fortunately or unfortunately, literary art (or any other art) is not children’s play. That’s why even Ghalib’s sight of the eyes is not enough; it’s not enough because not only a poet or a writer has to see Tigris in a drop of water but they also have to show it. Furthermore, if we consider Ghalib’s Tigris to be life and the system of existing realities, then it means that the writer himself is a drop of that Tigris. It means that the responsibility of uniting with the countless other drops in order to determine the river’s direction, flow, shape and it’s destination also falls squarely on the shoulders of the writer.

You can say that the job of the poet isn’t mere observation, rather struggle is also mandatory for him. Observing the perturbed drops in the Tigris of life depends on his sight. Showing it to others depends upon his literary prowess, but to intervene in its flow shows the strength of his passion and the heat of his blood.

All these three endeavors require unceasing effort and struggle.

The system of life is not a stagnant, stone-kissing, imprisoned water of a pond which can be comprehended by the faulty view of the observer. Between the treacherous ways of the distant mountains, snow melts, streams emerge and they tear apart the stones to meet each other. Then this cutting and growing water expands and contracts itself in the valleys, forests and plains. The perceiving sight that has not seen the stages and features of life’s ocean in human history won’t be able to see Tigris in a drop. Then, let’s say that the glimpse of the poet reached these distant and current places but if in their depiction, his speaking prowess didn’t support him, or that to reach the next destination, his life and body didn’t agree to do all the struggle then the poet is not vindicated by his art.

Probably it is not essential to explain this long and expanded metaphor in the language of daily day life. I just want to say that to be aware of the collective struggle of human life, to participate in that struggle to the extent that one can, is not only a requirement of life but also the demand of art.

Art is a part of life and artistic struggle is an aspect of that struggle. This demand always stays, therefore the struggle of a seeker of art has no nirvana. His art is an eternal struggle and an unceasing effort.

In this effort, success or failure depends upon one’s capacity and ability. But to be busy in that effort is nevertheless both possible and essential.

These few pages are also an effort of this kind. In showing the aspects of the effort of fulfilling the great responsibilities of art, it’s possible that the elements of showing off, bragging or narcissism might be observable. But no matter how minor the effort is, it’s better than one’s shame and escape from either life or art.


Central Jail Hyderabad
16th September 1956