Faiz was a romantic poet, and like many other poets, loved beautiful
things and beautiful people, especially women. He was shy and reserved
socially, but he was quite passionate and expressive in his poems. His
fascination with women lasted all his life. Some of those women became his
muse and inspired him to create his masterpieces.
When Faiz was a child, he was looked after by many women,
including his mother and step mothers, as his father, who was also an
incurable romantic, had multiple wives. (Ref 4, p 6) Nurtured by many
women at an early age must have played a significant role in the
development of a nurturing personality of Faiz.
When Faiz was a teenager, he fell in live with a charming woman,
for the first time. Feelings were mutual. Both loved and adored each other
but could not get married because of their traditional, conservative and
religious families, where arranged marriages were more in vogue than love
marriages. When Faiz’s first sweetheart became a wife of a stranger,
arranged by her family, he was heartbroken. Being a creative person he
transformed his pains into poems about love and loneliness. One of those
poems is titled
There is someone at the door, dear heart
Nay, there is none…
Or might be a wanderer…
He will go hence, plodding his weary way.
Night is done
And evaporates in the thin air of the starry mist.
In palaces quiver the sleeping lamps
Hanging by their chains of gold.
The solitary paths are sunk in despair
And the unfriendly dust
Has obliterated the footprints.
Fill the cups and drink to the less
The bitter wine of loneliness.
Lock up your slumber less doors, dear heart!
For, now no one will ever ever come again.
(Translated by Daud Kamal) (Ref 2, p 30)
When Faiz was in his twenties he was introduced to Progressive
Writers and Marxist literature. Such involvement raised his social and
political consciousness and he got involved in the freedom movement and
the class struggle of masses. He broadened the scope of his love and
started a life-long love affair with his motherland and revolution. While
he was meeting many socialist leaders older than him, he met a young,
tall, charming English woman Alys, who was visiting her sister in India.
Alys was the sister in law of Faiz’s dear friend Dr Taseer. When Faiz and
Alys met and exchanged their ideas, they became good friends and started
dating. Those dates were as much philosophical as romantic. Their
courtship lasted a few long years as Faiz had to convince his traditional
family that he wanted to marry a woman from a different country, culture
and religion, who did not speak his mother tongue. Finally the family
agreed on the condition of her becoming a Muslim and having a traditional
religious marriage ceremony, nikah. Although Alys was a Communist,
she accepted Islam and an Islamic name Kulsoom to be with Faiz. It was a
great sacrifice on her behalf as she was an assertive, outspoken feminist.
The couple struggled financially and socially as it was a mixed marriage.
To integrate in that culture Alys learnt to speak Urdu and wear Indian
Faiz and Alys had two daughters Saleema and Muneeza. Faiz was a
wonderfully nurturing father who played a significant role in their
upbringing. Alys had to look after those children and earn a living as a
journalist when Faiz was imprisoned for a few years. During his
imprisonment he missed the role of a husband and a father and wrote
wonderful love letters to Alys.
The more Faiz became famous and his revolutionary poetry became
popular, the more he was sought out by charming and creative women. Those
women not only liked and adored him, they worshiped him. He had a long
list of female admirers. There were times when Faiz was walking on the
streets of Moscow and women would come running towards him, give him a
rose and then run away, feeling shy and bashful. .Faiz was loved by many
women. Some kept it a secret while others shared it by writing articles
and publishing books about him, including Alys Faiz, Ludmila Visilva and
Begum Sarfaraz Iqbal, expressing their love and adoration for him.
Faiz being a kind, caring and loving person reciprocated their love with
love. It seems as if he believed that when you love more than one, love
multiplies, it does not divide. Alongside the bright side of love, there
was also the dark side of love that was expressed in the form of jealousy.
That jealousy was a double-edged sword that cut the hearts of his lovers.
On one hand Alys was jealous of other women who adored Faiz, (Ref 1 p 121)
and on the other hand there were jealous husbands who were perturbed by
the love their wives showered on Faiz.
Most of the jealousies were innocent and harmless but there were
times they became painful and dangerous. One such example was when Faiz
visited Moscow. A young journalist Anwar Azeem shared the story of a
jealous husband in his essay titled A Night in Moscow. (Ref 3 p
793) He wrote, “Snow was falling. It was a mysterious night in Moscow. Our
car was moving fast from Ucharina Hotel to Natasha’s house. One could see
freshly fallen snow on the ground.
Natasha and Faiz were sitting on the back seat. Her long curly
hair was spread on her shoulders. Natasha was mesmerized by Faiz’s poetry
and personality. Since Faiz was planning to go back home in a few days,
Natasha had arranged a party in her house that evening so that Faiz could
meet her family, friends and admirers.
On arrival Natasha’s husband welcomed his guests gracefully. He
served food and drinks and took pictures to keep a memory of his Indian
and Pakistani guests. We were impressed by Natasha’s hospitality. She was
an intelligent woman and her brightness was making her face radiant.
After dinner and coffee, when Natasha was traveling in the car to
drop us off at the hotel I teased her.
“It is late at night and snow is falling. Your husband must be a really
nice guy to let you come with us”
“After dropping you people off, I will go straight home. He can wait for a
while.” She said in a mischievous way about her husband.
Faiz interrupted her and said in his gentle voice, “Be careful
Natasha, your husband will kill you. I saw blood in his eyes.”
Natasha laughed and did not take him seriously.
After a few days Faiz went back home. I was still in Moscow and in touch
with Natasha. She told me that one of Faiz’s poems was translated in
Russian and it was a beautiful poem.
When I met Natasha she told me that Faiz was a wonderful human
being. That is why he was also a wonderful poet.
After a few days I received a surprise call from Natasha’s friend.
She shared shocking news.
“I cannot believe it” I said.
I reminisced about that mysterious night, about the snowfall and what Faiz
had told Natasha, “Be careful Natasha, your husband will kill you.”
And Natasha’s husband had killed his beautiful wife.”
There is no record of what was Faiz’s reaction when he found out
that his prophecy had come true. Faiz had seen blood in the eyes of a
jealous husband. I am sure he was not the first jealous husband Faiz had
encountered in his life. All the women who loved Faiz had to offer
sacrifices, some more than others.
In the end I would like to share a dialogue that took place
between Amrita Pritam, a legendry Punjabi poet and Faiz Ahmad Faiz, a
legendry Urdu poet that captures the essence of Faiz’s romantic encounters
with women. She wrote,
“ Faiz said,’ I fell in love for the first time at the age of 18. All my
poems of Naqsh-e-fariadi are inspired by that love.’
‘Why did you not spend your life with her?’
‘We were not brave enough. She was married off to a landlord.
My second love was Alys, ten years after the first one.”
‘She is your wife now.’
‘Yes, she is. I think I did the right thing marrying Alys. Any other woman
would not have been able to tolerate the hardships and the ups and downs
of my life, especially when I was in jail for a few years.”
‘Any other love?”
‘I used to like a young girl. Then she became a young woman. I adored her
but she married a young officer. She got scared of love and the pain
associated with it.”
‘You have written a poem Rival . Is it about her?’
‘No, it was about my first love.’
‘Any more love affairs?’
‘When I was in prison, I was admitted to a hospital. Over there a lady
doctor fell in love with me.”
“Does Alys know about all of your love affairs?”
“Yes, she does. She is not only my wife, she is also my friend. That is
why we could stay together for so long. Love is painful, friendship is
After sharing all that Faiz put his cigarette in the ashtray and became
serious. He paused for a while and then said, “Now I have decided not to
fall in love with any woman ever again. I will make her my friend,
provided she was worthy of friendship.” (Ref 5, p 54)
Begum Sarfarz Iqbal…Daman-e-Yousaf, Mawara Publishers Lahore
Daud Kamal…Selected Poems of Faiz in English, Pakistan Publishing
House Karachi Pakistan 1984
Ashfaq Hussain…Faiz kay Maghrabi Hawalay, Jang Publishers ,
Ludmila Visilva…Pervarish-e-lohoqalam, Oxford University Press,
Karachi, Pakistan 2007
Sheema Majid…BataiN Faiz Say , Al-Hamd Publications Lahore Pakistan