Born into a Tataley Jat family on 13 February 1911, in Sialkot, India, which is now part of Pakistan, legendary Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a hardcore Marxist. Fairly strict diction, his poems maintain a casual, conversational tone, creating tension between the elite and the common, somewhat in the tradition of Ghalib and his shayari continue to light up our world. Especially celebrated for his poems in traditional Urdu forms, such as the ghazal, Faiz is credited for his remarkable ability to expand the conventional thematic expectations to include political and social issues.

While his early poems were conventional, light-hearted treatises on love and beauty, he began to expand into politics, community and the thematic interconnectedness, when he came to Lahore, as he felt it was fundamental in both life and poetry. Two of his poetry collections, Dast-e Saba and Zindan Namah, focus on life in prison, which he experienced while jailed for the failed coup attempt that became known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. Faiz considered the two works as an opportunity to see the world in a new way.

Faiz was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature and won the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union in 1962. Later, he wrote stark poems of outrage over the bloodshed between Pakistan, India and what later became Bangladesh. When forced into exile, he continued to write poems in Urdu and due to his written and published works throughout his tumultuous life, Faiz soon became the best-selling modern Urdu poet in both India and Pakistan.

Some of his most famous writings – shayari/ghazals that express the details of what love is and what life truly is, include:

1. “aa.e to yuuñ ki jaise hamesha the mehrbān
bhūle to yuuñ ki goyā kabhī āshnā na the”
Translation: She came as if she’d been cordial forever
When overlooked; ignored as if she knew never

2. “aur bhī dukh haiñ zamāne meñ mohabbat ke sivā
rāhateñ aur bhī haiñ vasl kī rāhat ke sivā”
Translation: Sorrows other than love’s longing does this life provide,
comforts other than a lover’s union too abide

3. “aur kyā dekhne ko baaqī hai
aap se dil lagā ke dekh liyā”
Translation: What else is there now for me to view
I have experienced being in love with you

4. “dil nā-umīd to nahīñ nākām hī to hai
lambī hai ġham kī shaam magar shaam hī to hai”
Translation: The heart is not hopeless, it’s just a failure
Though murky and long night; but only failure

5. “duniyā ne terī yaad se begāna kar diyā
tujh se bhī dil-fareb haiñ ġham rozgār ke”
Translation: This world has caused me to forget all thoughts of you
The sorrows of subsistence are more deceitful than you

6. “ham parvarish-e-lauh-o-qalam karte raheñge
jo dil pe guzartī hai raqam karte raheñge”
Translation: We will nourish the pen and tablet; we will tend them ever
We will write what the heart suffers; we will defend them ever

7. “dil se to har mo.āmla kar ke chale the saaf ham
kahne meñ un ke sāmne baat badal badal ga.ī”
Translation: I ventured forth with all my thoughts properly arranged
In her presence when I spoke, the meaning had all changed

8. “jab tujhe yaad kar liyā sub.h mahak mahak uThī
jab tirā ġham jagā liyā raat machal machal ga.ī”
Translation: When your thoughts arose, fragrant was the morn
When your sorrow’s woke, the night was all forlorn

(Couplet and translation credit: Rekhta org. and tanveerrauf.wordpress.com)