I have crawled back to Faiz Sahib often. Over the years, in different stages of life, he has continued to evolve for me and make sense anew. Perhaps my experiences, and sense of association with his work; that relationship, is not unique and everyone who has read, reread, written, researched, critically appraised or simply narrated his work to peers, shares some kind of bond, if you will, with him. Faiz Sahib, spoke to all of us collectively and each one of us individually at the same time. Small wonder he is not just relevant today – he continues to inspire.Faiz Sahib, even in his lifetime, transcended borders and languages. He left a lasting impression not only on the Urdu speaking world – but beyond. Edward Said after he met him and having described him as the greatest of the contemporary Urdu poets, and that his unique achievement; “was to have created a contrapuntal rhetoric and rhythm whereby he could use classical forms (qasida, ghazal, musnavavi) and transform them before his readers rather than break from the old forms…The critical thing to understand about Faiz… is that like Garcia Marquez he was read and listened to both by the literary elite and by the masses.” TS Elliot penned in Tradition and Individual Talent: “The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all”. For him, “Poetry is not turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” He adds, and this continues to invite debate for students of literature, poetry and philosophy: “But of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”Never mind the debate ensued from Elliot’s conclusion, reading Faiz, one can appreciate not just the verse but also his technical excellence, that few poets, his contemporaries or of the past, matched. The emotions touched in his verse, despite softness of tenor and simplicity of text, are not crude or flat, but certainly complex and layered; a concentration of experiences and impressions in hindsight that may or may not have been personal. Faiz Sahib too believed that a nazm, for instance, demands deliberation; read: Raqeeb se, Tanhai and Koi ashiqkisimehbooba se (I & II). The process of reading Faiz Sahib is like a journey, where a reader is encouraged to create images, frame emotions and nudged to immerse in experiences as such, improving memory of recollections every time they are summoned on a cart of Faiz Sahib’s quatrain; read: Derd aye gadabaypaon, Rang hay dilka mere, Heart attack. Every poet has a different creative process. Faiz Sahib, in his introductory note to Naqsh-e-Faryadi, playing it down, wrote: “So whenever these literary sleuths ask me why I write poetry, I often say anything that comes to my mind, just to put them off.” For Faiz Sahib, anything, anywhere could stir his imagination, without any fixed pattern; music, a specific note or a line, phrase or an image emerged from a book, or an encounter with a stranger. He once said: “…a poet should write only when something, an image, an event, or a person, excites him intensely.”His work is instructive on articulating dissent; both political and social; on being a romantic rebel who does not conform, on unapologetically wearing biases on sleeves yet embracing the other; on speaking truth to power; on audacity of hope; on imagining a new utopia where love is possible and on embracing lifeWhen Shiv Kumar mentioned to Faiz Sahib in 1979 that he would translate his works, Faiz Sahib, in his signature humility and wit, responded: “I feel sorry for you…”. Years later, praising the man and his work, Mr Kumar, in his Preface to the translations he carried out of selected works wrote: “Faiz denies no experience, excludes nothing to project reality in all its baffling complexity. He is a poet of many moods, and his work is a mosaic of diverse concerns – of classicism and modernity, of political commitment and romantic love, of affirmation and denial.” Hum jotareekrahon main, Subah e Azadi and Aaj bazar main pa bajaulanchalo are a few examples of his creative genius. There is certainly no shortage of adulation doled out at Faiz even today. But his work has acquired greater meaning and value in these times and age. His work is instructive on articulating dissent; both political and social; on being a romantic rebel who does not conform, on unapologetically wearing biases on sleeves yet embracing the other; on speaking truth to power; on audacity of hope; on imagining a new utopia where love is possible and on embracing life. More needs to be done to celebrate Faiz; but less so in regimented settings with tailored objects, for he may yet usher us beyond the walls that confine us.The writer attended Berkeley and is a Barrister of Lincoln’s Inn Published in Daily Times, December 26th 2018.