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Lullaby For A Palestinian Child

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The renowned Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz penned this poignant lullaby in 1980, as an empathetic response to the harrowing events in Beirut, when Israeli helicopter gunships unleashed destruction upon Palestinian camps. Although the poem was written almost five decades ago, its words continue to resonate with the horrific realities faced by children in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Faiz wrote two poems on the Palestinians, one titled ‘Palestinian Martyrs in Foreign Lands’, and the other, ‘Lullaby for a Palestinian Child’. Both are included in his collection titled, ‘Mere Dil Mere Musafir’ (My Heart, My Traveler), which was published in 1980. The book was dedicated to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after whom Faiz had already named one of his grandchildren.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz with Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Falastini bacce ke liye-lori ‘

Don’t cry child,
your mommy has only
just cried herself to sleep.

Don’t cry child,
just a while ago
your daddy took leave
of all his sorrows.

Don’t cry child,
your brother has gone
to another land chasing
after his butterfly dreams.

Don’t cry child,
your sister has married
and left for another country.

Don’t cry child,
in your courtyard
they bathed the dead sun,
and buried the moon,
before leaving.

Don’t cry child,
if you cry,
mommy, daddy, sister, brother,
the moon and the sun, all
will have you made even weepier.

But maybe if you smile,
they will one day all return
in a different guise
to play with you.

***

Born in Sialkot (Pakistan) in 1911, Faiz Ahmed Faiz hailed from a privileged background as the son of wealthy landowner Sultan Muhammad Khan. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Arabic from the Government College in Lahore. After graduating in 1935, he embarked on a teaching career at M.A.O. College in Amritsar, and later at Hailey College of Commerce in Lahore.

While his early poems focused on conventional themes of love and beauty, Faiz’s perspective shifted toward politics and societal issues during his time in Lahore. In 1942, he joined the British Indian Army and received recognition for his service during World War II. Following India’s partition in 1947, Faiz left the army and became the editor of The Pakistan Times, a socialist English-language newspaper.

Often referred to as the ‘poet of protest’, Faiz wrote compellingly on events that shaped the destiny of the subcontinent.

Faiz’s life took a dramatic turn when he was arrested in 1951 and sentenced to death in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. He spent four years in prison, where he penned his poetry collections Dast-e Saba and Zindan Namah. After his release, Faiz’s work earned international acclaim, including the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.

Political changes forced him into exile in Beirut, Lebanon, from 1979 to 1982. There, he edited the magazine Lotus – a product of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association, based in Beirut, and continued to write Urdu poetry. He escaped from Beirut amid the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982 and passed away in Lahore in 1984, shortly after receiving a Nobel Prize nomination.

As a Marxist Faiz rejected the notion of “art for art’s sake”. He has been described as a “committed” poet who used his simple verse to probe not only beauty and love but also humanism and justice. His imprisonment was evident in more than his two collections of poems written during his political detention. His translator Shiv K Kumar sees his imprisonment as a “metaphor that embodies his poetic vision.”

Throughout his life, Faiz remained a prolific writer, gaining recognition as the best-selling modern Urdu poet in India and Pakistan. Aside from the poet, Faiz was a journalist, songwriter, and activist.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is Pakistan's one of the most influential and inspiring poet.

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