Aaye Kuch Abr
by Ayesha binte Rashid
‘is tarh apni khaamushi goonji,
goya har samt se jawaab aaye.’
‘In such a way my own silence reverberated
As if an answer came from every direction’
- Faiz Ahmed Faiz
For Atif Aslam, Aaaye Kuch Abr is a personal undertaking — it’s close to his heart and called out to him, giving voice to what he has felt in the past. “It was a time of struggle for me, when people were criticizing me. I was alone. And the only answer I had was silence. And that silence became so heavy that, one day, I started getting answers from every direction.”
In the poetry of Aaye Kuch Abr, Atif found words that gave expression to his silence, drawing on something deep within him. This is a power that Faiz Ahmed Faiz yields over those who stumble upon his work. In his poem Marsiye, Faiz talks about a masiha-e-dil-e-zadgan, a messiah of aching hearts — this term applies most aptly to Faiz himself. In poems of political protest, his words speak of romance and lost love, his poetic prose always adhering to the highest standards of idioms, metaphors and tropes found in ghazals. Amidst images of cloudy skies and glasses filled with sweet wine, one finds words that give expression to poignant emotions — of joy and grief, suffering and yearning.
Aaye Kuch Abr was written during a time of loneliness and separation in Faiz’s life, while he was imprisoned in Hyderabad Central Jail during the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case, away from his wife and two daughters. Separated from his family, Faiz would spend months without being able to see them. Always a few steps ahead of time, Faiz also found himself misunderstood by the society he lived in. Aaye Kuch Abr captures this phase in Faiz’s life but is also lined with hope — we find the poet speaking of life’s pleasures, finding solace in images of the sun rising in the dast-i saaqi (hands of a cupbearer), of cloudy weather enjoyed with the taste of wine. For the reader the sharaab (wine) Faiz speaks of, the abr (cloudy weather) and the cupbearer become metaphors for the little joys in life: the company of a beloved, enjoying the solitude of an afternoon spent reading, taking in the beauty of nature.
With his mastery over language, Faiz weaves multiple layers of meanings and, in doing so, he lets one choose: what does one want his poetry to mean? How can he be a companion in one’s grief? How can he provide relief to one’s aching heart? His words hold the power to draw one out of their solitude, showing one the common humanity in their experiences — in reading Faiz, one finds that their emotions are shared by others, a product of the human experience in general. One can only know Faiz as they choose to know him for, as Atif says, “Faiz Sahab’s way of writing is so unique that our minds can’t truly know his poetry.” The attempt remains to perceive his words through the lens of our own experiences and emotions.
The undeniable lyricism in Faiz’s poetry solidified him as a favorite of our nation’s iconic voices, especially that of ourShahenshah-e-Ghazal (King of Ghazals) Mehdi Hassan Khan. Aaye Kuch Abr is one of Faiz’s many ghazals that Mehdi Hassan Khan had made his own in Pakistan’s cultural memory – a memory that Atif too recalls. It is in his voice that Atif first heard the ghazal 14 years ago when his brother introduced it to him. “There’re a few versions of this ghazal that Mehdi Hassan Khan Sahab has sang. They all leave the listener astonished at their beauty. This is also why I like the ghazal and also why I enjoyed performing it because it was challenging. It wasn’t easy to sing.”
This was a challenge that Atif welcomed, not with the intention to replicate the precision of Mehdi Hassan’s technique, but to cherish its beauty and carry its tradition forward into the world. Before you even touch a piece like this he acknowledges, you think twice — but the work of legends is not meant to be feared. With the respect that is due to the artists of bygone eras, Atif Aslam wants to share with today’s generation the artistic wealth and legacy that these artists have brought to the world.
As we hear Atif sing, “ Kar raha tha gham-i-jahan ka hisaab, aaj tum yaad be-hisaab aaaye (as I was taking stock of the grief I have experienced, I missed you immeasurably),” his words offer a space of familiarity, where one may find themselves dwelling on what they have felt and seen in their own lives. Faiz’s loneliness, and the solace he seeks in life’s joys, may be shared by those who dwell in the human experience. Much like Atif found his words in Faiz’s verses, perhaps those listening to him will find Faiz in Aaye Kuch Abr and, in doing so, they might find a companion and friend.