Love Letters To Icons: Farida Khanum

There are countless female icons that have coloured our history and left a lasting impression on us with their talent, charisma and presence. Every week, Ammaar – known on Instagram as ammaavocado – will be sharing his letter of love and admiration to some of these inspiring women. This week it’s to the effortlessly talented Farida Khanum.

Dearest Farida Jee,

There are margins of privilege, Farida Jee. It is a privilege to have to sleep with your stomach only half full but it is also a privilege to have a meal for your family after an entire day of starvation. And just like that, it is a privilege to have your music to relish with the press of a button, but it is also a privilege to share the same air and the same sky as you do.

I have been broken, Farida Jee. I have had things stolen from me and still walked into the dark and unpredictable allies of love. And I don’t know what drives me. I don’t know why I walk into relationships that I know will leave me galloping for a better love. Knowing that love can only be love, it cannot be better or worse. But perhaps I hope for the struggle to be better. And I know this won’t make sense. But when has love ever made sense – spending an entire life with and for someone knowing that death will only come for you alone.

I will not wax poetics over this letter, because you’ve spent your entire life resurrecting poetics, and words that were not felt until your voice engraved them on the hearts of people who once carved a name there and then desperately erased it for someone else.

But your miracle as I mentioned, was to resurrect. Jesus was given that miracle by God, and generations of humankind, bent their back in submission to him. And walked into whatever sky he flew up to. The only drawback with this miracle, Fareeda jee, is that Jesus could resurrect everyone but himself.

And I believe the miracle given to you by God is the same. People bend their necks and leave their heads hanging as they sigh into a memory with someone they truly loved, and relive a moment they thought they could never live again. With you, Fareeda jee, time pauses.

In a talk once, you mentioned how once you were in Karachi, and in a car with Faiz sahab, and he passed you a piece of paper with a Ghazal written on it saying “aaj apne ye parhni hai” and you were stunned because you weren’t a composer and you couldn’t do this on such short notice. But you did, Farida Jee. You did what most ghazals would never be able to do. You did that ghazal at the event. And I believe that too is a miracle.

When I first heard your Ghazal, Aaj Jane Ki Zid Na Karo, I pictured a moment when I thought I lost everything I ever loved, and how I desperately wanted it to stay but I couldn’t do anything. I felt the desperateness and helplessness in your voice. And in all this, I imagined how you must imagine your lover sitting right in front of you every time, as you ocean this Ghazal into a Mehfil of broken hearts. I imagine how you must watch him leave every time as the ghazal would end. And how that is a sacrifice you make for us, just so we can stay in our moments a while longer.

Fareeda Jee, so many of those who are buried still sit next to you as you recite their poems. Daagh Dehlvi, Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Fayyaz Hashmi and so many others who wrote with blood and heartbreak in hopes for it to latch on and they can live to love again.

These are things people don’t usually talk about when it comes to poets, Farida Jee. It’s not about a poet keeping a poem alive, it’s about the poet hoping that through his poem he can keep falling in love forever.

Farida jee, that all-too-familiar coil and quiver of the lips, the relentless twinkle in the eyes, the poise and aplomb that can send many hearts swaying is what you are worshipped for. Bringing back the poems that were left unheard and poets who are forgotten, to reach into their graves and pull them out is what you are worshipped for. Having people fall in love, with very little reason is also something you are worshipped for.

And so I thank you, for making me feel that love may not be out of reach, even after the countless times it was. Thank you for Ali Sethi, and for giving us a voice that we can remember you by, for when you can not resurrect yourself.



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