Love Letters To Icons: Iqbal Bano

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 the brave, the beautiful and the exceptionally talented, Iqbal Bano. 

Pyaari Bano,

I know the ways in which people fall in love without the hope of that love to survive. I imagine this to be reenacted as someone clawing on dead earth hoping for a rose to grow out. This is a landscape where only miracles survive, Bano. But perhaps you were no less.

I admire your untethered innocence. On the PTV Star Night interview, you smiled while mentioning how once you wore a burka and walked into a cinema flooded with people that didn’t know you by heart back then, these were the earlier stages of your career, when you were relishing the debaucheries of youth while also becoming the greatest of all time. I can imagine you; young, in a burka, looking up at the glowing screen in regal cinema. Your restless heart pounding against your ribcage. I can imagine your heart rise with joy when the audience broke into chants, and your name echoed through the halls of the cinema.

Bano, there are moments when I wonder if I’ve given enough to art, and everything I love, and when I read about you, and how when poetry was banned back during the dictatorship, you oceaned Faiz’s ghazal into an audience that was drenched in sorrow. When the verses of ‘Hum Dekhenge’ spilled into the dry mouths of those who snuck poetry books under their pillows; a hope was born, to one day live in a country where anything could be loved. The story goes that you were interrupted several times by the enthusiasm of the audiences and you had to allow the cheers and loud slogans of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ to subside before you could carry on singing. And the loudest cheers were reserved for the verse ‘Sab taj uchalay jaaengay/sab takht giraaey jaayen gaye

When I think of you, I think of miracles, Bano. I think of how there was once an unsinkable ship carrying passengers that felt as if even god could not kill them, but then they stirred themselves into an iceberg and drowned. I am thinking about how even then, two people fell in love and survived, and I think that is a miracle. I am thinking of how in a world with so much grief to consume people chose you, and your voice – crowds of thousands each clutching onto their guilt and grief but hoping through your ghazal and grace, I think that is a miracle.

As I’m writing to you Bano, I am listening to my favourite ghazal of yours – Ulfat ki nayi manzil ko chala. The poem was written by Qateel Shifai, but it was brought to life by you. You had that miracle of resurrecting poetry; to immortalise it in a way that even poets never imagined. You would embed them on people’s hearts. And have them pass it down as legacy.

I am listening to this ghazal and am learning that the metaphor about someone clawing on dead earth in hopes for a rose to grow out, ends with a rose growing out and being plucked and presented to someone who we truly love, and that is a miracle.

I am imagining that even years after you passed away, people would recognise your voice as soon as your song would play, and that is a miracle.

Thank you for giving us hope for whenever we are hopeless. Thank you for giving us love whenever we are loveless. Thank you for being a miracle.

Love,

Ammaar.

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