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Because of the war, Alys, of course, had to postpone her plan to return to England. Taseer and Christabel as well as her parents wanted her to stay in India for a while, as did Faiz. Being in love with Alys had given new life to Faiz’s poetry. They wrote to each other often and occasionally met. Alys would come to Lahore on Sundays and stay at Sufi Tabassum’s house. She had started learning Urdu. Faiz would sit with her and try to explain a poem he had recently written or, if he was feeling particularly enthusiastic, would attempt to explain the creative impulse behind the poem. Many years later, after Faiz’s death, in a conversation with the poet Amrita Pritam, Alys would say, ‘The truth is that I have never been able to appreciate the depth of Faiz’s poetry. Learning a new language is one thing, but to understand a whole culture, a whole civilization is something else’.
Till Death Do Us Part
At last, after a long wait, Faiz’s mother relented and Faiz informed Alys that if Taseer and Christabel agreed, they could have a simple marriage the same year. By mutual consent, October 28, 1941 was fixed as the wedding date.
“Waiting for the sun to set…I remember a heartsickness almost stopped the breath in my throat”Just because Faiz’s family had consented did not mean that all would be eventually well. Alys was well aware of the challenges ahead. She wrote years later in ‘Over My Shoulder’: ‘I remember an evening in Srinagar, a few days before my marriage. Waiting for the sun to set…I remember a heartsickness almost stopped the breath in my throat. Would this new country accept me? Could I live in this world of contrasts – poverty and riches? In the heat and dust of Punjab’s summer? A poor man’s wife? I could find no answer. Only the passing years would reveal it.’
Sheikh Abdullah, Kashmir’s illustrious leader acted as the ‘Qazi’ and performed the nikah rituals. The happy couple honeymooned for a couple of days in Srinagar and then headed back to Lahore where Faiz’s family were waiting to welcome them.
As planned, the family received them in Lahore and took them home. Alys later wrote: ‘I was seated on a stool, surrounded by nieces and nephews, cousins and their daughters, sisters in law, half sisters, all pushing, laughing, screaming, trying to peep at my face under my veil, gazing at those foreign blue eyes’.
In one ceremony, Faiz’s mother placed the Quran in her hands, blessed her and named her ‘Kulsoom’.
Faiz and Alys were about to begin their new life together and not in her wildest dreams could Alys have known what was to follow. She worked for the first Puppet Theatre in the Lahore Arts Council, the Children’s Aid society, the TB Association of Pakistan and was the moving force behind all of these organizations. She started the first women’s and children’s page in a Pakistani newspaper, a column in the Pakistan Times by the name of ‘Apa Jaan’.
Faiz greatly appreciated Alys’ devotion to him and their family and understood the sacrifices she had made for them. A lesser woman might have crumbled in the face of all that was to come in their lives.
Alys Faiz died in 2003. She and Faiz are buried next to each other in Model Town graveyard.
September 22, 2014 was Alys Faiz’ Centennial.