Amrita Pritam is alive with her books about poetry and prose, even after 14 years of her death. Amrita Pritam’s Punjabi poetry is considered her most remarkable work of Urdu and Punjabi literature. Amrita pritam poems was simple yet tugs at heart, and so, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that she is the most loved Punjabi, writer, poet and novelist of our times. Pritam has written some amazing Punjabi poems Rekhta of our times the most famous being “Aj Akhan Waris Shah Nu”.
Recently ,Google celebrated Amrita Pritam’s 100th birthday with a Google doodle on August 31st. The doodle features a young Punjabi girl writing in a diary, with some black roses near her. In reference to her autobiography “Kala Gulab” or “The black rose”.
Amrita Pritam poetry and life:
Amrita Pritam’s is a celebrated poetess and writer who bagged numerous literary Awards including the second-highest civilian award of India, The Padma Vabhushn for her contributions.
Her most famous work to this day is Aj Akhan Waris Shah Nu, In which she is describing the suffering of women during the time of the partition of India and Pakistan. Similarly, all of Amrita Pritam’s poetry and books are written around women.
Amrita Pritam’s poem Rekhta is loved around the world. She published at least 100 books on fiction, poetry, and essays in Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. And they were translated into many international too.
Amrita Pritam was born in Gujranwala as Amrit Kaur on August 31st in a literary family. Her father was a Punjabi poet and Sikh Parcharik while her mother was a government teacher. She lost her mother at the age of 11 and the family moved to Lahore. These big changes caused emotional turmoil for the young Amrit Kaur.
She had a natural love for rhyming and literature, and life made her find refuge in writing. Amrita Pritam published her first book at the age of sixteen. “Amrit Lehryn” was the beginning of a profound literary career spanning over six decades.
Marriage to Pritam Singh:
She was betrothed at an early age as per norm of her family And got married in 1936. The same year her book was published. Pritam her husband was her publisher too. Though Amrita Pritam’s poetry is mostly about love, still ironically, she had a loveless marriage. And despite having two children they could not develop a mental understanding. Eventually, the marriage ended in divorce thirty years later. It was followed by some of her fiercely feminist work of literature.
I was – and maybe you too…
Maybe standing at a breath’s distance
may be sitting in the darkness of a look
maybe walking at the turn of feelings.
But that is..about prehistoric times
In 1986, Amrita Pritam was nominated to the Indian National assembly. Amrita Pritam’s autobiographical works “The Black Rose” and “Rasidi ticket’ is a beautiful retelling of a strong independent woman’s life.
The Padma Vibhushan winning poet proudly presented parts of her life which are taboo in society. She talked about her feelings and her requited love. She owned her life, her mistakes, and her love. And the poetess was bold enough to admit it to the world. Her literary journey came to an end at the age of 86 in 2005.
Renowned lyricist and poet Gulzar released, ‘Amrita recited by Gulzar’ , an audio album of Amrita Pritam poems rekhta in the year 2007.
There was a formless me
This was the pledge of I
which took the form of water
and the pledge of you
which came into existence like fire
and the radiance of fire
started working on water
but that is about prehistoric times…
Amrita Pritam’s Shairi in Punjabi is the most prominent literary contribution by a woman in the Indian Subcontinent to Punjabi poem Rekhta.
Her Literary work:
Amrita Pritam’s work, essays, novels, and poems Initially were more romantic. But later on, she joined the progressive writer’s movement. This resulted in her progressive and feminist work. Love is still the core of her stories with strong female characters. Even her poetry is carved around women’s feelings.
It’s good that you have gone to someone else now.. for I don’t have to worry about retaining you with me anymore. Amrita Pritam
Amrita Pritam books are stories of the heroic survivor women. Her characters are strong women, that fight back regardless of their circumstances. For example her character Puro, in Pinjir. Puro did not lose her valour even after she was kidnaped and forced to live with her kidnappers as a Muslim.
The Bharatiya Jnanpith literary award-winning Punjabi poet, writer, and novelist wrote some masterpieces including, Risidi ticket, Kala Gulab, Pinjir, Dharti Sagar te Sippiyan, Kachey resham si Larki, Khaniyon ke Angan me, and many more.
The Effect of Migration on her writings:
The division of Indian- Subcontinent and the migration of millions of people from one country to another, followed by the heinous atrocities against humanity shook the sensitive Punjabi poetess to the core. Amrita wrote her famous Poem “Aj Akhaan Waris Shah Nu” or “the Ode to Waris Shah” relating the pain and suffering of Indian women, to famous Punjabi poet of the”Heer Ranjha”.
The opening lines of the poem, “Aj Akhan Waris Shah Nu” are,
اج آکھاں وارث شاہ نوں، کتھوں قبراں وچوں بول
تے اج کتابِ عشق دا کوئی اگلا ورقہ پَھول
اک روئی سی دھی پنجاب دی، تُوں لکھ لکھ مارے وین
اج لکھاں دھیاں روندیاں، تینوں وارث شاہ نوں کہن
اُٹھ درد منداں دیا دردیا، اُٹھ ویکھ اپنا پنجاب
اج بیلے لاشاں وچھیاں تے لہو دی بھری چناب
Today, I call Waris Shah, “Speak from your grave,”
And turn to the next page in your book of love,
Once, a daughter of Punjab cried and you wrote an entire saga,
Today, a million daughters cry out to you, Waris Shah,
Rise! O’ narrator of the grieving! Look at your Punjab,
Today, fields are lined with corpses, and blood fills the Chenab.
This heart-wrenching dirge of the events that happened after the birth of India and Pakistan has been used in a famous movie “Kartar Singh” too.
Amrita Pritam’s famous novel, “Pinjir” (The Skeleton) also highlight the plight of women during the migration and afterward. For this reason, Pinjir was later made into an award-winning film.
An unusual love story:
Amrita married her publisher Pritam at the age of 15 in 1936. The loveless marriage resulted in Amrita falling in love at an early age with the poet Sahir Ludhianvi. It was a love at first sight. But because of Sahir Ludhianvi’s commitment issues the love remained unrequited. However, she still treasured her love for him all her life.
Amrita and Imroz:
Later she moved in with her friend and lover Imroz. And they lived together till her last breath. Imroz loved her and she loved Sahir Ludhianvi and surprisingly , that never bothered him. Because Imroz adored everything that she loved.
They lived together without marriage at a time when such relationships were totally unacceptable in India. Moreover, their relationship was a platonic one. Amrita Pritam’s poem “Me Tenu Fir Milangi” is an offering to Imroz’s selfless love.
Awards bestowed to her:
In 1956 Amrita Pritam became the first woman to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award for her long poem, ‘Sunehade’ ( Messages). She received Padma Shri Award in 1969 for her contribution to Punjabi literature. And, Amrita Prtiam book”Kaghaz Te Canvas’ ( the paper and the Canvas), won Bharatiya Jnanpith award in 1981. The acclaimed poetess was also awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1969.
Amrita Pritam also received ‘Immortals of literature’, Sahitya Akademi’s highest Honor -in 2005.
A number of Amrita Pritam books, poems Rekhta, novels and her autobiographies ‘Black Rose’ and ‘Rasidi Ticket’ have been translated into various languages, including English, French, Danish, Japanese, Mandarin from Urdu and Punjabi.
He translated works got worldwide recognition and she received the La Route des Indes Literary Prize in 2005, for the French translation of her Novel “Pinjr” (The Skeleton) by Denis Matringe.
I will conclude the article with translation of Amrita Pritam’s poem Rekhta, ‘Mein Tenu Fir Milangi.
I will meet you yet again
How and where
I do not know
Perhaps I will become a
a figment of your imagination
or maybe splaying myself
as a mysterious line
on your canvas
I will keep gazing at you.
Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine and
dissolve in your colors
or embraced by your colors
I will paint myself on your canvas
I do not how and where –
But I will meet you for sure.
Maybe I will transform into a spring
and rub foaming
droplets of water on your body
and like a coolness I will
ease into your chest
I know nothing
but that whatever time might do
this birth shall run along with me.
When the body perishes
It all perishes
but the strings of memory
are woven of cosmic atoms
I will pick these particles
Re-weave the strings
and I will meet you yet again.