“The arrows of anguish
Pierce the palms and the tips of my fingers
But somewhere on the lacerated fringes
A hope is awakening to life.”
From the poem ‘Pledge’, by Amrita Pritam
The woman with a warm smile scribbling verses in a blue diary, with a bunch of black roses lying beside her as Google’s doodle today is a tribute to the remarkable Punjabi poet and novelist Amrita Pritam on her 100th birth anniversary. The doodle is a symbolic reference to her autobiography named ‘Kala Gulab’.
With over 100+ works to her name, she was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi (the first woman to be receiving this award), Bharatiya Jnanpith, and Padma Vibhushan awards.
What Makes Her Stand Out
The profoundness of a piece of writing is assessed by the sheer intensity of emotions that it stemmed from; the greater the pain, the more hitting the writing. Pritam too wrote verses that cut right through the hearts of readers, and of course her own too.
“Main Tenu Fir Milaan Gi
Kithey? Kis Tarah? Pata Nai
Shayad Terey Takhayul Di Chinag Ban Ke
Terey Canvas Tey Utraan Gi
Ya Khowrey Terey Canvas Dey Utey
Ikk Rahasmayi Lakeer Ban Ke
Khamosh Tenu Tak Di Rawaan Gi”
meet you yet again
How and where? I know not.
Perhaps I will become a
figment of your imagination
and maybe, spreading myself
in a mysterious line
on your canvas,
I will keep gazing at you.)
From her poem ‘Main Tennu Phir Milaan Gi’
Such eloquence of verses doesn’t emerge out of thin air. Beneath the garb of metaphors and imagery, she hid the wounds given from life’s constant attacks.
Amrita was born in undivided India in Gujranwala (present-day Pakistan). Her mother passed away when she was just 11 and thereon she lived with her father. She later moved to Delhi with her father post-partition.
Her Not-So-Lovely love Life
She was married on early, at the tender age of 16 to Pritam Singh one, thus getting her last name from him. The marriage was far from being a happy one.
Sometime later, she met the prominent poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhiyanvi at a mushaira (gathering of poets). A gorgeous young educated lady, reciting mesmerizing poetry – Sahir was much infatuated with her. Subsequent meetings culminated into love between the two of them.
He became her muse and it was while with him that she produced some of her best works. The scent of the poet lingered in almost all of Amrita’s works. But Sahir wasn’t ready to take the leap for her and left her deep love unreciprocated.
However, that didn’t prevent her from stepping out of her unsuccessful marriage. Later in her life, she met Imroz, with whom she spent more than four decades of her life, up to her death in 2005. Imroz loved and revered her with every fibre of his being and stood there by her side for the rest of her life.
Did you just assume that she married Imroz? To our disappointment, she didn’t. She reciprocated his cares, but could never bring herself to love him, as if having locked her heart irretrievably in a citadel after Sahir turned her away.
The unimaginable vastness of Imroz’s love for her can be seen by the fact that she often used to talk for hours to him about Sahir, and Imroz heard her all patiently, happy in her happiness!
Her troubled, but nonetheless meritorious life illustrates perfectly the famous quote by W.B. Yeats –
“Out of the quarrels with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves poetry.”
Indeed an indelible imprint she left with the quarrels with herself in her benumbing poetry.
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