Saturday, November 5

Remembring Amrita Pritam

Dr Surjit Patar, the noted Punjabi poet and president of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi, remembers Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam is no more. It's as if the five rivers of Punjab are dead - Ravi is no more, nor is Chenab. Amrita Pritam was like the five rivers which make Punjab. She made Punjabi literature.
Her name, those two words - Amrita Pritam - will always be music to the ears of Punjabi literature lovers. When it comes to 20th century Punjabi poetry, we can debate who should be the sun but when it comes to the moon, there is no discord. Amrita Pritam, who passed away quietly in her home at Hauz Khas, New Delhi, is undoubtedly the moon of the 20th century Punjabi poetry, and this moon never needed to borrow someone else's light. She had so much light of her own that many like us glowed in it. Amrita Pritam represented both the Charhda (Indian) and the Lehnda (Pakistan) Punjab. Her poems gave voice to the pain of women who had hitherto woven their sufferings into folk songs sung softly behind voluminous veils. She was also the pathos of Partition. No poet could parallel her when it came to pouring ts agony into words . Her lines Aj akhan Waris Shah nuun, kitho kabran vichon bol... have been immortalised in both the Punjabs.
On a personal note, as a post-graduate student of Punjabi I remember going all the way to the national capital to see this great poetess who later became a very close friend. For my generation of poets, she was the guiding light who gave us, unknown voices, a shining place in her magazine Nagmani. Later I had the privilege of reciting my poems in many kavi darbars along with her. Her home which she shared along with her friend Imroz was like a Mecca for us, as each and every thing in this house - the lampshades, the clocks, every thing - pulsated with meaning. Every thing used to resonate with poesy.
It was for legends like Amrita Pritam that another great poet had said, "Kaun kehta hai ke maut ayee to mar jaoonga, mein to darya hoon samundar mein uttar jaaonga."
This is Amrita Pritam for us. After a long illness she has left her body, but her soul has come to mingle with us - her prodigies, her admirers, her friends.
For us, Amrita Pritam lives on in her lines.

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