Remembering Amrita Pritam, The Poet Who Found Solace In The Violent Visages Of Love
- IWB Post
- August 31, 2019
When Amrita Pritam documented the macabre violence of a disorienting nation of 1947 in Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu (Today, I call Waris Shah), perhaps she found a way out of that haunting reality. As she invoked Waris Shah through the powerful narrative, you could hear her soul shattering by the unthinkable horrors of the partition.
She implored the Sufi poet of the yore to return as she wrote “Aaj bailey lashaan bichiyaan, tey lahoo di bhari Chenab / kissey ne Panjaan Paaniyan wich, diti zahar rala / tey unhan paniyaan dharat nuu, dita paani laa” (Today, fields are lined with corpses and blood fills the Chenab / someone has mixed poison in the five rivers’ flow / their deadly water is, now, irrigating our lands galore). Perhaps that is when she found her solace in the violent visages of love.
“There were those who starting abusing me, castigating me on why I took up a Mussalman Waris Shah? The ones of Sikh faith asserted that I should have written on Guru Nanak, while communists complained that I have ignored Lenin. In ‘Akhar’ (Words), the spirit of the nazm is revealed: “The fire lit by the poet Waris / I have inherited the same within me,”” she wrote. Could this fire be anything but love?
However, Amrita’s poetic finesse lives through her poetic masterpiece main tenu fer milaangi (I will meet you again), a final promise of love to Imroz. But if Imroz was her lover than who was Sahir Ludhianvi?
It was almost as if Ludhianvi was her storm and Imroz her calm. Thus, she created tempestuous stories with the former and introspective poetry with the latter. Amrita’s understanding of love transcended the societal fetters that the emotion has always been confined into. It was the emotion that governed both her vocation and her soul. And when loved, she gave it her all. She didn’t love in pieces and she didn’t love just one and she didn’t love just romantically.
Referred to as a “feminist before feminists,” Amrita had an unyielding fidelity towards her own kind but more than that she had a fidelity towards her own truth, which, like her poetry, was profound and way deeper than the average human percept of conscience.
In Pinjar (Skeleton), she presented to the world the figure of Pooru, a Hindu girl abducted by Rashid, a Muslim man, during the partition. In Pinjar’s dazzling and ahead-of-its-time narrative, Pooru wages a war against patriarchy. Pinjar is a manifestation of Pritam’s love for her kind, her nation and a freedom of the soul,
For all that she was, Amrita wrote with the intensity of a storm and loved with the flaws of a human. Remembering her today, just leaves us wondering yet again, is it the perfect love or is it the perfect art that forms the material of our dreams and hopes? Perhaps we will find the answer tomorrow, perhaps we know it already. Whatever it is though, long live Amrita Pritam, in our hearts and in poetry!