As the first prominent woman Punjabi poet and writer, Amrita Pritam made waves for her voice and for her personal life. She wrote on partition and she wrote on the pain it inflicted on all, especially women. The painful split of Punjab during the partition affected her deeply when she left Lahore to move to the new India. The agony of communal violence and her call for people to see sense is perfectly captured in her lines below,

“Utth dard-mandaan dey dardiyaa tak apna Punjab,
Beyley laashaan vichhiyaan,
Teh lahoo da bharya Chenab.”

Sharer of stricken hearts,
Look at your Punjab,
Corpses are strewn in the field
Blood flows in the Chenab.

Even now, when Punjabi is written in Gurumukhi script on one side of the border and in the Persian script on the other, Amrita Pritam’s poetry is popular in both India and Pakistan. Her personal life is as beautiful and full of story as her words. Married early to a man she later divorced, she fell in love with poet Sahir Ludhianvi but their love was never to have a conventional happy ending. Much is written of their intense and unusal relationship. She ended up living the last forty years of her life with a man she wasn’t married to, a bold statement in those times; and a feat worth mentioning. This was the celebrated artist Imroz. We bring to you a poem from when, it is said, she lay dying but with enough words to expressing her undying love to Imroz. This poem is a promise of eternal love, transcending lifetimes.

Main Tenu Fer Milangi
I will meet you again

Kithe? Kis trah? Pata nahi
Shayad tere Takhiyl di Chinag banke
Tere Canvas te Utrangi
Ya Khore teri Canvas dey Utte
Ik Rahasmayi Lakir Banke
Khamosh Tenu Takdi Rawangi

Jaa Khore Suraj ki Loo banke
Tere Ranga vich Ghulangi
Jaa Ranga diyan Bahwa vich beth ke
Teri Canvas nu Wlangi
Pata nahi Kis Trah-Kithe
Par Tenu Zarur Milangi

Jaa Khore Ik Chashma bani Howangi
Te jivan Jharneya da Paani udd da
Main Pani diyan Bunda
Tere Pind te Malangi
Te Ik Thandak jahi banke
Teri Chhaati de naal Lagangi
Main Hor Kuch nahi Jaandi
Par Ena Jaandi
Ki Waqt jo v karega
Ae Janam Mere naal Turega

Ae Jism Mukkda hai
Tan Sab Kuch Mukk janda
Par Cheteyan dey Dhaage
Kaayenaati Kana dey Hunde
Main unha kana nu chunagi
Dhageyan nu walangi
Te tenu main fer milangi

 

I will 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.
Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine, to be
embraced by your colours.
I will paint myself on your canvas
I know not how and where –
but I will meet you for sure.
Maybe I will turn into a spring,
and rub the foaming
drops of water on your body,
and rest my coolness on
your burning chest.
I know nothing else
but that this life
will walk along with me.
When the body perishes,
all perishes;
but the threads of memory
are woven with enduring specks.
I will pick these particles,
weave the threads,
and I will meet you yet again.
(Translated by Nirupama Dutt)

This beautiful poem recited by Gulzar here and you can hear Amrita Pritam in her own voice invoking saint Waris Shah here.

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