Amrita Pritam and a Communion Beyond Labels

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Photo Courtesy: In the times of Love and Longing

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Trigger Warning: mention of rape

When 11-year-old Amrita was told that God bestows blessings on children who pray, the innocent eyes kept her hands intact thinking he would not let her down. Little did she know about God’s seemingly unkind offerings as she saw her mother departing to a parallel universe. The incident disgruntled Amrita so much that she lost her faith in the presence of any supreme force.

Gathering herself gradually, Amrita learnt about spirituality, Vedas, Puranas, stars, and human alignment. Turns out, like her father, Amrita too was inclined in the things beyond the material world as she would stay engrossed in poetic devices and phrases. This marked the beginning of her tryst with writing, poetry, first love, and Imroz. The girl knew that it was not going to be a smooth sailing, but she was adamant to make it happen despite being married at 16. Her marriage was a compromise in a way that she held it till she could. The day she realized it was time to take a leaf out, nothing could stop her from walking away from a life ‘a woman has always been glorified into’.

When Amrita got married, she was perhaps thrown into everything that was expected of married women. But she was fortunate to have an editor-husband who published her first poem ‘Amrit Lehran’ at the age of 16.  With a supportive husband and a family eventually, little Amrita was expected to fulfill all the responsibilities and she heeded to them in her best capacity. Her life, however, still remained void, where she was searching for an emotional escape. And that escape emerged as writing, which was both love as well as medium to emote that void.

Photo Courtesy: In the times of Love and Longing

Amrita wrote about love, loneliness, atrocities. One of her celebrated works narrated the ordeal of partition and how it affected women. She referred to Waris Shah, the notable writer of Heer-Ranjha, to see how women were tormented and raped during partition. She challenged him to wake up from his grave in ‘Ajj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu’. Later, she wrote ‘Pinjar’ on the same lines which was also adapted into a movie. In no time, her writing proved its mettle as Amrita became one of the leading faces of the Progressive Writers’ Movement.

But Amrita’s personal happiness was still a facade that was fulfilled only after her eyes met Sahir’s at a public gathering. She fell for him, perhaps in the first meeting itself and the man had such an impact that years later, her poems  ‘Sunehre’  ‘Ik si Anita’, ‘Dilli Diyaan Galiyaan’, ‘Akhari Khat’ spoke of Sahir Ludhianvi and unrequited love. It was their intellectualism that brought them closer, with Sahir being a lyricist, composer, while Amrita being his implicit muse. He was a man who never expressed what he felt for Amrita, while she was an open book.

Unhappy with the marital clutter, which was more about responsibilities and less about love, Amrita found her refuge in Sahir. As they met more, their cordial bond bloomed into an intense communion. But that also short-lived as Amrita realized that Sahir’s love wasn’t the same as hers. And even if it was, he was not the expressive kind, and their story became yet another unrequited one.

Photo Courtesy: Firstpost (Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita)

It was her meeting with Inderjeet alias Imroz that sowed eternal love in Amrita’s life. The two met after she parted ways with Sahir in a way that it was never any confession but acceptance. Imroz painted Amrita’s life with the colors she longed for. Perhaps, Sahir could never comfort Amrita the way she expected and the relationship was always hanging in the balance with Amrita being a hopeless romantic. With Imroz, she could feel the words she emoted in her poetry as the man loved her unconditionally. The two redefined love by defying stereotypes. Theirs was a one-of-a-kind bond that believed in the idea of existence and being in the moment. It never cared about anyone, but love that was enough to make the two survive. Theirs was a love of unspoken passion that moves lovers to this day.

Painter by profession, Imroz drew his inspiration from Amrita with each stroke he painted. The two lived together after Amrita broke the wedlock and chose to live-in with Imroz at a time when women were questioned for being expressive. What we call a “live-in relationship” in pop context seems to be a much more quaint practice of two people wanting to see each other, share a room without a marital label. Amrita walked away from a socially acceptable life to lead one of love.

Photo Courtesy: In the times of Love and Longing

For Amrita, Imroz was the connecting dot between love and void, as he not only loved her unconditionally but admired her being. Despite the age difference, that too at a time, when it wasn’t a “dignified thing” to love a woman older to you, Imroz walked past the conventional norms and chose what his heart felt was right. They would meet occasionally and as the years passed by, their fondness for each other grew even more. This was evident in their letters that reflected impatience, loneliness, and desire.

The two lived together in Delhi’s K-25 Hauz Khas house till Amrita’s last breath. In 2005, Amrita left Imroz with her memories in the home she wanted to preserve as her living memoir. Sadly, the house was sold by her son in 2011. Imroz, now 94, took away the nameplate as Amrita’s memory before the house was bulldozed and shredded to debris. He is alive and aging with imagery of a love he nurtured and believed in, despite its flaws.






Himakshi Panwar

I write as I feel, and think as I see. A blend of two worlds with an old-school touch and uncommon nerve!

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