Amrita Pritam’s 100th Birth Day: ‘She lived what she wrote’

On her 100th birth anniversary, writers recalled the enfant appalling of Punjabi texts, Amrita Pritam.

From Amrita Pritam’s ‘Lamian Vaatan’

Kanyadaan !
Heera kadey na kooye
Gau kadey na bole,
Kanya bezubaan
Rajj rajj devo daan daaniyo
Kanya daan kanya daan

(We keep giving away our daughters… Diamonds don’t speak, cows never say a word. A girl too doesn’t say a word. We endure giving them away.)

Pain and separation, courage and love, dissent and rebel. None of these words was unfamiliar to Amrita Pritam, Punjab’s most important writer of the 20th century. A mystery to many, she openly stated her love for another man, Sahir Ludhianvi, was in a live-in relationship with artist Inderjeet Alias Imroz, and was blamed of being a bad wife and mother. Her reply to criticizers was through her writing.

Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam

A century later, she continues to motivate women, and men, as they question, write and research her significance in the 21st century. At a festivity of Amrita’s 100th birthday at Punjabi Bhawan, Ludhiana, Pal Kaur launched her “A Woman In A Witness Box: Amrita Pritam’s life”. When she started working at All India radio (AIR) in Lahore, her family opposed and said they would pay her thrice the money she got, but she must leave the job. Amrita did not resign. In 1930, she spoke about free woman, and a century later, most women are still not free. Kaur talks about My Address, in which Amrita wrote “Amrita Pritam lived in some other world where women owned themselves”.

In her three novels — Dr Dev, Geeta and Dilli Shehar Diyan Galliyan — she continually uses the word, zaheen aurat. She was faulted of being a bad mother and wife, but she replied people with her pen. In Amrita’s novel Dilli Diyaan Galliyan, a character says, “The flying dust from the pitted roads of our country does not make clothes dull, as much as it pollutes a woman, her character”.

Urmila Matondkar tweets on Amrita’s 100th birth anniversary.

With a solid confidence that she will be back, in her last nazm for Imroz in 2004 said: “I will meet you again… Where… How? I know not… but I will meet you again.”

Amrita passed away in New Delhi on October 31, in 2005.

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