When I Met Amrita Pritam


When I first met Amrita Pritam, the first prominent Punjabi woman poet (1919-2005), it was July and I was living in Karol Bagh, New Delhi.

When I called her at home, her husband Imroz picked up the phone, and I made an appointment to see her. I am a great fan of her writing. Her stories touch my heart. “Rasidi Ticket” and “Ik Thi Anita” are two of her writings that brought tears to my eyes. On the day of our appointment, I took the almost two-hour bus ride from Karol Bagh to her residence in Hauz Khas in South Delhi.

When I reached her home, her husband made a cup of tea for me and, during our visit, she gave me some of her books. I remember seeing so much love in her beautiful face.

Here is one of Ms. Pritam’s poems:

This is life.
life is not guaranteed to anyone
life is short
life here on earth is for a short time
everything from the heart that is pure and dedicated.
Only the experience of life seems
love and only love

While I recited this poem aloud to her, I looked out of her window at the open and large road outside and at the pedestrians walking there.

“I always wanted to be a poet,” I told her. It was obvious that she was a kind-hearted person and was making a definite mark on life. “We need to have patience to be happy in every situation when we write,” she said to me. “Yes, to be patient through every pain and difficulty,” I said, expressing my own suppressed thought.

As her husband offered me another cup of tea and as I expressed my pleasure to her, I wished in that moment that the day would never end. My next question to her was, “How wonderful it would be if we could live a life like a poem, wouldn’t it?” To this, Ms. Pritam only shook her head. “Literature stands for the signification of peace; nothing could be as important as such peace in this earth.” By the time I had to go home, we still had not concluded our conversation.

I could not sleep well that night as Amrita Pritam’s words kept echoing in my ears. The windows of my room were open to allow cool winds from outside to blow through, so I spent the whole sleepless night looking up at the moon and thinking on what she had said.

Now, after a long time has passed since that day, I find myself remembering Amrita Pritam again, and I remember wiping away my tears when I heard that she died.

If a poem can be considered as definitive, it should be included in the measurement of memory, peace and love. One way to measure love is the nearness of heart and the support of feeling. Of course, some kinds of love can dissolve like a fantasy, but the ups and downs of fantasy do not equate with real love. If love is accepted in an easy and simple way, love can be a decoration and a form of worship.

And now I know that I have fallen in love with Amrita Pritam’s writing.

Kamala Sarup associates and writes for mediaforfreedom.com

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