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Arts/Society Amrita Pritam (1919-2005)

Discussion in 'Language, Arts & Culture' started by Admin Singh, Jun 8, 2008.

  1. Admin Singh

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    She put Punjabi literature on the world map. No other writer is as synonymous with Punjabi literature as Amrita Pritam (1919-2005), a familiar name even for those not acquainted with Punjabi. She cocked a snook at convention and defied social norms. There was no split between life and literature for Amrita because literature was her life. Gulzar Singh Sandhu on the Grand Dame of Punjabi letters.


    YOUR life could be contained on the back of a revenue stamp" was Khushwant Singh’s cynical remark about the autobiography Amrita Pritam was planning to write. A writer of uncommon passion, Amrita responded to the provocative challenge with an aptly titled Rasidi Ticket (Revenue Stamp). The account of her life became so popular that it was translated into half a dozen Indian languages. This much-maligned story of a Punjabi rebel is adored for the manner in which she says what her readers may decry from the core of their hearts. Reading the story one feels that in the male-dominated world, a woman is more sinned against than sinning.
    Amrita Pritam was born in 1919 in Gujranwala, Punjab, now in Pakistan, the only child of a school teacher and a poet. Her father was a pracharak -- a preacher of the Sikh faith. Amrita's mother died when she was eleven. Soon after, she and her father moved to Lahore. Confronting adult responsibilities, she began to write at an early age. Her first collection was published when she was only sixteen years old, the year she married Pritam Singh, an editor to whom she was engaged in early childhood.
    During the parition of india in 1947 some one million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs died from communal violence .Amrita Pritam moved to New Delhi. Her anguish was expressed in her poem, "Aaj Aakhaan Waris Shah Noo", addressed to the Sufi poet Waris Shah, author of the tragic saga of Heer and Ranjah[2], the Punjabi national epic:
    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.)

    Amrita Pritam worked until 1961 for All India Radio. After her divorce in 1960, her work became more clearly feminist. Many of her stories and poems drew on the unhappy experience of her marriage. A number of her works have been translated into English, French, Japanese and other languages from Punjabi and Urdu, including her autobiographical works Black Rose and Revenue Stamp (Raseedi Tikkat in Punjabi).

    The first of Amrita Pritam's books to be filmed was Daaku (Dacoit, 1976), directed by Basu Bhattacharya.[3] Her novel Pinjar (The Skeleton, 1970) was made into an award winning Hindi movie by Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, because of its humanism: "Amrita has portrayed the suffering of people of both the countries." Pinjar was shot in a border region of Rajasthan and in Punjab.


    Pritam was also the first Punjabi woman to be awarded the Padma Shri, one of India's higher civilian awards, in 1969 and the Jnanpith Award - the country's highest literary honour - 13 years later. "I have just returned what I absorbed from reading the great poetry of the great Sufi and Bhakti poets of my land," Pritam said modestly.
    Her story can not be completed without the name of Sahir Ludhianvi, Urdu poet and film lyricist. A young Amrita Pritam, madly in love with Sahir, wrote his name hundreds of times on a sheet of paper while addressing a press conference. They would meet without exchanging a word, Sahir would puff away; after Sahir's departure, Amrita would smoke the cigarette butts left behind by him. After his death, Amrita said she hoped the air mixed with the smoke of the butts would travel to the other world and meet Sahir! Such was their obsession and intensity.


    A diehard romantic, Pritam was constantly in search of freedom and lived life on her own terms. She was also down to earth and possessed of a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour that helped her make light of personal tragedies.The story of Amrita’s life is one of amazing courage, resilience and achievement. What set her apart was her search for freedom and desire to live life on her own terms. She was reared in an orthodox environment yet dared to write of love. Walking out of a loveless marriage, she made her home with Imroz.Their relationship has lasted over forty years.

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    Although she is vocal about the rights of women and has portrayed the sorrows they face in a male-dominated world, Amrita always felt that men and women complete themselves in a meeting of the body and soul.She died on 31st October 2005 at the age of 86, after a long illness. Survived by her daughter Kundala and son Navraj And Her Grandson Aman.
     
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  3. spnadmin

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    Aman ji

    I have read her story in a few other places on the Internet and have always been impressed at the courage on all levels that she must have displayed. And it is worth pondering -- why so few women take heart and aim to be as courageous. Even at my age I feel that I can learn from her life. And it is a good thing that her story is filed for safe keeping on this web site, so that whenever one needs to go back and read it, it will always be there.
     
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