Amrita Pritam (August 31, 1919–October 31, 2005) (ਅਮ੍ਰਿਤਾ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਮ, , अमृता प्रीतम, ) was an Indian writer and poet, considered the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist, the leading 20th-century poet of the Punjabi language, who is equally loved on both the sides of the India-Pakistan border
She is most remembered for her poignant poem, Aaj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu (Today I invoke Waris Shah - "Ode to Waris Shah", an elegy to the 18th-century Punjabi poet, an expression of her anguish over massacres during the partition of India. As a novelist her most noted work was Pinjar (The Skeleton) (1950), in which she created her memorable character, Puro, the novel was made into an award-winning film, Pinjar in 2003 .
When the former British India was partitioned into the independent states of India and Pakistan in 1947, she migrated from Lahore, to India, though she remained equally popular in Pakistan throughout her life, as compared to her contemporaries like Mohan Singh and Shiv Kumar Batalvi.
In 1956, she became the first woman to win the Sahitya Akademi Award for her magnum opus, a long poem, Sunehray (Messages) , later she received the Bhartiya Jnanpith, one of India's highest literary awards, in 1982 for Kagaz Te Canvas (The Paper and the Canvas). The Padma Shri came her way in 1969 and finally, Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award, in 2004, and in the same year she was honoured with India's highest literary award, given by the Sahitya Akademi (India's Academy of Letters), the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship given to the "immortals of literature" for lifetime achievement .
Today, I call Waris Shah, “Speak from your grave”
And turn, today, the book of love’s next affectionate page
Once, a daughter of Punjab cried and you wrote a wailing saga
Today, a million daughters, cry to you, Waris Shah
Rise! O’ narrator of the grieving; rise! look at your Punjab
Today, fields are lined with corpses, and blood fills the Chenab
Today, I call Waris Shah, “Speak from your grave” And turn, today, the book of love’s next affectionate page Once, a daughter of Punjab cried and you wrote a wailing saga Today, a million daughters, cry to you, Waris Shah Rise! O’ narrator of the grieving; rise! look at your Punjab Today, fields are lined with corpses, and blood fills 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, Danish, 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 Dharti Sagar te Sippiyan, as ‘Kadambar’ (1965), followed by ‘Unah Di Kahani’, as Daaku (Dacoit, 1976), directed by Basu Bhattacharya. Her novel Pinjar (The Skeleton, 1970) was made into an award winning Hindi movie by Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, because of its humanism: "Amritaji has portrayed the suffering of people of both the countries." Pinjar was shot in a border region of Rajasthan and in Punjab.
She edited “Nagmani”, a monthly literary magazine in Punjabi for several years, which she ran together with Imroz, for 33 years; though after Partition she wrote prolifically in Hindi as well . Later in life, she turned to Osho and wrote introductions for several books of Osho, including Ek Omkar Satnam , and also started writing on spiritual themes and dreams, producing works like Kaal Chetna (Time Consciousness) and Agyat Ka Nimantran (Call of the Unknown) . She had also published autobiographies, titled, Kala Gulab (Black Rose) (1968), Rasidi Ticket (The Revenue Stamp) (1976), and Aksharon kay Saayee (Shadows of Words)
She also received International Vaptsarov Award from the Republic of Bulgaria (1979) and Degree of Officer dens, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Officier) by the French Government (1987) . She was nominated as a member of Rajya Sabha 1986-92. Towards the end of her life, she was awarded by Pakistan's Punjabi Academy, to which she had remarked, Bade dino baad mere maike ko meri yaad aayi..; and also Punjabi poets of Pakistan, sent her a chaddars, from the tombs of Waris Shah, and fellow Sufi mystic poets Bulle Shah and Sultan Bahu .
Her story cannot be completed without the name of Sahir Ludhianvi . She was involved with him when she asked her husband for divorce. But Sahir then had a new woman in his life. Amrita grew closer to Imroz, whom she had known for many years and they were together for the rest of her life. Their life together is also subject of a book, Amrita Imroz: A Love Story”.
There was a pain I inhaled it Quietly Like a cigarette Left behind are a few songs I have flickered off Like ashes From the cigarette.
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.