By Nagina Bains
On Saturday evening, Chandigarh’s Rose Garden witnessed an event to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of a writer who redefined what it meant to be avant garde — Amrita Pritam.
Aptly titiled “Azaad Rooh”, the forum gave the audience a chance to revisit Amrita’s poetry and her “rasidi ticket” life — the title of her autobiography, inspired by Khushwant Singh’s comment on her life — symbolising her life as so tiny that it could be written on the rear of a revenue stamp.
The event was organised by cross connection poetry of Amy Singh, a young poet from Chandigarh. Keeping the ethos of the “sham ki baithak” in open environment in mind, the event began with a brief welcome for all present and passersby. It was followed by recitation of Amrita’s “Main teri sej te jad pair rakhiya si” by Amy Singh.
A few young theatre students joined in with the rest of the poem that Amrita wrote on her married life. And then “Mera sheher ik lambi behas varga hai”, a definition of the city she grew up in, which was beautifully described not in a physical form but an expression of opinions, sleepless nights and winding roads of controversies, was also recited.
“She did what many of us cannot even think of doing today”, says Jasbir an academician in literature.
Raza Heer, a vocalist from the city, regaled the gathering with self-composed musical renditions of Amrita’s poetry. She sung “Main tainu phir milangi”, an ode by Amrita to Imroz , her partner. “To sing Amrita is also a matter of great fortune,” Raza says.
Amy continued with more recitations followed by a few poetic works recited by young artists taking inspiration from Amrita’s fearless fancy for living the life she was brutally honest about.
The event ended with an open forum which discussed Amrita’s life, her definition or redefinition of love, the famed devotion to her fellow poet, her love. Amrita’s take on the traumatic Partition and the cause of women —”Aaj akhan waaris shah nu”— which is one of the most celebrated works in Punjabi was also discussed along with her novel, “Pinjar“ which is also based on Partition.
“Who else will have her maiden published work when she was 16,” says a school student who attended the event.
“I just love Amrita Pritam, I grew up reading her works,” says Amy Singh. When asked what inspired her to organise the event, she says “It had to be today, ek sadi ki ho gayi hamari Amrita.”