Four years after her death,we get an intimate glimpse into the personal life of legendary Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam through a compilation of tender love letters between her and her companion of 45 years,painter-poet Imroz. The book,In the times of Love (Full Circle,Rs 295) documents letters exchanged between 1950 and 1975 when the couple were separated by careers in different cities. How can Amrita be dead,when I am alive? We shared and continue to share many beautiful moments, says Imroz,80,from his residence in Hauz Khas. I can never forget the way she used to address me as Jeeti.
These letters trace the beginning of their relationship over 50 years ago. Conversational and lucid,the letters were written in Urdu,Punjabi and Hindi. They have been translated into English by a Chandigarh-based professor Arvinder Kaur. When you read the original letters written in Punjabi,they have a thought process of their own. The letters are so spontaneous and personal that it was not difficult for
me to keep the tone of the correspondence despite translating it into English, says Kaur.
Imroz was a struggling painter when he met Pritam for the first time in 1950. She was 40 then and unhappily married to businessman Pritam Singh. She had two kids while Imroz was 33 and single. On our fourth meeting,it was my birthday. When she got to know,she got a cake and fed me. She never wished me and I never said thank you but I noticed that her eyes laughed. I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with this woman, says Imroz,who looked after Pritam till the end. He never had children,because Amrita was a mother of two and her children became ours,he claims with the pride of a father.
The letters also convey the evolution of their love. According to Imroz,We never said I love you. It was too empty an expression. We always had separate rooms. She would write at night and I would paint,a lot of which were her book jackets, says Imroz.