Amrita. Immortal. The one who lives forever. More than 15 years after her death in 2005, Amrita Pritam is still a constant presence in the life of Inderjeet alias Imroz, an artist whom she met nearly 63 years ago. The two never married, but had a live-in relationship for 40 years.
“Wo yahin hai, ghar par hi hai, kahin nahi gayi..(She is still here, she is at home, she hasn’t gone anywhere),” said Imroz, now 94, remembering Amrita on her 101st birth anniversary on Monday.
As August 31 marked the legendary writer’s birthday – she was born in Gujranwala in 1919, the pandemic prevented any gatherings or events paying tribute to the woman who redefined boundaries for women both through her writings and personal life. But for Imroz it was a celebration of her life like any other day.
“Though he doesn’t keep well now, he still remembers Amrita’s birthday every year. Today too, he was flooded with congratulatory calls since morning, from Amrita’s fans and well-wishers and he tried to attend them. Due to coronavirus, we couldn’t get flowers and cake like every year but we prepared halwa at home. He never talks like Amrita ji is no more, he talks like she is still alive…His room is flooded with her photographs and his own sketches he made of her, and he keeps gazing at them, missing her,” said Alka, Amrita’s daughter-in-law. Imroz, who is currently in Mumbai, stays with Alka (wife of late Navraj, a son she had from her marriage with Pritam Singh when she was 16) in Delhi.
Amrita’s last poetic work ‘Main Tainu Pher Milangi’ (I will Meet you Again) in 2004 was for Imroz whom she met in 1957. In a nazm for Imroz in 2004, she wrote, “Main Tainu Fer Milangi, Kithe.. kis tarah.. pata nahi… par tainu zaroor milangi..(I will meet you again.. Where.. How? I know not.. but I will meet you again).”
Amrita’s literary works, way ahead of her times, spoke for the women, rebelliously. In her novel ‘Dilli Diyaan Galliyan’, a character says, ‘Saade desh diyaan kachhiyan sadkan to enni mitti udd ke kapdeyan tey nahi paindi jinhi ujhan udd ke aurat uttey paindi hai (The flying dust from potholed roads of our country does not make clothes as dirty as it dirties a woman, her character).”
Before Imroz, Amrita was in love with Sahir Ludhianvi, and in his timeless nazm, Sahir wrote for Amrita, “Wo afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin, usey ik khoobsurat modh dekar chodna achha..” In 1980, Amrita, after getting to know about Sahir’s death, said: ‘Ajj main apne dil de dariya vich, main apne phul pravaahe ne…(Today, in my heart, I have cremated myself too).”
Speaking about Imroz’s love for Amrita, Padma Shri Dr Surjit Patar says that it is remarkable how he has continued to adore Amrita, without judging her and accepting her with her love for Sahir.
“Main samajhdan ki Imroz ne kaafi purshan de matthey ton daag utaare, jis tarah ohne Amrita nu pyaar kita (Imroz wiped off many blots off men by the way he loves Amrita),” he says, adding: “He has honoured her and her writings.”
More than a century later, as Imroz celebrates Amrita, her life and writings continue to inspire women, and men, who are drawn by her for rebelliously breaking the mould. And she continues to live on, just the way she said: “Jitthe vi sutantar rooh di jhalak pave, samajhna oh mera ghar hai (Wherever you get a glimpse of a free soul, that’s where you will find me, that will my home).”
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