Amrita Pritam : biography
‘amrita pritam – (31 August 1919 – 31 October 2005) was a Punjabi writer and poet, considered the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist, and the leading 20th-century poet of the Punjabi language, who is equally loved on both the sides of the India-Pakistan border, with a career spanning over six decades, she produced over 100 books, of poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, a collection of Punjabi folk songs and an autobiography that were translated into several Indian and foreign languages. Daily Times (Pakistan), 14 November 2005.
She is most remembered for her poignant poem, Aj 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, an epitome of violence against women, loss of humanity and ultimate surrender to existential fate; the novel was made into an award-winning film, Pinjar in 2003. Gulzar Singh Sandhu on the Grand Dame of Punjabi letters, The Tribune, 5 November 2005.
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.
Known as the most important voice for the women in Punjabi literature, in 1956, she became the first woman to win the Sahitya Akademi Award for her magnum opus, a long poem, Sunehe (Messages), Modern Indian Literature: an Anthology, by K. M. George, Sahitya Akademi. 1992, ISBN 81-7201-324-8.945–947. 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. The Hindu, 5 October 2004.
Partition of British India
Some one million people, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs died from communal violence that followed the partition of British India in 1947, and left Amrita Pritam a Punjabi refugee at age 28, when she left Lahore and moved to New Delhi. Subsequently in 1948, while she was pregnant with her son, and travelling from Dehradun to Delhi, she expressed anguish on a piece of paper Nonica Datta, The Hindu, 4 December 2005. as the poem, "Ajj akhaan Waris Shah nu" (I ask Waris Shah Today); this poem was to later immortalise her and become the most poignant reminder of the horrors of Partition. The Hindu, 13 November 2005. The poem addressed to the Sufi poet Waris Shah, author of the tragic saga of Heer and Ranjah and with whom she shares her birthplace, the Punjabi national epic:
ਅੱਜ ਆਖਾਂ ਵਾਰਸ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਨੂੰ ਕਿਤੋਂ ਕਬਰਾਂ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਬੋਲ। ਤੇ ਅੱਜ ਕਿਤਾਬੇ ਇਸ਼ਕ ਦਾ ਕੋਈ ਅਗਲਾ ਵਰਕਾ ਫੋਲ। ਇਕ ਰੋਈ ਸੀ ਧੀ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦੀ ਤੂ ਲਿਖ ਲਿਖ ਮਾਰੇ ਵੈਣ ਅਜ ਲੱਖਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਰੌਂਦੀਆਂ ਤੈਨੂ ਵਾਰਸਸ਼ਾਹ ਨੂੰ ਕਹਿਣ: ਵੇ ਦਰਦਮੰਦਾਂ ਦਿਆ ਦਰਦੀਆ ਉੱਠ ਤੱਕ ਆਪਣਾ ਪੰਜਾਬ। ਅਜ ਬੇਲੇ ਲਾਸ਼ਾਂ ਵਿਛੀਆਂ ਤੇ ਲਹੂ ਦੀ ਭਰੀ ਚਨਾਬ Academy of the Punjab in North America (APNA).
Aj aakhan Waris Shah nun kiton kabraan vichchon bol, Te aj kitab-e-ishq daa koi agla varka phol..
Ik roi si dhi Punjab di tun likh likh maare vaen, Aj lakhaan dhian rondian tainun Waris Shah nun kehn..
Uth dardmandaan dia dardia uth takk apna Punjab, Aj bele lashaan bichhiaan te lahu di bhari Chenab..
Kise ne panjaan paaniyan wich ditti zehar ralla, Te unna paaniya dhar ton ditta pani laa..
Iss zarkhe zamin de loon loon phuteya zehar, Gith gith chadiyan laliyan foot foot chadeya zehar..