Monday, August 15, 2011
Number 235: Amrita Pritam "I Will Meet You Yet Again"
Mein tainu pher milan gi (I will meet you yet again)
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.
Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine, to be
embraced by your colours.
I will paint myself on your canvas
I know not how and where –
but I will meet you for sure.
Maybe I will turn into a spring,
and rub the foaming
drops of water on your body,
and rest my coolness on
your burning chest.
I know nothing else but that this life
will walk along with me.
When the body perishes,
but the threads of memory
are woven with enduring specks.
I will pick these particles,
weave the threads,
and I will meet you yet again.
(Translated by Nirupama Dutt)
Hap Notes: Before we you read my comments about this poem, read it once again, aloud, to yourself. Isn't this an enchanting poem? Amrita is a Sanskrit word for immortality. Amrita is one of the names, in Vedic literature, that is used for "soma", the nectar that bestows immortality on the drinker (forbidden to men, used by the gods.) Pritam's father was a poet/writer/editor and when her parents gave her this name one wonders how prescient they might have been. Her work is extraordinary and her reputation has only expanded since her death in 2005. Her story is near legendary in Indian literary circles.
Amrita Pritam (1919-2005) was born Gujranwala, Punjab (now Pakistan). Her father was also a scholar and Sikh preacher. [Hap, what is a Sikh, you may ask? I don't know a prodigious amount about the religion but I know that they believe in the teachings of the "Ten Gurus" and that they believe in the equality of all humans, the idea of the universal brotherhood of man and in one supreme God (Ik Onkar). Punjab is basically the place of origin for the religion.] Pritam's mother died when she was eleven and her poetry often reflects the loneliness of a young woman who needs another woman with whom she could talk (Punjab, and indeed most other cultures, often exclude women as intellects etc. etc.)
Her first volume of poetry was published when she was 16. She started as a romantic poet but became more political and socially conscious as the years went by. When Pakistan was formed as a separate Muslim country, she moved to India (it's very glib of me to say this. The Pakistani-India partitioning was a bloody, scary, difficult thing and was exacerbated by famines and weather tragedies.)
Pritam married a hosiery merchant, Pritam Singh, in 1935. But she left him in 1960 for poet Sahir Ludhianvi and many poems and much of her autobiography speak of her love affair. When the Ludhianvi romance went a bit sour (there was another woman) she found companionship with an artist of some fame, Imroz. (I don't suppose I have to tell you how romantic and courageous a woman had to be in order to be freedom loving, socially responsible and dedicated to the romance of life in this era in India/Pakistan/Punjab do I?)
The last forty years of her life were spent with Imroz who designed the covers of her books, gave her solace. They lived together (never married) with Imroz completely in love with her. She, while still loving Ludhianvi, came to understand a lot through Imroz's devotion and care. Some say she never stopped loving Ludhianvi but I believe today's poem was written for the faithful and true Imroz.
Pritam won dozens of awards for her novels and poems both at home and abroad. She is probably the most famous Sikh/Punjab woman poet.
Here's a quote from Imroz, after her death: "She has not gone, only her body has perished. She will be there in her poems and my paintings."
Here's another quote from Imroz: “We were madly in love with each other. We lived together but had different rooms in the same house. Her kids were mine and we never felt that we should have our own kids."
You can find more Pritam here: www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/amrita-pritam
(The pictures on this page feature one of Pritam and one of her with Imroz)