Monday, December 10, 2012

Amrita Pritam an idea may be !

Amrita and Imroze

| 7 hours ago
For whom the bell tolls
The 16th day of April 1853 is special in the Indian history. The day was a public holiday. At 3:30 pm, as the 21 guns roared together, the first train carrying Lady Falkland, wife of Governor of Bombay, along with 400 special invitees, steamed off from Bombay to Thane.
Ever since the engine rolled off the tracks, there have been new dimensions to the distances, relations and emotions. Abaseen Express, Khyber Mail and Calcutta Mail were not just the names of the trains but the experiences of hearts and souls. Now that we live in the days of burnt and non functional trains, I still have few pleasant memories associated with train travels. These memoirs are the dialogues I had with myself while sitting by the windows or standing at the door as the train moved on. In the era of Cloud and Wi-fi communications, I hope you will like them.
amrita-and-imroz-blog-290x230The city carries the signature of Khalsa Durbar all over. The two generals – Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Hari Singh, who planned the city of Haripur and Mahan Singh, known for establishing Mansehra – were born in Gujranwala. The haveli of Hari Singh is now known as the mosque of the blind. During a game, Mahan Singh strangulated the lion, unarmed, and was named as Bagh Mar (the Lion hunter). The Maharajah was impressed by his performance and placed him under command of Hari Singh, where he excelled. As the apple always falls away from the tree, so the general’s third generation could not uphold the legacy of brave Mohials. In the independence war of 1857, they sided with British in exchange of land around Gujranwala.
Ranjit Singh’s father Maha Singh had built a Baradari, which sits in Sheranwala Bagh now. The platform was used by orators like Ataullah Shah Bukhari, leaders like Jinnah and politicians like Nehru. A few years ago, the structure started crumbling but then the concerned citizens stepped ahead and preserved this monument for their children.
After Sikhs, when Punjab passed to British, they had other plans for the transformation.
The city existed on one side of the railway line so the Raj chose the other side to settle. The track served as the boundary between the two aspects of life in India. One side of the line lived royalty and the other side was meant for servility. It was strongly rumoured that this area would eventually be developed into a garrison and a Lal Kurti or R A (Royal Artillery) bazaar. Hitler, however, had some other plans so the Union Jack was rolled up fairly earlier. The revenue record, to-date lists this area as Garrison land. Hospital, Church, Collector and Superintendent House established the air of authority on this side of line. It was illegal for any local to own a land here.
Somewhere in these streets, lived Kartar Singh Hatkari, an instructor of Burj Bhasha, the oriental language. He and his wife, Raj Kaur, served as teachers at the local school established by Teja Singh Bassaur. In1918, while the prayers were in progress, the twin daughters of Teja Singh stood up and started reciting a prayer loudly, “O Lord,” they said, “give our teacher, Kartar Singh, a daughter like us.” Raj Kaur was stunned and so was Kartar Singh. Once back, he was upset with his wife for this impatience. The girls later explained that they had done it out of their own will.
The prayer did come true in 1919. Born to the teacher parents, the young girl picked up writing soon and under the religious influence at her home, she started writing religious poetry like, ode to the Gurus. At the age of 11, she lost her mother. The father and the daughter then decided to move to Lahore and left Gujranwala.
Jagat Singh, a friend of her father and owner of a large hosiery shop in Anarkali, was one of the admirers of her religious vocations. He deemed the girl suitable for his son, Preetam, who also had a knack for writing. Kartar Singh did not take long to decide and the marriage came at the age of 16. That was also the year when her first collection of poems was published. Besides household, she would care for her country men who suffered the plight of colonialism.
Her time was claimed by the radio station and politics. They say that best of the art is created in worst of the times. So when almost a million people gave up their homes for their ideology, her words struck many chords. For her, partition was not all about politics but carried tears, pain, refusal and vengeance.
Ajj aakha’n waris shah nu, kito’n kabra’n vicho’n bol,
Te ajj Kitab-e ishq da koi agla varqa khol.
Ikk roi si dhee Punjab di, too’n likh likh mare vain,
Ajj lakha’n dheea’n rondia’n, tainu’n Waris Shah nu Kehen.
Ve dardmanda’n dia dardia, Uth takk apna Punjab
Ajj bailey lasha’n vichhia’n te lahua’n bhari Chenab
Aj sabbhe Qaido ban gaye, husan, ishq de chor,
Aj kittho’n liayiye labbh ke Waris Shah ikk hor.
Today I shall ask Waris Shah to speak from his grave
And open the newer lessons from the book of love
A daughter of Punjab wailed and you wrote anthologies of pain
Today there are millions crying daughters who call upon you! Waris Shah
O the sympathizer to the sufferers, Come, see your Punjab
Today the woods are stewed with corpses and Chenab is flooded with blood
Today every Qaido (Villain) has become a looter of beauty and love
From where shall I find another Waris Shah
The life and times of Amrita Pritam were, at best, a continuum of rebellion. She stood against anything that was established and followed unquestionably. During a train journey as a kid, she heard the hawkers selling Hindu Pani, Muslim Pani and asked her mother whether water carried religion. Raj Kaur naively remarked “I am afraid that nothing will be left undivided”. She soon revolted against tradition and questioned her grandmother on why she kept the utensils of her father’s Muslim friends separately. Nobody threw a caution to the wind and religion came next.
Standing by her dying mother, she devotedly prayed for her life, but that is too hefty a charity so she was refused. This death shook her belief in divinity and God, thereafter, was only a story character for her. She cut her hair, smoked tobacco and did everything that defied Sikh code for women.
Her marriage with Pritam met its logical end in 1960. By then, she was deeply in love with Sahir. He was the first man to step in the never-land of her heart. In quest of his decision, Amrita called Sahir for a final verdict. The smouldering poet came but could not decide and went back. There are different shades of this indecision, some think that it was religion and others take that both were over achievers and the marriage could have not succeeded anyway.
Regardless of these theories, Amrita could not get over her love for Sahir. She wrote his name on paper involuntarily and authored last letter to him, only to get it published subsequently on the mere hope that it reached him. When the two met, they sat for hours, silently. Sahir smoked uninterrupted and Amrita watched. After he left, she got back to her sacrificial self, picking up the empty butts and smoking them with an unexplained ecstasy.
Many years later, she narrated her love story to the friend and seasoned author Khushwant Singh, who remarked wittingly “this love story is small enough to be written at the back of a postage stamp.” Amrita’s autobiography was published under the same title, “Postage Stamp.” After Sahir left, she started living with Imroze, till she died in 2005 in her Houz-e-Khaas residence at Dehli.
Imroze was an artist and besides making covers for her books, he mostly drew her eyes. He was deeply in love with Amrita and her eyes and looked after her till she breathed her last. Their four-decade partnership is a story of unconditional love. Imroze was amongst those rare human beings who are magnanimous to love unconditionally and do not believe in emotional reciprocation. He had only known how to love and not how to be loved. After Amrita died, he wrapped his canvass and brushes aside and never painted then on. Though that house of Hoaz e khaas is full of joyful memories but there is a poem which Amrita specially wrote for Imroze.
Mai’n tainuu’n phir milaa’n gee
kithe? kis tarah? patah nahee’n
shaayad tere takhiyal de chi’n h ban ke
tere Canvass te utraa’n gee
yaa khore tere Canvass de utt’e
ik rahasyamayii lakeer ban ke
tainu taqdee rahaa’n gee
I shall meet you again
Where? How? I don’t know
Perhaps as a figure
Of your imagination
I may appear on your canvas
Or perhaps on your canvas
Appearing as a mysterious line
I shall keep watching you
(To be continued)

hassan-miraj-80Muhammad Hassan Miraj is a federal government employee.

No comments:

Post a Comment