Amrita Pritam never woke up on the afternoon of October 31, 2005 and the world is emptier without her musings. She embodied the fullness of poetic expression, creativity and the intensity of a woman in the perpetual state of love. Amrita’s voice was rooted in the South Asian idiom with all its contradictions, diversity and a faint recognition of fate. Her remarkable affinity with the depths of the Punjabi language adds to her iconoclastic status in India, Pakistan and wherever Punjabi is spoken and appreciated. Yet her audience has been global as well: her work was translated into dozens of world languages.
One of her poems makes the following confession:
Today I have erased the number of my house
And removed the stain of identity on my street’s forehead
And I have wiped the direction on each road
But if you really want to meet me
Then knock at the doors of every country
Every city, every street
And wherever a glimpse of a free spirit exists
That will be my home
(translation by author)
Through the course of her life, this ‘free spirit’ generated controversy but she never concerned herself with the mundane. Outspoken, prolific and deeply spiritual, Amrita existed within self-defined, non-conformist parameters. She lived with her partner for 41 years, shunned religious and sectarian identities and rejected the political divide of the left and right:
No absolutes for something as relative as a human life
No rules for something so tender as a heart..