Amrita was born in 1919 in the Gujranwala district and educated in Lahore. Her first collection of poetry, Amrit Lehran (Ripples of Nectar) was published in 1936 when she was hardly 17. By the early 1940s, five collections of her poetry had been published. However, it was in the tragic turn of events during Partition that Amrita’s poetic genius found the real groundswell of expression. Her meteoric fame is often ascribed to the masterpiece poem “Aj Aakhaan Waris Shah Nu” when a neo-Heer emerged on the literary landscape of the Punjab during the 1947 trauma. This poem, addressed to Waris Shah – the author of the Punjabi epic of immortal love, Heer Ranjha – summed up the anguish of millions, particularly women in the Punjab who suffered a disproportionate share of the tragedy.
I say to Waris Shah today, speak from your grave
And add a new page to your book of love
Once one daughter of Punjab wept, and you wrote your long saga;
Today thousands weep, calling to you Waris Shah:
Arise, o friend of the afflicted; arise and see the state of Punjab,
Corpses strewn on fields, and the Chenaab flowing with much blood.
Someone filled the five rivers with poison,
And this same water now irrigates our soil.
Where was lost the flute, where the songs of love sounded?
And all Ranjha’s brothers forgot to play the flute.
Blood has rained on the soil, graves are oozing with blood,
The princesses of love cry their hearts out in the graveyards.
Today all the Quaidos have become the thieves of love and beauty,
Where can we find another one like Waris Shah?
Waris Shah! I say to you, speak from your grave
And add a new page to your book of love.