Amrita precedes Fehmida Riaz, Parveen Shakir and other leading South Asian female poets by setting standards of candour and purity of feeling. In her autobiography, she mentions how she would collect the cigarette butts discarded by Sahir. Amrita would re-light them and smoke the leftover tobacco to sense Sahir’s touch. She wrote his name hundreds of times on a sheet of paper while addressing a press conference; after his death, Amrita yearned that the smoke-filled air would travel to the other world and meet Sahir! Confronted with this passion, Sahir appears to be a somewhat (emotionally) impotent despite being a great poet in his own right. Years later, Amrita wrote:
There was a grief I smoked
in silence, like a cigarette
only a few poems fell
out of the ash I flicked from it
(Translated by Jennifer Barber andIrfan Malik)
After Partition, India gave much recognition to her creativity, starting with her being nominated for the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1956. Her poems are fresh, sensuous, spontaneous and present a modern sensibility on love. Amrita’s success and stature grew, with India and, in fact, the world bestowing upon her honours that unfortunately we in Pakistan seldom present to our great poets and writers. She won the Padma Shri in 1969; the Jnanpeeth Award in 1982 and was nominated for the Rajya Sabha (upper house) during the period between 1986-92. In the 1990s she also received the Padma Vibhushan and writer of the millennium award. In all, she wrote more than 75 books: her diverse literary ensemble consists of 28 novels, 18 compilations of verse, 5 anthologies of short stories and 16 publications of essays and articles.