The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 3, 2003
Lead Article

Living life on her own terms
Kanchan Mehta

 Amrita Pritam
Amrita Pritam

ON a hot summer day, some time back, I paid a visit to Amrita Pritam at her home in New Delhi. It was a memorable experience. For long, I had harboured a keen desire to have a face-to-face talk with the versatile genius who had dared to live life on her own terms, with love as the sole guiding force in her life and the pen as her only weapon. Her emotions find portrayal in her works. She writes about herself:

There was a pain

I inhaled it


Like a cigarette

Left behind are a few songs

I have flickered off

Like ashes

From the cigarette.


In her literary works, Amrita dares to be true to herself. But some times she chooses to express herself indirectly. In her literary autobiography there are gaps and silences which need to be read into.

Unfortunately, I could not speak to her as she was critically sick. All I could have was her blessings. I burst into tears when I entered her room. The whole room was charged with gloom, depression and helplessness. A frail figure was lying on the bed. Her vibrant brain had become misty, her resplendent body was a phantom of it’s earlier self.

But my loss at not being able to have a talk with Amrita was amply compensated for by the opportunity I got to speak to Amrita’s constant companion, nay her alter ego, Imroz. Imroz, the artist, is the epitome of a real man. He is simple and humble, yet suave and sensible. Amrita is really fortunate to have enjoyed the companionship of a person like him, clam, placid and unperturbed.

On my entry to the house, I was led by Amrita’s daughter-in-law to a room full of Imroz’s paintings. I found myself in a world of colours. All his paintings carry the message of love — selfless love. He is a staunch devotee of Acharya Rajneesh, Propagating the teachings of the Bhagwan through colours. He persuaded me to note down some lines of Rajneesh inscribed in Osho Times.

Happy without the other

Only these people

who are

capable of being alone

are capable of love of sharing

of going into the deepest core, into the other person —

without. Possessing the other,

without becoming dependent

on the other, without

creating the other, reducing the other

into a thing, and without

becoming addicted to the other.

they allow the other

absolute freedom, because

they know if the other leaves

they will be as happy

as they are now. Their happiness

cannot be taken by the other,

because it is not given by the other.

I exchanged with Imroz ideas about the wonderful emotion of love which turns a mundane existence into a meaningful journey. Amrita celebrates her relationship with Imroz in The Revenue Stamp. He is "The 15th August" for her. Her bereaved soul received the balm of love from Imroz. Her life-long quest for love ended in Imroz who fused meaning into her life. Describing her relationship with Imroz she writes;

No relationship with men,

Not one word — father, brother, friend, husband

Could have described you...

Each of these words now gain in depth

Imroz told me that their decision to stay together was not made in the first meeting. With a sober smile on his face, he revealed that Amrita never expressed her love in plain words using stale expressions like "I love you". He said their relationship was pure and real and did not need sanction of the law. They committed no crime in staying together like two independent birds sharing one cage. People use law as a kind of crutch because they lack real relationships. Life is to be lived freely. To live freely one needs to step out of the quagmire of conventions. "Convention means binding and binding cannot be love", said Imroz. Only those who lack courage of their convictions value society. A true relationship feeds on faith, understanding and respect for each other’s individuality, not on legalities.

I drew Imroz’s attention to Amrita’s relationships with other men mentioned in her writing. Was Amrita’s love for Sahir only a fancy? He shrugged and said, "Sahir was a seducer. He tempted and ensnared many eminent women". Amrita had a pure, deep and unflinching passion for Sahir. But, Sahir was only a weaver of dreams and could never go beyond that. He did not care for Amrita’s feelings for him. He never rad her Sunheie (Message), originally composed for him.

Amrita’s marriage was a painful experience. She married her cousin at an early age and bore two children but could not get the companionship she needed. I wanted to know something more about her husband but Imroz replied curtly, "there is nothing commendable about him." I asked why Amrita had not dropped ‘Pritam’ from her name? Imroz said, "What is in name? Do you think a name carries much weight in itself?"

I asked Imroz, "How far is The Revenue Stamp a true picture of Amrita’s life". Imroz describes The Revenue Stamp as a stupendous achievement. No other writer could be so bold in presenting himself or herself. "It is a true image of her life." He said one needed vision to perceive her autobiography in right perspective.

Sitting in this world of love, emotions and colours, I forgot the outside word and a sense of timelessness filled me. I had been enjoying the company of Imroz for the last 2`BD hours. I made up my mind to leave but was pained by Amrita’s and was concerned for Imroz. Imroz consoled me. He said "I would be as happy as I am now even if Amrita departs from this life." True love is not affected by the presence or absence of the loved one. He drew my attention to the kitchen black board bearing the sentence: "Every thing you love is yours."