In the times of Love and Longing – Amrita and Imroz

“My love,

….At heart, human beings share the same pain, the same anguish, wherever they might live on earth.  I think all of us feel the same wrench, the same pull at the heartstrings. In the cold evening of life, I now wait just for the warm sunshine that your letters bring… Just yours. …”

Thus writes Amrita Pritam to the love of her life – Imroz in one of her letters. In our obsession of the film industry and fast food love stories that are being served every second in the name of fiction, we have skipped many of the original stories of love of our times; love – that is pain inflicting and liberating at the same time, love wherein lovers learn to be sanguine and insane at the same time, love where life doesn’t end in 450 pages or 2.5 hours. One such story where love takes a completely inward turn and starts making you and breaking you every single breath of your existence is the story of Amrita and Imroz.
A collection of letters exchanged between the most prominent Punjabi poet, essayist and novelist, Amrita Pritam (Aug. 1919 – Oct. 2005, most noted work – Pinjar) and Imroz – painter and artist, this book lists in my all time favourites. At the time, Amrita was drafting a career in writing, lived in Delhi and Imroz was trying to make his mark in Bombay. They describe their everyday things in these letters and keep writing without waiting for the replies as the state of postal services warranted a delay of weeks, sometimes months. The letters give us a glimpse of the kind of relationship they shared without formalizing it with a marriage. The letters are the creations of yearnings of two extremely creative minds and they take you on a journey extraordinaire. Reading these letters is like canoeing in a silent lake that tranquillizes your soul and you become completely indifferent to your own self, your own existence. What you see and feel is just love – undiluted and unblemished by the wont of rules and boundaries of world. The last few lines of a poem Amrita wrote in one of the letters read thus –

“…There was a celebration of words.
An anniversary of illusions
I was there
So was the night
And the wine of thoughts
And so many friends
Friends, who had been invited
And friends who came uninvited
But there was one
Who did not come
Even after so many invitations.”
-2nd November, 1967

Imroz in his reply to the letter writes on 6th December, 1967 –

“… If I could help it, I would erase all the letters of this newspaper (he calls the world a newspaper in this context) and write just one word, just one – Amrita, who would transform into poetry in no time and then spread all over and become one civilization – from the east to west.”

Take my word, you will close your eyes and heave a sigh of pine after reaching the end of every letter. They cast a spell over your mind and heart. The letters will live with you for a long time and the story of Amrita and Imroz will cloud your mind invariably every time you will think or speak of love. Don’t be surprised if you don’t mention their names aloud and just smile to yourself, for you would have seen love by then, felt love by then – in its truest form through the ink-pots of Amrita and Imroz.

Published by Hind Pocket Books Pvt. Ltd., the book has been edited by Uma Trilok and translated by Arvinder. The translation reads seamless and the cover art has been exceptionally conceptualized.
Personally for me, this book ranks right amongst the topmost ones to treasure for a lifetime. A story so beautiful, a dialogue so alive, a silence so articulate, a longing so divine, and a love so eternal – rarest of the rare culminations, you can’t afford to miss this experience! Do delve deep and once you resurface – you will feel enriched – bit by bit – with every single letter.