In her autobiography, Rasidi Ticket, Amrita reveals: “Whenever Sahir came to meet me in Lahore, it was like a piece of my own silent passion separating itself from me, seating itself on the chair, then going away…
While he was there, he would smoke, in silence. He would light up a cigarette, then quickly after he had smoked it halfway, stub it into the ashtray on the table. Immediately after, he would light up a new cigarette. After he had left, there would be a crowd of half-smoked cigarettes in the room.
Sometime…one time… I desired to touch his hand. My value system inhibited me; but my imagination came to my aid.
After he had left, I would carefully put away those ample stubs in my cupboard – a precious secret. Then when I was by myself, desperately alone, I would light them up one by one. Then I was able to touch his hand, without the fear of reprisal, or judgement.
That was how I learnt to smoke, got into the habit of smoking. Every cigarette that I lighted brought him before me – like a genie he would materialize out of the smoke.”
This piece below also speaks of smoke, but in quite another way – the two smokes are, however, joined together in a quintessential Amrita-style narrative.
The alarmed morning sun
walked down the night,
to shut out the clouds, and open
a window to the light
Why is the sky-brow
shiny with beads of sweat?
It has thrown off the stars
and shed its silver moon-shirt.
I hide in a corner of my heart…
your memory stings my eyes
like thick acrid smoke
from damp firewood alight.
A thousand thoughts come along
heaving with blazing red…
dry crackling firewood –
… and I just killed both fires.
Now, blackened instants lie scattered
some refusing to lay down…
as Time’s hand patiently gathered
it seared its fingers.
Your love dropped it, and my
my life-story, guest passing through,