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Amrita Pritam wrote Pinjar, an Urdu novel on which a successful Hindi film of the same name has been made. Her prose has been translated into several languages. However, despite the success of her prose, Amrita Pritam the poet remains relegated to the cultural domain of Hindi and Punjabi, largely unheard, and therefore, unappreciated by large swathes of readers.

Her Hindi-Urdu poetry is the acme of her literary accomplishment. In her poems, she employs everyday, sometimes rural images to convey her ideas of social change and existential angst. Her poetry constantly questions the ensemble of social norms that attenuates the individual to an acceptable mean. The reader can see her words stretching upwards in search of the sky.

In her mind, death is a way station in the cosmological continuum, and she strides through galaxies of thought with the ease of a winged bard. At the same time, she examines the human condition at an organic level – man is one with nature, a part of creation, no more, no less.

In this category Reinterpreting Amrita Pritam, I interpret her Hindi poems in English, for and in the present, where even as living is brighter and brisker, life itself remains rooted in a seemingly motionless journey through the ages.

I hope my readers enjoy these translocations … I enjoy working on them. Here’s the latest one.


Empty Space

There were two roads before them –

One frowned at the both of them,

and the other, they

chose to walk past.

In a naked sky

she bathed in a colorful rain

for hours –

he too melted away

in a rainbow shower.

Then swallowing the passion

of a lifetime, he dropped

her trembling hand from his.

‘We should build a memory for these moments!’

he said stepping back, ‘Look! There in the distance

is a little space

between the truth and a lie…’.