A few months after Amrita Pritam's demise on this day in 2005, my friend Ashwani called up from Rajpura. He told me that after listening to his rendering of some Sufi verses at her residence during her last days, Amrita had said, "Ashwani, please come to my place once again after I am gone and sing some Sufi kalam right here in my bedroom."
I was touched to learn about her wish that reminded me of several moments I had spent with her during the last phase of her life before she was actually "gone". Ashwani broke the thread of my memories when he asked, "What should be done now?" "Of course, we will act upon her wish. I will talk to Imroz ji (her life partner and artist) and get back to you," I replied. Imroz responded with warmth and said, "Come any day, whenever you like."
Ashwani was both relieved and enthused when I told him about this open-ended invitation by Imroz.
He chose the earliest possible date convenient for both of us for a Sufi requiem to Amrita and we conveyed it to Imroz as well.
On the date decided, we reached our destination to the warm welcome extended by Imroz. His saintly demeanour lent a sense of serenity to the otherwise sombre moment.
I was reminded of my earlier post-Amrita visit to their house when Imroz had told me that some literary groups in Delhi had proposed to hold shok sabhas (condolence meetings) after Amrita's death but he had rejected all such proposals. "Why mourning? She had lived a full life. It was a celebration of life. We may celebrate her death as well. Where is the need for mourning?" he wondered.
After we had breakfast, Imroz ushered us in Amrita's bedroom where she had been confined during the last phase of her life after she broke her pelvic bone.
With his eyes closed, Ashwani started singing Sufi verses in a voice full of emotion and reverence. As his deep notes reverberated the air in that small room, I strongly felt the void Amrita had left behind for all those who loved her. Several memories of her left my throat choked and eyes moist.
Meanwhile, the Sufi lyrics rent the air with mystical meanings. 'Rahiye wo naal sajan de rahiye' (Shah Hussain) was one of them. Another was 'Alaf Allah chambe di booti murshid mann vich laayi hu' (Sultan Bahu). Ashwani even brought in Mira Bai at this Sufi symposium with her poignant piece 'Daras bin dukhan laage nain.' As he sang Sufi numbers one after the other, I could very much feel Amrita's presence not only in our hearts but all over the room that had on its door a line of Amrita's poem painted by Imroz in flame-shaped letters: "Parchhawian nu pakran waleyo, chhati ch baldi agg da koi parchhawan nahin hunda. (You who chase the shadows, mind you, the flame burning in one's bosom carries no shadow)."