Why Amrita Pritam and others chose not to visit Lahore after 1947
During my trip to Lahore a decade ago when getting a visa had become relatively easier, a writer friend from Lahore, Zoya Saajid, and her neighbours decided to show me the charmed city by night.
Among other spots which were reminiscent of the once composite culture of Punjab, the car was brought to a halt in front of an imposing colonial-era building that housed the post office.
Zoya fondly teased me: “This is where your celebrated writer-filmmaker Rajinder Singh Bedi stamped letters 9 to 5!”
The Lahore literati remembered writers Bedi, Amrita Pritam, Krishan Chander and others whose talent was nurtured and recognised in Lahore but there was no going back for them to the city they loved and had to flee when riots broke out in 1947.
Bedi, the author of classic novella ‘Ek Chadar Maili Si’ and maker of films like ‘Garam Kot’, ‘Dastak’ and ‘Phagun’, supported his writing and family by working as a postal clerk in Lahore.
Pakistan’s well-known writer Rumi Raza writes in his travelogue ‘Delhi By Heart’ that Amrita did not want to leave Lahore but once forced to do so then she will never come back. Raza added: “It was not only Amrita Pritam who never wished to visit Lahore again. There were a number of prominent writers from Lahore who, after migration, never came back to visit the city. These included Krishan Chandar, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Balwant Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Balwant Gargi among others. They could not possibly face the change that was bound to occur in the post-Partition world.”
Speaking on Amrita never returning to Lahore, her partner Imroz said: “There could have been no going back for Amrita. Her poem ‘Ajj Aaakhan Waris Shah Nu’ mirrors the intensity of her pain over the tragedy of the Partition.”
Amrita’s friends like Faiz Ahmad Faiz always visited her in Delhi when in India. During her years of illness, Pakistani writers collected ‘chaddars’ from the mazaars of Waris Shah, Sultan Bahu and Shah Husain with a note: “You are the true ‘waris’ of Waris Shah”. These were brought to her by Lahore’s Punjabi writer Ilyas Gumman.
With many trying to revive the composite culture of Punjab on both sides of the border, a library in Wazirabad boasts of a picture of prolific Urdu writer Krishan Chander and Chandigarh’s Hindi poet Kumar Vikal. Both Chander and Vikal were born there.
Last year at a Punjabi conference in Gujjranwala, birthplace of Amrita, Pakistan’s Punjabi writer Fakhar Zaman said they would make efforts to have a street named after her.
Gulzar’s tearful journey to Dina
The story of poet-filmmaker Gulzar, who left his village Dina near Jhelum and has relived childhood years in his poetry and songs, is also moving.
He said, “I never want to go back because I want to remember only happy times. I will only go there once to meet my teacher-mentor Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi.”
He visited Dina in 2013 with his friends Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj but was so overcome by emotion that he felt pain in his chest and cut short his visit to the Karachi Literature Festival.