Review of Sanjh 

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

The Dawn; Thursday, 23 Sep, 2010

SAANJH… a quarterly magazine published from Lahore and Ludhiana simultaneously in Persian and Gurmukhi scripts; pp 200; Price Rs100 (pb); Editors Safir Rammah, Javed Boota, Ahmad Saleem, Dr. Manu Sharma, Dr. Jagtar Dheeman and Zubair Ahmad; Published from Saanjh… Book Street, 42/2. Mozang Road, Lahore.

In her longest stay in India (almost 60 years) Amrita Preetam was never spared being called pro-Pakistani because her wide-read poem Waris Shah was addressed to Waris Shah and not to Baba Nanak or any other Sikh guru or Ram or Krishan. She always aspired to visit Lahore a city of her dreams where she has first time tasted the popularity earned through poetry. Till that time she had not written her poem ‘Aj Aakhan Waris Shah Nun’ but she had earned fame on all-India level through her programmes from Lahore station of All India Radio.

Amrita had lost her mother in very tender age who was a widow and Amrita’s father had fallen in love with her. Father was a religious minded person and came to Lahore from Gujranwala. He did not marry again. Anyhow, as per tradition, he wanted to marry Amrita as early as possible and she was married to Preetam Singh, a comparatively unwanted member of his own family as told by Imroze, the life partner of Amrita, to Saleem Pasha, a Punjabi poet from Islamabad, who visited Imroze in Delhi.

This interview spreads over 45 pages of the journal. Imroze, Inder Jeet of Faisalabad district, was a student of Lahore College of Arts (The Mayo School of Arts) and he had already seen the printed photo of Amrita who was now a known literary figure. This photograph of Amrita was published in the famous magazine Preet Larri and Imroze’s father got if framed and decorated a wall with this photo.

Perhaps Imroze never met Amrita before 1947 and they met in Delhi years after their migration to India. Imroze says that Preetam Singh, the father of Amrita’s two children, was left by Amrita because she could not keep company with the man whose attitude was more like a shop-keeper. She earned her livelihood from radio writings and as an anchor person. Imroze says in spite of deep hatred for Preetam Singh, Amrita brought him to her house when he lost everything and had fallen seriously ill. Amrita bore all his medical expenditure etc till his death. That was the greatness of the poet Amrita with whom many top writers of the Punjab refused to travel to Russia (then Soviet Russia). The senior Urdu writer, Sajjad Zaheer, came to apologise for dropping her name from the list of the delegates invited by the Russian government. But Amrita very politely said that she never accompanied any delegation of Indian writers which was on official tour. She always went alone to a number of foreign countries on the invitations of these countries.

Imroze has narrated many incidences of Amrita’s life and our renowned poet Ahmad Rahi paid her rich tribute by saying that Amrita inspired him to write in Punjabi on the Punjab which saw the unprecedented bloodshed on the eve of independence. Ahmad Rahi had said all that in an interview with journalist Tahir Asghar some ten years back and published now in a Lahore weekly Humshehri on the 8th death anniversary of Rahi. Rahi’s poetry was all about the women who had suffered during the partition particularly a cousin who was kidnapped, dishonored and came to his father’s place after some four years. The treatment extended to her was totally unbelievable and that was happened almost with every girl Hindu, Sikh or Muslim. Rahi’s collection of poetry, Trinjan was dedicated to Amrita who was introduced to Rahi’s children as their grandmother (Dadi) that was the relationship between Amrita and Rahi whose collection first time earned forewords in Punjabi by Saadat Hasan Manto and Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi.

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