Amrita Pritam (Author, Poet, Essayist)
Amrita Pritam (31 August 1919 – 31 October 2005) was an Indian writer and poet, who wrote in Punjabi and Hindi. She is considered the first prominent woman Punjabi poet, novelist, and essayist, and the leading 20th-century poet of the Punjabi language, who is equally loved on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. With a career spanning over six decades, she produced over 100 books of poetry, fiction, biographies, essays, a collection of Punjabi folk songs and an autobiography that were translated into several Indian and foreign languages.
The young poet who emotively invoked Waris Shah in what would become her best known poem, ‘Ajj aakhaan Waris Shah nu’, was one of the foremost women writers in 20th century India. Pritam, who wrote in Punjabi and Hindi, was a bold and courageous woman who lived life on her own terms unlike the more subjugated women of her time. A prolific writer, she produced over 100 books including poetry collections, fictions, biographies and essays.
Born in undivided India in 1919, she witnessed the horrors of the partition as a young woman, an experience that shook her to the core and shattered her soul. It was in the aftermath of the terrible experience that she expressed her anguish in the poem ‘Ajj aakhaan Waris Shah nu’, reflecting the sense of hopelessness, terror and sadness that swept over everyone who had witnessed the partition. Her experiences during the partition also inspired her to write the novel ‘Pinjar’ in which she addressed the helplessness faced by the women of her time. Through her poignant writings she became a voice for women in Punjabi literature and the leading 20th-century poet of the Punjabi language.