Amrita Pritam

Surjit Pattar, perhaps the finest Punjabi poet and writer today on the east of the border, remembers Amrita Pritam:

Amrita Pritam is no more. It’s as if the five rivers of Punjab are dead – Ravi is no more, nor is Chenab. Amrita Pritam was like the five rivers which make Punjab. She made Punjabi literature.

Her name, those two words – Amrita Pritam – will always be music to the ears of Punjabi literature lovers. When it comes to 20th century Punjabi poetry, we can debate who should be the sun but when it comes to the moon, there is no discord. Amrita Pritam, who passed away quietly in her home at Hauz Khas, New Delhi, is undoubtedly the moon of the 20th century Punjabi poetry, and this moon never needed to borrow someone else’s light. She had so much light of her own that many like us glowed in it.

Amrita Pritam represented both the Charhda (Indian) and the Lehnda (Pakistan) Punjab. Her poems gave voice to the pain of women who had hitherto woven their sufferings into folk songs sung softly behind voluminous veils. She was also the pathos of Partition. No poet could parallel her when it came to pouring ts agony into words . Her lines Aj akhan Waris Shah nuun, kitho uth kabran cho bol… have been immortalised in both the Punjabs.

Nirupama Dutt sums up the life and art of Amrita Pritam:

In her lifetime, Amrita authored over 100 books of poetry, fiction, biography and essays. In one of her last poems written from the sick bed, she consoled her love Imroz by saying, ‘Main tainu phir milagi…’ (I will meet you yet again). This is the promise she made to her soul mate but she will yet meet us all again through her writings. For today on Divali eve she has passed out of history into legend to stand in the row of poets like Meera Bai, Rabia and Lal Ded.

A very comprehensive compilation at indianwriting.

I dont like my job

According to a recent survey, 40 percent of Indian farmers would like to change their profession, one can hardly blame them. However what is surprising is that 76 percent of the farmers in Andhra Pradesh seem to be liking their profession, I dont know how it ties to the high suicide rate in that part of the country. And Punjab and Haryana are not even mentioned, but these points make me doubt the veracity of the survey.I was once part of the Jan Vigyan Science Movement and we conducted a survey among students of class 6 to 8 in a decent middle class, small town school in Himachal Pradesh. Besides many questions related to science, we sneaked a question on: Which social system is the most suitable for development of science? And in those days of Soviet Union’s existence, an overwhelming majority of 65% students voted for socialism, which made me and my comrades see stars in our eyes and also left us somewhat unprepared for the devastating turn against socialism less than a decade later.

Anyway, here is the report on the farmers’ front:

NEW DELHI, AUG 1: More than a third of Indian farmers are into farming due to compulsion rather than choice. According to a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), about 40% of Indian farming households have reported that given a choice they would take up some other career.

The reasons stated for the farmers’ dislike for their profession included non-profitability, risk and lack of social status, the NSSO situation assessment survey conducted as a part of the 59th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) revealed. The survey was conducted in 2003.

The highest proportion of farmers satisfied with their occupation was in Andhra Pradesh where 76% of farmers surveyed said they liked farming. This was followed by Tamil Nadu where the proportion of satisfied farmers was 69% and Kerala and Gujarat where the proportion was 67%. Relatively poor states like Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have the lowest percentage of satisfied farmers at 49%, 53%, 53% and 54%, respectively.

Of the 40% farming households that disliked their profession, 27% did not find farming profitable and 8% thought it was too risky, 2% disliked farming as they thought it lacked social status and the remaining 3% disliked their profession due to other reasons.

Bihar and West Bengal both had the highest proportion (36%) of farming households that disliked farming due to its non-profitability. Amongst farmers who thought farming was too risky, the greatest proportion (17%) were concentrated in Chhattisgarh, followed by those in Assam (13%). In Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka, the proportion of risk averse farmers was 11%.

Rajasthan had the highest proportion (9%) of farming households that considered farming as less respectable. On the other hand just 2% of the farming households in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat felt that farming lacked social status, said the report.

At an all-India level 60% of the farming households surveyed, expressed their satisfaction in agriculture as a profession. On a state-wise basis, AP had 76% of its farming households happy with their profession.

Sunil Dutt- A Secularist and a Humanist

I find it tough to believe that a person can be liked by all. Sunil Dutt, who passed away last week in India was perhaps one of the very few. Despite being the victim of Partition, he rose above it, was part of the secular leaning Bombay filmdom, married a Muslim actress of iconic status, Nargis. Sunil Dutt was a secular Punjabi Brahmin, however oxymoronish that may sound today.A friend tells me that one of the reasons that he remained secular was because of he adored his mother Kulwanti Devi, who asked him to forget the Partition. I am not sure if this explains it all, but frankly I really dont know the reason. His cousin brother Subir Dutt, a notable Urdu poet, was himself married to one of the sisters of Sahir Ludhianvi. And a few years ago, when I thought that the defining aim of my life was to write a definitive biography of Sahir, I planned to see Subir Dutt. He had edited a journal, whose name I forget, that was dedicated to Urdu poets and writers. I had seen many of those at Punjab Book Center in the eighties, when I used to frequent the bookshop in Chandigarh. Sunil Dutt was close to Faiz too, as the numerous pictures of Faiz at Sunil Dutt’s house at a site dedicated to Faiz indicates.

I personally felt a lot of warmth for Sunil Dutt, though it was naive on his part to set out on a padyatra during the height of terrorism in eighties and nineties. But he did- and that naivete amidst those senseless days probably defined the man in an age of catastrophe and crisis. I felt, like many others who stand by Nehruvian-Left secularism, a pain when he had to grovel before the Shiv Sena chief. But I guess we all understood his position- and it endeared him to us. It was a moment of intense pride when he resigned from the Congress during the Narasimha days in protest against what he felt was the Party’s softness towards Hindutva.

I dont think he was considered a great man during his lifetime. Neither will he be remembered as one. Despite a few years of impeccable success as a film actor, his life was one of struggle- and amidst that his tenacity to stand up for humanist and secular ideals was, to say the least, exemplary.