Modern Punjabi Poetry – Amrita Pritam

Translated by Randeep Singh

Amrita-Pritam

Born in Gujranwala and raised in Lahore, Amrita Pritam (1919-2005) was a poet, short story writer and novelist and part of the Progressive Writer’s Movement. In 1947, she moved from Lahore to New Delhi where she worked for All India Radio and from where she continued writing in Punjabi and in Hindi.

Her poetry explores love and social morality among other themes. Her poem “Aj Akhāñ Vāris Shāh Nūñ” (‘Today, I call on Varis Shah’) is perhaps the most famous poem written in Punjabi on the Partition of India and Pakistan. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1956 for Sunhere, the Bharatiya Jnapith Award in 1982 for Kaghaz te Canvas and, in her later years, an award from Pakistan’s Punjabi Academy.

 

The Bridge (‘Pul’)

Yesterday, you and I both burnt a bridge
Dividing our destinies like a river’s banks

Our bodies shaken –
And one body lay desolate on this bank
The other desolate on the other bank …

When spring returned and shared her flowers
And you plucked them from her body
I too returned them to the season
And like the leaves of autumn
We let the years float by on the water

The years passed but the waters didn’t dry
And in the flowing water, we saw our reflections
But couldn’t make out our faces

So before we perish standing apart from one another
Let’s go spread our slender frames on the water
You place your foot on your body
And cross half the river
I will place my foot on my body
And meet you halfway

Kal asāñ dohāñ ne ek pul jalāyā sī
Te ik dariyā de kanḍhiyāñ vāngūñ vanḍe

Badan chanḍe –
ñ ik pinḍe dī vīrānī es kanḍhe sī
Te ik pinḍe dī vīrānī os kanḍhe …

Pher ruttāñ ne jadoñ vī kuch phul dite –
ñ tūñ vī uh pinḍe toñ toṛ dite,
Te maiñ vī uh ruttāñ nūñ moṛ dite,
Te chaṛe patiāñ vāngūñ –
Kinne hī vare asāñ pānī’ch roṛ dite …

Vare muke ne, par pānī nahīñ sukke,
Te vagde pānīāñ vichoñ, parchāveññ vekhe,
Par mūñh nahīñ takke …

Te es toñ pahilāñ
Ki kuch vith te khlote asīñ muk jāīe
Chal! Khingrāñ jahe pinḍe pānī te vichāīe
ñ āpne pinḍe te pair rakhīñ,
Te adhe dariyā nūñ langh āvīñ!
Maiñ āpne pinḍe te pair rakhāngī –
– Tainūñ aggoñ dī milāngī.

My Address (‘Merā Patā’)

Today I erased the number from my house
I got rid of the street name from the top of the road
I wiped off the names from all the street posts
But if you really want to find me
Then go knock on the door of each house
Of every street, of every town in every country
This is a curse
This is a blessing
For wherever you come across a liberated soul
Think of it as my home

Aj maiñ āpne ghar dā nanbar miṭāiā hai
Te gallī de mathe te laggā gallī dā nāoñ haṭāiā hai
Te har saṛak dī dishā dā nāoñ pūnj ditā hai
Par je tussāñ main nūñ zarūr labhnā hai
ñ har des de, har shahir dī, har gallī dā būhā ṭhakoro,
Ih ik sarāp hai, ik var hai,
Te jithe vī sutantar rūh dī jhalak pave
– samjhnā uh merā ghar hai …

 

The First Melody (‘Aādi sangīt’)

I was – and perhaps you too were  …
An endless silence
Crumbling needlessly like dry leaves
Or dissolving like the shore’s sands
But that’s a tale of a lost time

I once called to you from a crossroads
And you returned my call too
A quiver arose in the wind’s throat
The soil’s particles awakened
The brook’s waters began to hum
The tree’s arms tensed slightly
The leaves began to twinkle
The flower bud’s eye flashed
And a bird puffed out its plume
This was the first melody the ears heard

The seven tones of the harp came much later

Maiñ ñ te shāid tūñ vī …
Ik anthīn chup hundī sī
Jo suke hue pate dī tarāñ phurdī
ñ ajāīñ, kanḍhe dī ret vāng khurdī
Par uh parā-itihāsik samiāñ dī gall hai.

Maiñ tainūñ ik moṛ te āvāz dittī
Te aggoññ moṛvīñ āvāz dittī
ñ paunāñ de sangh vich kuch thartharāiā,
Miṭī de kinke kuch sarsarāe
Te nadī dā pānī kuch gungunāiā,
Rukh dīāñ ṭāhnāñ kuch kassīāñ gaīāñ
Patiāñ de  vichoñ ik chanak āī
Phul dī ḍoḍī ne akh chamkī
Te ik chiṛī de kuch khanbh hille,
Ih pahilā nād sī jo kannāñ ne suniā sī,

Sapat surāñ dī sangiā tāñ bahut pichoñ dī hai

 

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