Amrita Pritam
A Needle of Light

Our destiny is tattered, the torn patches of my country need a needle of light. With a phulkari in my hand I was threading a needle when the earth shook and broke the needle of light.

Along time back, under the stars and a rainbow, evolution brought into being a woman. The woman was a total being-we have fragmented her. Now she has many shapes and forms. She is a maid and a mannequin. She is a midwife and a mother. She walks our streets with shame dripping from her. We have interrupted the cause of evolution to tear a woman apart.

I sit watching Amrita Pritam expound on womanhood, as names and stars, meteors and moons break on the far away sky. I had always thought of her as a poet of great power. Today she speaks intensely on woman as destiny, and the man's designs that have shaped her. She believes too in the Great Coming. She is not concerned whether the Messiah will come in the shape of a man or a woman. To her, things and concepts are whole and total, patterns and universe, not pieces and fragments. Why does man in the most passionate moments of love still believe in the many forms and shapes of woman? Why do not the mind and body of the women integrate in man's consciousness, in that supreme moment of love? If these ever blend, even the stars will break from the sky in homage to cosmic fireworks.

For Amrita Pritam, love is admiration of woman's mind and body. A woman should come to a man as a body, as a poem and as a person-all blended and fused into one total being.
She does not chide the male ego in the process. Man, she says, was a hunter, as evolution put him on the highways of time and space. Woman was then a transmitter of knowledge. Yes, from the very prenatal state, she had to tell a child -what was wind and storm, tree and bird, and what was an apple and snake, long before a holy book said it in so many words.

"No one", says Amrita, "has ever peeled a woman. A woman has more layers of consciousness; her awareness of history from the pristine times to the present, is deeper. For she typifies not only creativity, but transmits to the succeeding generations of women what it is to create and to perpetuate through the ecstasy of agony. A woman in the present disintegrated form is the result of human attempt to separate the body from the mind, the temporal from the spiritual. A time will come, when the two will be reunified with the sun, the stars and the moon, witnessing a grand integration."

There was a time when I thought that Amrita's world was a world of pure and sheer poetry. Sitting with her today, has been an encounter of the third, the visionary kind. A perfect man never comes unless a perfect woman has been evolved. Man's perfection will flow from woman's reaching the summit of creation first. It is in reaching that summit, that a woman will pull up the man and in the interchanging of the mind and the body, the spirit will assume flesh and the body will be etherealised like an airy being. No, she does not accept the idea of the human form eventually getting disembodied. A man and woman, the classic syndrome would be changed in the' grand resurrection of the perfect man and the perfect woman.

I go back to her-this time to her work. Fragments and pieces dominate her imagery. I think of her beautiful images of how "a quarter of a moon and a handful of stars have occupied our sky". She is conscious that human passion and quest go beyond the stars, the moon and the sky that we paint. These are the images of a woman, who sees her creative destiny, and is yet conscious as much of her roots in the present, as of her dreams of the distant future.

No poet has perhaps as many images of stars, moon, sun and the sky as Amrita has woven into the embroidery of her poetry, dreams and vision. No wonder then, that in one of her exquisite poems she casts herself in the role of a woman embroidering a phulkari, a phulkari of light:
Who will ever stitch a torn phulkari of light?
In the niche of the sky the sun lights a lamp.
But who will ever light a lamp
on the parapet of my heart?

Such is, according to her, a woman's lot in a torn and divided world. Amrita says, "historically, man is an exterminator of woman-a destroyer." "A time can come," Amrita says in yet another poem called Incident, "When man would repay the debt he owes to the woman he had burnt and destroyed. But, who will ever pay the debt that man owes to woman's womb? It is a debt beyond paying, as much as it is a thought beyond thinking."

In her book Woman, A Point of View a veritable female testament of faith, Amrita Pritam thinks of a woman as a flower of flesh:

On the branches of this earth
Flowers of flesh grow every day.
Everyday they are plucked and shaken off
but one day a flower of flesh will grow
that storms will not shake
that hands will not pluck;
A fragrance will spread far and wide
and usher in an unknown peace.


We present here a profile of a great poet of modern age with courtesy of Manmohan Singh from from his article in "Women of Punjab"