Saturday, June 14, 2014

Amrita Pritam - Raseedi Ticket


Raseedi TicketRaseedi Ticket by Amrita Pritam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Raseedi Ticket is a sort of an autobiography of Amrita Pritam. She keeps to the chronology of events more or less. Her story is laid out in a series of episodes that she feels were important in her life. So we hear about how her mother married her father, the genesis of her name, her mother's death, her disillusionment with
God at that moment, why she took to writing, when she first met Sahir etc.

Although it does not read like a cohesive story, we do get an idea of what her life was like. She speaks about her relationship with Sahir, her relationship with the Pakistani writer Sajjad Haider and of course, her dream companion, Imroz. She recounts episodes in her life featuring these men. She is completely honest about how she feels about them, and gives out no sleazy details, just as it should be.

She recounts an incident about Haider. One day at a party Haider was offered a plate of Imarti rather pointedly. His hostess was obviously trying to make a joke about his relationship with Amrita, playing on the similarity between 'Imarti' and 'Amrita'. When the hostess offered the plate of Imarti again, Haider said 'The one you are trying to refer to here, I love her and adore her.' That shut the hostess up.

Then she writes about the incident that gave birth of a lovely song. One evening, after her affair with Sahir was long over, she went with Imroz to see him. They sat till long in the evening, drinking whiskey. After they left, Sahir could not sleep and spent the night pouring whiskey into their empty glasses by turn and drinking. That night he wrote this beautiful nazm which was later used in the film "Dooj Ka Chand".

Mehfil se uth jaane walon
tum logon par kya ilzaam
Tum abaad gharon ke wasi
Main awara aur badnaam
mere saathi khali jaam


There are chapters devoted to her dreams and how she believes they are an omen and often a solution to the problems she faced at the time. Her spirituality was eclectic. She believed in Sikhism, sufis of various types, sadhus and sants who were rumoured to have special powers.

She is true to herself as a woman, and believes in telling the truth as she knows it. The few poems and nazms that she showcases in the book are breathtaking. She tells about how she got inspiration to write her famous poem "Ajj Akhan Waris Shah noon". She also talks about the acclaim the poem received all over. In Pakistan, where there is a special festival that takes place on the theme of Waris Shah  Her poem is recited and enacted at this festival.

Another poem of hers, "Mata Tripta Da Sapna", ran afoul of the Sikh clergy. They were mortified that anyone could write so about the mother of Guru Nanak. Amrita says that one winter night, she got a phone call from her son. She had run out of a warm razai to hear the phone. Exchanging a few words with her son made her feel warm all over. She remembered what it was like carrying this child in her womb. She was an ordinary woman bearing an ordinary child.  She tried to imagine what Mata Tripta felt like, carrying a divine baby like Guru Nanak.

She also writes a heartfelt ode to her constant companion Imroz. He gave her space and provided support to her always.

Amrita's prose is poetic and full of metaphors and imagery. I have read some books of hers in the past, but I am afraid I remember little of those. I really need to get a book of her poems and some novels.

It is rather a coincidence that I ordered a book called Women who run with the Wolves, and then read books by authors like Ismat Chugtai, Krishna Sobti and Amrita Pritam. These are women who ran with the wolves. They did not care for the slots that the society had created for women. Their lives and their literature were firmly on the side of women who walked on the wild side.

In their age and times they spoke up for all kinds of women. Most of all, they sympathised with the women who were shunned by the genteel people.

"Within each woman there lives a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. She is the Wild Woman, who represents the instinctual nature of women."

The quote is from the Estes' book, Women who run with the Wolves. In my mind, Chugtai, Pritam and Sobti (and other authors who are ranked right up there with them) were those kind of women. Maybe because of the support they got from their socialist ideology, or from the forum of like-minded people, or their natural instincts, these women broke the societal barriers with their writings.

These women deserve to be read over and over again, and no book lover should have to travel too far to find a book written by them.

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