Amrita Pritam, R.I.P.


NEW DELHI, OCT 31 (PTI) Writer and poet Amrita Pritam, a doyen of Punjabi literature known for her poignant stories dealing with the throes of India`s Partition as also her feminist ideas, died in her sleep here today. Pritam (86) died at her residence where she had been bed-ridden since 2002 after she broke her pelvis bone when she fell in the bathroom. She died in her sleep this afternoon and was discovered dead by her daughter and grandson. The first woman recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, she was also the first woman to be awarded the Padma Shri. Born to a Sikh family in Gujranwala, Pakistan, on August 31, 1919, Pritam crossed over to India after the Partition and several of her writings dealt with the pain she felt at the division of the sub-continent. The violence she witnessed at the time of Partition, in which innumerable people were killed in communal riots, was etched in her mind all through her life and formed the substance of a large part of her work. The only child of a school teacher-poet father, Pritam lost her mother when she was only 11. She was only 16 when she got married to an editor. Moving to Delhi after Partition, she began writing in Hindi too and worked for the All India Radio till 1961. Pritam got divorced in 1960, roughly the time when her writings started becoming more and more feminist, a reflection of her unhappy marriage. Pritam penned 24 novels, 15 collections of short stories and 23 volumes of poems. A winner of numerous literary awards, Pritam was given the Jnanpith Award for lifetime contribution to Punjabi literature in 1982. Among her famous books are the novels `Pinjar`, which was recreated on celluloid recently by director Chandra Prakash Diwedi, "Ek Thi Saara`, `Kachchi Sarak`, `Unchaas Din` and `Adalat` and a collection of 29 stories of love and romance `Alif Laila -- Hazaar Dastan`. Despite her ill-health, Pritam wrote two songs for "Pinjar" the film which stars Bollywood actors Urmila Matondkar and Manoj Bajpai. Divorced for the past four decades, Pritam had been living with her companion Imroz. Bed-ridden since 2002 after her bathroom fall, Pritam underwent an operation and a rod was inserted for support but she did not respond to the treatment and physiotherapy also failed to make a difference to her condition. Ever since, her health had been constantly on the decline and she had also lost a lot of weight. The octogenarian writer was cremated this evening at the Green Park Extension crematorium very close to her Hauz Khas home.

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