Amrita and Imroz – In the Times of Love and Longing
Amrita and Imroz – In the Times of Love and Longing, was originally published in 2009 by Full Circle. It is a collection of letters exchanged between the revered Punjabi author and poet, Amrita Pritam and the artist and poet that needs no introduction, Imroz.
About the Book:
The love letters of Amrita and Imroz are an interesting insight into the personalities of two highly creative minds. The reader gets intimate glimpses of the extraordinary relationship between the renowned author and poet and her artist companion. The handwritten letter delivered by the government postal service was the only recourse available to Amrita and Imroz while they charted their careers in different cities, Amrita in Delhi and Imroz in Mumbai. And they discussed each day’s happening with each other, even if it took days for the other to receive the letter. The creative mind yearns for satisfaction and for love and recognition. These letters offer a peek into these creative minds, they are also a record of the social history of those times, a far cry from modern quick service times.. and therein lies the significance of the letters.
These letters were originally written in Punjabi and were later translated into Hindi and English. The translation to English has been done by the renowned Punjabi poet Arvinder and has been edited by the couple’s friend, Uma Trilok. Given that the letters were first written in Punjabi, there is much lost in translation. Having read the originally published letters in the vernacular, it is safe to say that the emotions infused in the words easily surpass the translated ones. As is usually the case with translated literature, a little magic is lost. However, the translated version of the letters also puts forth a fascinating perspective on the subjects. While the English translation of the letters is not able to evoke a similar emotional response as compared to the ones written in Punjabi, the letters still give an intriguing insight into the relationship shared between Amrita and Imroz.
The letters collected in this book were written between the years 1959 and 1975 when both of them were not in the same city at the same time. Sometimes, during the course of writing these letters, there were oceans between them. They were not in the same countries, yet, the longing of proximity surpassed all the barriers. These letters can be interpreted as a coping mechanism against the reality of their very independent and demanding careers. They were there for each other even if they were not present physically. I have to confess, reading these letters made me feel like I was encroaching on someone’s private, intimate moments. Though full of simple, day to day conversation, the letters are replete with stark emotions of love, friendship, happiness, loyalty, and devotion. However, the depth of the letters does not end at the emotions.
In the Times of Love and Longing is a beautiful example of an epistolary novel. Uma Trilok, Arvinder, and everyone else involved in creating this collection have endeavored to weave the letters into an account of the transcendent and intellectual connection between the poet and the artist. The state of art and artists is also a theme of conversation along with several other issues pertaining to our social constructs. Upset after a trip to Romania in 1967, Amrita wites to Imroz, “How do dreams fall within the limits of comprehension?” Here she is talking about the dream and struggle of every writer who wants to be discovered and acknowledged. In another letter, Imroz discusses the lack of opportunities, financial security for artists, and how excruciating it can be to survive in such a world. The culmination of the worldview of two creative individuals, as represented by the letters is exceedingly fascinating and makes for a unique reading experience.
The novel has been aptly titled as Amrita and Imroz – In the Times of Love and Longing. There is love, adoration, devotion, and loyalty between the two as is seen through the window of their correspondence. At the same time, there is also a longing, a yearning to overcome the separation and to never be without the other again. The book is a brilliant read for someone who is interested to glimpse into the lives of two extraordinary individuals coping with separation while actively exchanging ideas about a more progressive society.
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