As the correspondence between Amrita Pritam and Imroz hits the stands in English translation, Imroz speaks about a relationship that transcended social norms and life itself

In today’s world, it is difficult to believe the ocean of love we find 83-year-old Imroz immersed in — completely oblivious to the reaction of the general public, untouched by jealousy or hatred or thoughts of gain or advantage.

Enter his home in Delhi’s Hauz Khas and feel the fragrance of love emanating from numerous pictures of his beloved Amrita Pritam mounted on the walls, lined up in a panel, glued on the pillars that divide his study and bed, and so on. “She is always there,” says Imroz matter-of-factly.

A similar feeling comes through the book “Amrita-Imroz — In the times of Love and Longing” just published by Full Circle. The 192-page book is a compilation of letters artist Imroz and writer/poet Amrita wrote to each other between 1959 and 1975 when they were often in separate cities. The letters in Punjabi have earlier been published in the original and in Hindi. They have been translated into English by Punjabi poet Arvinder and edited by Uma Trilok, a friend of Amrita and Imroz.

The letters, interestingly, carry no signature or address. They piece together the tale of an intense relationship that was undeterred by Amrita’s being a mother of two children — aged 10 and 11 — when Imroz met her in 1957, and eight years older than him. It was a relationship that thrived though they never married after Amrita separated from her husband.

Says Imroz, “Does age matter in love? We even brought her husband to this house in his last stages. They only split up, they didn’t become inhuman towards each other, right?” The translated letters, feels Imroz, are “okay, but there is nothing like the original words.”

Born in 1926 in a village 100 kilometres from Lahore, Imroz met Amrita through an artist when she was looking for someone to design the cover of her book. “I had not seen her but read the book ‘Doctor Dev’ in which she had described what her man should be like. I was in love with her anyway, so I called her up (in 1957) and said, ‘I am your Doctor Dev speaking’ and put the phone down.” It was only 12 years later that when she was complaining of crank calls, including the one Imroz had made, that he told her he had made it.

Imroz denies Amrita was in love with celebrated poet Sahir Ludhianvi. “I don’t think they actually loved each other. He never came to see her in Delhi except when he came to attend a mushaira, and she never went to see him in Mumbai where he lived. Sahir wasn’t a family man and Amrita realised that.” We lived like friends, in separate rooms, and shared expenses,” says Imroz.

If Amrita wrote a poem “Main tumhe phir milungi” before her death for him, Imroz, who turned poet soon after her death in 2005, has just completed another love poem on her: “Usne jism chhoda hai, saath nahi.”

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