First Chapter of  the Book

Resurrecting Time                                                                                                                     Is it Doomsday?
 Moments of my life in the womb of time-lived awhile, and after Time's span, seemingly entombed-are today alive again, stalk past me....
 How have all the graves yielded to resurrect those moments? It must indeed be Doomsday,...
 This is an aubade from a 1918 grave, a year before I was born. It comes to me now for the first time: so far I had only heard about it.
 Both my parents were teachers at Panih Khand Bhassaur School. The two daughters of Babu Teja Singh, the founder of the school, were among their pupils. What inspired them one day I would not know, but both organised a kirtan in the Gurudwara, said their prayers, and wound up with a special one for the occasion: "Hearken to these voices, O Lord, please grant the boon of a child to our teacher...."
 When my father, who was in the congregation , heard these words he flared up at my mother. He suspected that the special prayer was my mother's doing. She, poor soul, was as surprised as he was. Babu Teja Singh's daughters explained later that if they had taken my mother Raj Bibi into confidence, she might have asked for the birth of a son. But they wanted a girl in their master's house-a girl like themselves.
 Why did those girls think of this very strange prayer? I don't know. But the prayer was heard.     Within a year from that day, Raj Bibi had become a mother.
 Just as amazingly, a moment from ten years earlier, wakes up from the womb of Time-the moment when Raj Bibi, only twenty years of age, offered her homage at the habitation of sadhus at Gujranwala, and there saw Nand Sadhu....
 Nand Sadhu was the son of a wealthy moneylender. When he was only six months old, his mother Lachrni died. His maternal grandmother wrapped him up in her arms and got a grain-winnower as wet-nurse.
Nand had four brothers and a sister-but two of his brothers had died; one-Gopal Singh-an inveterate drunkard, forsook his family for the love of the bottle; the other-Hakim Singh-took to the life of a sadhu. So Nand knew only his elder sister, Hakko, whom he grew to love dearly.
From all I have heard, she was a bewitching creature and was married when she came of age. But the moment she saw her groom, Bela Singh, she knew he was not the one for her. On her first visit to her parental home after her marriage, she asked for a basement to be built. As soon as it was ready she betook herself to it and fasted for forty days. She then took the saffron robes and lived on cooked grams soaked overnight in plain water. Nand followed suit. He also, began to wear saffron robes. Alas! his sister did not live long and when she died, Nand renounced the world.
He turned his back on the incalculable wealth his grandfather, Amar Singh Sachdev, the'moneylender, had left him, and went and joined Sant Dayal's ashram. There he learnt Sanskrit, Braj bhasha and the lore of hakims. They used to call him Bal Sadhu-the young holiness.
While his sister was still alive, Nand's aunt and uncle had him betrothed to a girl in Amritsar. Nand broke off the engagement and began writing poems steeped in the spirit of renunciation.
Raj Bibi was from the village Monga in Gujarat district, and was married through the prevalent barter system. But the man to whom her life was to be linked went and got himself recruited as a soldier. No one heard of him again. For Raj Bibi it was a life without hope, an empty life. But what matters is not life but the courage you bring to it. She began teaching in a school at Gujranwala. Everyday on her way to school, she would first go with her sister-in-law to Dayalji's ashram for her prayers. Her brother had died. Her widowed sister-in-law's brother had been exchanged with hers for a husband. But now, the two lost souls taught in the same school and kept house together. One day, when Raj Bibi and her sister-in-law were at Dayalji's ashram, it started raining heavily. There was no question of anyone leaving the ashram in that rain. So Dayalji asked Bal Sadhu to recite some poems till the weather cleared. Bal Sadhu was in the habit of closing his eyes as he recited. The recital over, he opened them and they were immediately attracted towards Raj Bibi and could not take them off her. Dayalji noticed this. He did not say any thing immediately but some days later took Nand aside and said: "Nand, my boy, this life of renunciation is not for you. Give up these saffron robes and get married."
That was how Raj Bibi became my mother, and Nand Sadhu my father. On his marriage, Nand changed his name to Kartar Singh. Since he wrote poetry, he had also taken on a pseudonym- Peeyookh-the Sanskrit word for nectar. Ten years later when I was born, he named me "Amrita", the Punjabi equivalent for peeyookh; while he himself changed his nom de plume to Hitkari.
The most remarkable thing about father was that a life of riches or renunciation came alike to him. Mother used to relate a story about a brother sadhu, another disciple of Dayalji, Sant Harnam Singh by name, whose elder brother wanted to marry. A girl had been bespoken, but because he had no house, the question of marriage was ruled out. My father had one house, still left from his inheritance. He said:
"If it's only for want of a house that he can't get married, I'll transfer mine in his name." And so it was. Then for the rest of his life my father lived in rented places. He could never build another house of his own; yet I do not remember ever having seen or heard any sign of regret from him.
What I do remember is a regret of another sort, transfixed in his expression after mother died, when I was only ten years of age. He again sought renunciation. I was the only bondage in his world. Love for me and a desire for complete withdrawal were the two conflicting forces that tormented him. I sensed all this and used to cry out in anguish because I could not tell whether I was accepted or not. I was both accepted and rejected in turn.
Having taught me all he could about rhyme and rhythm, my father's desire was that I should find expression in poetry. I began writing and it seems to me I wrote because I wanted to forget those moments of rejection I felt in him.
Half a century later I feel that both riches and renunciation have taken twin birth in me as well., This I have inherited, like my features, I think, from Father. Perhaps I see things with the same eyes that he did....
Only, I keep wondering if I have accepted myself for what I am. That is why perhaps I have written all my life—so that whatever I could not accept in me, I would in time not reject altogether.
I did not then think of the world or of what the world thought of me. My only desire was to please Father. It is the same now. I am not in the least mindful of what others think of me. My only desire is to be at peace with my innermost self.
I never told an untruth to Father; I can never lie to myself either.
This brings me to Grandmother, who reigned supreme in the kitchen if not in the house. My father's revolt was
against her regime. I used to notice three glass tumblers kept away from all other pots and pans on a shelf in the corner of the kitchen. These were for use only when Father's Muslim friends were offered tea or buttermilk when they came to visit him. After these tumblers had served their purpose they were scrubbed and washed and put right back in their ostracised niche.
The three tumblers became a "cause" for me, and the four of us put up a fight with Grandmother. I was adamant, I would not drink from any other tumbler but one of those. Grandmother would rather see me thirsty than let me use them. The tale, inevitably, travelled to Father. He, of course, did not until then have the faintest idea about such things. The moment he did, I succeeded in my revolt. Thereafter, not a single utensil was labelled "Hindu" or "Muslim".
Neither Grandmother nor I knew then that the man I was to fall in love with would be of the same faith as the branded utensils were meant for.
Young as I was, I wonder whether the shadow of my fate had not so been cast on me already.
Shadows have a reality longer than is recognised. Faces too have a reality. But for how long? Shadows for as long as you like. For a lifetime, if you will.
Years come and go. They do not wait. Some shadows, on the other hand, hover around us with an existence of their own.
Shadows are related to entities; they are subservient to entities. Yet some do not fit into any such pattern.
Sometimes it seems as if a shadow is cast on you from nowhere. Broken away, it falls in your path, and you have to carry it along with you to whichever part of the world you go-in search of the entity from which it broke off.
Illusions too can be cast over your mind. You measure a particular shadow to the length of a stranger-and see if it fits.
If it does not, so what? You take the shadow along and move on.
There was one such shadow in my life. Does one name a shadow? I, anyway, named it "Rajan".
There was a tradition in the family. We said a prayer, Kirtan Sohela, before retiring for the night. Father believed that with each syllable of the prayer, faith itself got fortified. And as the prayer ended, you stood as some sentinel of a fort which was secure from all sides, allowing no entry. And free from all anxieties and worries, you fell into the sleep of the just.
But, reciting the prayer before going to bed, when we were drowsy, with eyes heavy, it could happen that half the prayer was left unsaid even though Father maintained that it had to be said to the very last word. Should the tiniest bit be left out, the Fort became vulnerable.
I was a child then. I was worried for the complete security of the Fort. How would Rajan come into my dreams? Whilst I was inside the Fort, he might be left out! So I would decide to mumble some lines from memory and deliberately leave out a few while tumbling and tossing in my bed. By this ruse,' the Fort would not be so firmly held and he could enter from the gaps purposely left open.
But Father changed the ritual a little. Instead of each of us saying the prayer separately in our individual beds, he decided to say it aloud from his bed for us all to sit up and hear. This change was perhaps because we then had some distant relatives who had come to stay with us, a boy and a girl, and also perhaps because the little girl was finding it difficult to memorise some parts of the prayer. In that way no line would be omitted. Once or twice, I tried some skipping. Father instantly saw to it that the lapse was corrected. So there was no getting away with my pranks. Yet, after a good deal of effort, I saw a way out. What if Rajan were called in
before prayer began? So, before the Fort closed on all sides, he could be by my side.
I was ten then. Forty years later, now when I think of that prank of mine, it seems that whatever I have wanted with all my heart, I have found. Around me, forts have been raised and demolished but the reality of the One, has in one form or the other, always been with me. At one time in the features and form of a man's face; at another in what has taken shape from my pen; and at yet another some sort of divinity has arisen from the leaves of a book or has stepped out from a canvas to be with me. Like a genie from a streak of smoke it emerges—sometimes from the anguish that goes into the making of a song, from the budding leaf of a twig, even from the moon as it shines on the waves of the sea. At times, when I am engulfed in my loneliness, I have found it gushing forth-coursing in the veins and speeding up the flow of blood in my body. And with all this, the pallor that should otherwise come with weariness of a kind, takes on a fresh colour.
It pervades all my thoughts and dreams to such a degree that even fleeting goodness seems to be a manifestation of that One. And it is so beautiful that I cry....
Abstractions have no meaning for me. Each entity must take on some sort of shape or form...that I can touch, that in fact, can thrill me with a touch.
In the years of my nonage, whenever I dreamt of the Gurus-Har Gobind or more often of Gobind Singh-I always ran my fingertips over the portrait; the horse he rode on, the sword he carried, the falcon he held in his hand, anything. I would never pay homage from a distance. If in a slightly different way, flowers or leafy boughs too I hold to myself as in embrace. My entire being is filled with such a sense of belonging as to make my very breath heavy.
Many, many years ago, the One sat by my side. He had a soiled handkerchief. I took it away giving him a clean one. His, I kept for years. My forehead burned with a yearning whenever I touched it.
There are certain seeds that once fertilised in the soil, can survive without leaf and branch, no matter how furious the tempest, how searing the hot wind of drought. They just cannot be uprooted. In the same way is the longing for the One, and respect for the Word. Such seeds indeed sprouted in my womb in the prime of my life, but faith was shattered-utterly. I feel both these trees should have been uprooted. Sometimes deep down I have a feeling that they no longer exist. But from the dry dusts of the mind, they sprout forth again and become sturdy branches; branches strong enough to blossom and bear fruit. And with the breath of my life, I receive their fragrance.
One seed I sowed myself; for the other, Father was responsible. Should a page from a book be found on the floor, he would pick it up with solemn respect. Should my foot by chance fall on it, he would be angry. Thus has been deeply engrained in my mind, respect for the written word-and with that for all those who wield the pen. That was how I came to look up to Bhai Sahib Kahan Singh, Father's friend. The very threshold of our house seemed benigned when he entered. A portrait of Father's Guru, Dayalji, that rare scholar of Sanskrit, hung at the head of Father's bed. Even to sit with feet stretched out in the direction of that portrait was forbidden.
So when I grew up, I had the utmost respect for my contemporaries. But my sad experience with fhem leave me wondering why this respect for the word and the pen has not vanished long ago.
Sometimes I wonder whether my contemporaries are the only ones with whom I have dealt.
Beyond time and distance, perhaps, are so many like Kazantzakis, so many who have watered this tree. Why then do I wonder if this tree is still green?

July 31,1930
I was hardly eleven when Mother suddenly fell ill. Barely a week later, with pale, drawn faces, friends and relatives assembled at her bedside.
"Where's my Binna?" She had asked. By the time her friend Pritam Kaur had led me by the hand to her, she had lost consciousness.
"Pray to God...maybe He'll show mercy...a child's prayers never go unheeded..." the good lady said to me.
My feet were glued to the spot where I stood. I had from my early days learnt the art of disciplined meditation. Now when occasion called, it was an easy enough exercise. I had just to close my eyes and fold my hands for the simple prayer: "Please don't let Mother die."
My mother bore her illness calmly. There was no wail of agony from her. But there was a general bewilderment among those around. "Why are they losing their nerves?" I asked myself. "Mother's anguish is over. I am imploring Him....He listens to what children say...."
My mother lay there in all serenity. Suddenly I knew it was the end. Everyone wept and wailed. I burst out in red hot rage, "God heeds no one, not even children...."
From that day, I gave up all the meditation and prayer I had been brought up with over the years. Father did not approve. He became stricter, but I was vehement in my resistance:
"There is no God."
"You mustn't say that."
"Why not?"
"He has ways of showing His wrath..."
"Let Him! But how can He when He isn't there...?"
"How do you know?" «
"Wouldn't He have heard me...had He been anywhere?"
"What did you say to Him?"
"I said: Please don't let Mother die'. "
"When did you see Him? He cannot be seen...."
"But can't He hear? Is He deaf?"
During routine prayers, Father firmly stood his ground. I, as firmly, stood mine. Unable to hold back his anger, he would sometimes take me by the shoulders and force me down cross-legged to pray, with the command, "Close your eyes! Concentrate for ten minutes!"
When I could not resist his authority any longer, I would sit down cross-legged and close my eyes. But giving in to physical defeat only made me seethe with anger inside. "I've closed my eyes, what can He do to me if I don't concentrate? I refuse to have anything to do with a God who has not heard me. I refuse to dwell on what His image looks like. I'll bring Rajan to my mind instead. He dallies with me in my dreams; he hears my songs; he makes such lovely pictures of me...That's it...! I'll fix my mind on Rajan!"
For years I dreamt those dreams I held so dear. Summer and winter, my dreams became a steady ritual with me.
I dreamt of a great big dark castle, with my little self a prisoner within. Armed guards stood without. I looked in vain for a door that would open at my touch. In the murkiness overwhelming me, I groped about, but the strong walls of rock would not melt or fade away. Helpless, I tried in vain to fly up and over. I flapped and fluttered my arms till I fell down breathless. And then... slowly and softly, I felt my feet rising above the ground...higher and yet higher, up above the turrets and towers to hail the blue expanse of the sky! Fearless, I flew over the vast expanse of the earth below...the guards flailing their arms but failing to reach out and catch me.
Another dream which lived with me for years was of a crowd of people in wild pursuit...with me fleeing them. The chase would go on and the crowd would draw near, my anxiety would increase and I would run faster till I sighted a river. My pursuers would be wildly jubilant: "Where'll she go now? There's the river ahead!" Seeing no way out, I'd then calmly walk across over the water. The flow of the river would take on a strange solidity, and give support to my feet. The cooling limpidity of the water was to my mind better than the hard ground which sometimes gave me blisters on my feel.... The crowd would come to a dead stop. No one would dare to step into the water for fear of being drowned. They would stand on the bank and scowl and growl and clench and thrust their fists out... But I had escaped them all....

My Sixteenth Year
Came my sixteenth year-like a stranger. Inside me, there was an awareness I could not explain.
Except for Father, there was no one else in our house. He wrote away and sometimes would keep at his work all through the night and sleep during the day. Had Mother been alive, my sixteenth year would have been different; it would have come like a friend, a near relative....But without Mother, there was a great deal missing from my life. To shield me from outside influences, Father thought it right that I should have no familiarity with anyone: not with any girl from school nor with any boy from the neighbourhood.
Like a thief, came my sixteenth year, stealthily like a prowler in the night, stealing in through the open window at the head of my bed....
Our house was full of books. Most of them were on religion, about rishis and about meditation. There were a few books of history but into these too, apsaras sometimes intruded-like Menaka or Urvashi, out to seduce the meditating rishis. It was reading them that my sixteenth year broke through the age of my innocence....
Every apsara disturbing the meditations of a rishi was, mythologically speaking, the commissary of Lord Indra. My sixteenth year must also have been Lord Indra's work, invading the purity of my childhood. It was now that I began to write poetry, and on every poem I wrote, I carried the cross of forbidden desires. Just as the rishis became restless as each apsara appeared, so my rebellious thoughts pursued me, giving me no peace....
And yet that year established no kinship with me. It was a clandestine relationship. Like me, it was scared of Father. As it stood away from me behind a door, every poem I wrote I tore to bits and appeared before Father, an innocent, dutiful child. Not that he objected to my writing poetry. He had himself; given me my first lessons in metrical composition. But what I he expected from me was religious verse, orthodox and conventional in style.
That was how my sixteenth year came and went. Nothing! very significant happened. Yet life took on a different meaning! It was the beginning of the uneven road of life with all im hairpin bends, its ups and downs. It was also the beginning of curiosity. I questioned parental authority, I questioned the value of doing my work at school by rote. I questioned wti had been preached to me and I questioned the entire stratifie social scheme. What I had so far learnt was like a strait-jack that gives way at the seams as the body grows. I was thirst; for life. I wanted living contact with those stars I had taught to worship from afar. What I got instead was advie and constraint which only fed my rebellion.
I suppose everyone goes through this phase. But it happened to me with three times greater impact. First, was the drabness of middle-class morality; then the dosage of 'don'ts" thrust down my throat which I somehow felt I would have been spared, had my mother been alive. There was the overbearing presence of my father, a man of religion. Poor Father. He wanted me to be an obedient, self-effacing daughter and here was I in my sixteenth year bearing my cross like the pang of an unfulfilled love. I was sixteen and the memory creeps into every phase of my life....
I caught its spirit again and again. At the time of the partition of the country in 1947, when all social, political and religious values came crashing down like glass smashed into smithereens under the feet of people in flight....Those crushed pieces of glass bruised my soul and my limbs bled. I wrote my hymns for the suffering of those who were abducted and raped. The passion of those monstrous times has been with me since, like some consuming fire-when I wrote later of a beloved's face; of the aggressors from neighbouring countries; of the crime of the long Vietnamese night, or, at one stage, of the helpless Czechs....In the haunting image of beauty and in the anger at wrong and cruelty, my sixteenth year stretches on and on....
I thank the fates that conspired to break through the years of my innocence. That conspiracy relates not only to that one year alone but to the whole of my life.
Each thought of mine year after year, intrudes upon those innocent years. I pity the patience and resignation of those who come to terms with wrong, I am happy I have not had the solace of peace as I go alone on my restless quest...except, perhaps, that I have acquired since, the sense to discern. And like in my sixteenth year, I do not negotiate my walls by stealth. I do not avoid confrontation. As I begin my fiftieth year my feelings have the same intensity. Even now, everything around seems to constrict the soul just as the clothes one grows of during adolescence. The lips are parched with the thirst for life; desire conies back to stretch the hand and touch the stars. Wherever in the world a wrong is done, I continue to feel a deep sense of outrage. I

A Shadow
A deep dark shadow walked along my side for as long as I can remember. It gradually came on me that much was layered into it: the face of my ideal lover, and mine, that I imagined growing wiser, stronger, more mature. The layer deepest down was of the freedom of my own and other lands.
Whatever I wrote was inspired by this shadow, to which I gave flesh and blood, a vague mass in which I sought to reveal something luminous in quality.
Was this out of a longing to embody God-a God with so many faces? The moments of my life expand to reveal beauteous concepts and forms... Those moments were painful, like the bird song in the morning, heard one moment, lost the next. I remember writing once, "I have many contemporaries, only I am not contemporaneous."
It was well if someone gave ear to my songs. I had no right to claim it.
I was yet a child when I heard those myriad voices of hate and abuse. There were flags of so many denominations and so many flagstaffs on which they fluttered. They thought I too wanted to fly one of my own. I wanted to cry out to them all, "My friends, have no illusions. You're welcome to your faiths and your flags. I want nothing." But did anyone care? Would a time come when they would hear? Not when it came to my own language. This is as true today as it was thirty years ago.
This was my first painful experience. I did not know it would last a lifetime.
A few elders of the earlier generation in the field of
Punjabi letter-Gurbux Singh, Dhani Rama Chatrik, Principal Teja Singh-merely smiled. Two of them passed away. Gurbux Singh decided to create a world of his own-which had little to do with all that was happening around him.
Deep down in the layers of my mind, was the first impact of a religion against which I had risen as a child, when I had seen that glass tumbler touched by someone with a different faith became impure.
This broadened the outlook of my innermost eye, and even after having suffered so much from the partition, I found it within me to deplore dispassionately the holocaust caused by the devotees of the two religions. Thus it was that I came upon that painfully sensitive face around which my novel Pinjjar (Skeleton) was written.
I had hardly stepped out of my teens then. I saw in that face, the embodiment of the man of my dreams. (I wrote about him at some length in Akhari Khat.) It was like leaping into the flames everyday. I was worn out by the effort and when someone telephoned to give me the news of the Akademi Award in 1957, my first thought was: "Lord! I didn't write Sunehre for an award! If the one who had inspired me hadn't read the book, did it matter at all to me if this entire world had?"
Late that evening, came a reporter and a photographer from the press. The photographer wanted me to pose as one engrossed in the act of writting. I put a sheet of paper on the table in front of me and, pen in hand, began writing in a trance, the name of the one for whom I had written Sunehre. "Sahir, Sahir, Sahir...." I had completely filled the sheet with that name.
When the pressmen had gone and I was alone, it struck me: "What if in the photo that would appear in all the papers the next morning, the incantation ‘Sahir, Sahir, Sahir....' would show?"
It was like living through the classical romance of Majnu madly calling out "Laila, Laila, Laila...."
But in the photograph my hand had obscured the sheet of paper on which I was writing. Not a squiggle of what I wrote was to be seen in the morning papers. Momentarily, I was relieved. But then a cry of anguish when...God knows it wasn't wasn't!
I have carried a little more of Sahir into the novels Ashoo, Ik Si Anita, and again in Dllll Diyan Gallian through the character of Sagar.
I wrote also, poems. Sunehre till then, was the longest-longest in fact of all those under the title Chetter. After an exile as it were of fourteen years, I felt at long last that I was through with this phase of my life.
Yet the years one has lived through are not like the clothes one wears. Constrictive corsets leave marks that might mar the beauty of a sensitive complexion, but the scars left by the years that one lives through, are infinitely deep....
Much later, when I was at Varna, a city south of Bulgaria, flanked by the sea on one side and mountainous forests on the other, my wild imagination conjured up a ship sailing towards the shore and from the ship he seemed to have alighted and entered through the window of my hotel room....
The real and the illusive so intertwined, I sat up and wrote the poem beginning with the line:
Long have thoughts of you lain in exile.
The curse of my lonesome state has been broken through....By Imroz. But before I met him, I had the privilege of a friendship with a wondrous soul. Sajjad Haider had come into my life before the partition. I had, however, never so far come across anyone who had not brought complications and misunderstandings in his train. Bitterness had been shed all around by litterateurs... barring, of course, Sajjad. He was perhaps the first real friend I had.
As long as I was in Lahore, we met often enough and talked-yet only as occasion demanded. He carried with him always an air of respectability. Soon after the riots began, dusk-to-dawn and then all day curfews followed. But at whatever time the curfew was lifted, he would come-no matter for how brief a while. In between came April 23 and my little daughter's first birthday. With arson and rioting all around, there was no thought whatsoever of a celebration. Yet whose was that knock at the door? Sajjad's. He had braved all and come with a birthday cake for her.
The riot-torn month of May 1947, took me for safety to Dehradun. Letters from Sajjad came regularly nonetheless. Then, at about the time my son was born, Sajjad also became a father at Lahore. I named my son Navraj; Sajjad found a name sounding nearly alike for his, Navi. We saw each other's sons through the photographs we exchanged.
One day Navraj had fever. My anxiety grew with the days. When I found the time to reply to Sajjad's letter, I happened to mention something about the little one's fever. The letter I received by return post is still engraved in my memory. He had written: "I have been praying all night for your son. There is nn Arabic saying: "when the enemy prays, the prayer is bound to be granted.' In the eyes of the people I am an enemy of your country at this hour....God forbid that I ever become one of yours or your child's...."
My poem about the partition-To Waris Shah -came after I had written Neighbouring Beauty. This poem I had sent to Sajjad. As chance would have it, I lost the Punjabi version. That explains why it has never been published in my language. Sajjad, however, translated it into English and had it published in The Pakistan Times.
Seven years after I had met Sahir, I wrote a poem Seven Years. Even though he was in India I had not had the occasion to meet him. When published, Seven Years somehow found
its way to Pakistan. On reading it, Sajjad wrote to me. "I want to come to India to see you. I want to talk to you of him for whom you've written Seven Years."
Sajjad was in Delhi for a good eighteen days. Nights he spent at Marina Hotel, days at my house. This was the first time in my life I realised I had a friend in the world, a friend in every sense of the word. For the first time ever it dawned on me that a poem does not need to be created out of the passion of love. It can waft across the calm seas of friendship. At parting, I wrote:
Buy me a pair of wings, Stranger— Or come and live with me
Once at a party in Lahore, the wife of a friend of Sajjad's again and again came around to him with a plate of amriti sweets. He laughed the offer away a couple of times, then soberly commented, "Sister-in-law, I've allowed you to joke at her expense this time-but don't dare do it again. How little you know of the devotional quality of my love for her!"
Another incident comes to mind. We had just returned home in Patel Nagar from Connaught Place by rickshaw. The rickshaw-man demanded a little more than his due. I was about to protest when Sajjad paid off the amount claimed and after the man had left, observed in a philosophic vein: "I feel I owe something to every refugee from Pakistan."
If only the world of politics had shown such an attitude-or even an infinitesimal part of it! The lines of communication between the two countries were snapped. In my most difficult years, when I felt so isolated, I had not even the consolation of a word from Sajjad.
By the time Imroz came along, for a while the channels of communication between the countries were reopened. We wrote a joint letter to Sajjad. Salutations from world historians must, I felt, go with the reply that followed. "I have not had the pleasure of knowing you, my friend, but I can from a composite picture from Ami's (the name he called me by) letters. Your rival salutes you."
In due course, Imroz and I together met Sahir, who was rather ill-at-ease the first time. The empty glasses we had drunk from, remained long on his table. Late that evening he wrote the poem Mere Saathi, Khali Jaam. He read out to me over the phone at around eleven that very night and also related how he was pouring liquor into each of the three glasses in turn and quaffing the contents. Imroz was down with fever in Bombay during the next meeting. Promptly, Sahir sent his own physician to attend on him!
Thoughts of Sajjad have unabashedly come out of my pen-although the political situation is such that I should not mention his name. In the course of recent TV and radio interviews, memories of Faiz returned, and of Nadeem, and of course, Sajjad. Some Pakistani intellectuals saw my repetition of these names as evidence that we had not accepted the reality of Partition; that in fact, we were not recognising the cartographical fact of Pakistan, that our souls and spirits were restless and so on and so forth.... The sum total of this was that Sajjad wrote to me saying I must never, even indirectly, refer to his name in my subsequent radio and TV sessions. From the depths of my depression I can only bring myself to say: "My friend! Your name comes to my lips today since otherwise my recollections would remain incomplete. But God forbid, should you consequently happen to feel any embarrassment, I could never forgive myself. In the name of amity, not a whiff of the scorching winds of politics must so much as touch a pure soul like yours!"
As a result of newspaper reports about the controversy, they arranged a discussion through the External Services channel of Delhi Radio. Among those on the panel were the
principal of Jamia Millia Islamia, a lecturer, and I. The topic was-what were our feelings about the separation of Pakistan from India? My only regret is that there is so little recognition of such a thing as friendship. The three of us did our best to clarify this one and only one point during the half hour at our disposal. Whether this had any effect on them is not for me to assess. All I can say for the three of us is that we felt considerably relieved after the exercise. Sajjad should have too. But did he? This I ask as a sincere well-wisher of his.

An Aura of Silence
Oh, the pain of it as I look back on those days before Partition! The very air was rent with the most fantastic rumours. Apart from my marriage, I had not been involved in any noteworthy incident. Engaged at the age of four, I had been married off at the age of sixteen in the usual manner. But in literary circles, romantic fireworks began to be sparked off. I learnt that Mohan Singh, the most revered poet of the time, had written some verses about me.
Speaking for myself, in whichever gathering I had the occasion to see or meet him, I had exchanged with him a few polite, perfunctory words at the most. No more. That was perhaps because of his rather aloof manner. I had nothing to fear from him of course. What I did fear was the sort of story that had started circulating. I gave him the reverence due an established poet. Nothing more. I was then being swamped by the lengthening shadows darkening my own mind. I was of course feeling not a little concerned about my being talked about in so glib a manner. Yet I had no reason to complain of him. Mohan Singhji was a thorough gentleman, with a suavity all his own. One evening, he came along with a friend (Dr. Divan Singh, I think, but I cannot be sure of the name), to see me. By the following morning, as rumour had it, he had written his poem Property that began- "She stood silently in the doorway...on the threshold like a piece of a master's possessions..."
I was passing through a phase of mental agony those days since rumours like this, without rhyme or reason, gave rise to all sort of conjectures. I was struggling to break through my silence although Mohan Singhji never lost his tongue in my presence. This silence however, as I reckon it, bespoke of both his dignity and grace.
One day, Mohan Singhji turned up with another friend-the Persian scholar, Kapur Singh. I was shy as ever, partly out of courtesy but partly perhaps because I was basically rather unforthcoming in my attitude. Kapur Singhji suddenly observed: "Mohan Singhji, don't misunderstand her. She doesn't love you." The deep and long silence melted. I took courage to declare, "Mohan Singhji...You have all my respect. I am a friend of yours....What more do you .want?" I thought I had said enough. Mohan Singhji had nothing to say to that. He wrote a small poem afterwards with the same refrain. "You have all my respect....! am a friend of yours... What more do want?" The next line spoke out with a hollow voice: "Aye, what more do I want?"
Rumours nonetheless kept circulating by word of mouth, and through sly digs in various pieces of writing. But nothing from Mohan Singhji's writings caused me any pain and my respect for him in no way diminished.
In passing, another incident comes to mind. A certain officer of the Lahore Radio Station was versed in literature. A confessional suddenly came from him directly after I had finished my programme: "Had I met you years back, I would have sought release from my Muslim religion to Sikhism... or else you would have been a convert...." These words rose with the wind and died with it. It was the spell of a fleeting moment, without a beginning and without an end. Nothing more was
ever said by him. Yet stories began to be spun out of the little he had said. Perhaps he himself gave cause for the stories. I heard and read quite a few twisted versions. So often have I felt since, that some Punjabi writers have no depth from which their writings can take shape. They create the stories and then work themselves up to relish the romantic fancies they embellish their stories with.
Years later, when I worked at the Delhi Radio Station, I came across Pandit Satyadev Sharma, who incidentally had served as staff-artist at the Lahore Radio Station before he took up work in Delhi. He wrote a story in Hindi entitled Twenty-six Men and a Girl. He had been influenced in this by a story of Gorky's. His was really only another variation on an earlier theme. So when he read it out to me, he related in detail how many had been interested in me, with special reference to that officer, and how everyone eagerly watched, month after month, for developments they imagined would follow. The anticlimax was, there were no developments.
Sharmaji would perhaps never have written that story had his memories not been stirred up by sight of me. Innumerable petty characters, with ears to walls in the vain hope of having something fresh to regale each other with, filled the story right through. Hearing nothing, they kept falling back over each other imagining that they were alas too late to smack their lips on the juiciest bits.
Sharmaji was a very ordinary writer. But even the most ordinary writer can sometimes write a masterpiece. This was his. He had made an all-out effort to describe a thickening atmosphere. The marvel was that he had not, like those Punjabi writers, come to any forced conclusions. Through the simplicity of the treatment, the truthful character of the writer reached the reader.

The Cycle of Hatred
This too is a simple, straight incident basically; only it becomes deviously mixed up in an ever-widening web of hatred. There was a certain Punjabi poet. I had never come across him. It was during the earlier years of my literary career at Lahore. I had heard often enough of what he was in the habit of fabricating against me. Never having met him, I often wondered what the cause of his animosity was. Just before Partition, I contracted fever. The editor of a weekly came to inquire about my health. A man accompanied him whom I had never seen before. On his introduction, I sat bolt upright in consternation. He was the one who could not stand my very existence. What baffled me was why he had come to my sick bed.
Two or three days later, I read a poem of his in the weekly. Beneath was published the date of his visit to me. A strange passion. Just as there was no justification for his animus, there was none for his new pose of friendship. When he took the liberty of repeated visits, I asked the reason for this sudden somersault in his character and attitude. I could never really get down to fathoming him. True, there was nothing loud or objectionable about him; indeed I detected a strain of sternness in the way he conducted himself. He also had about him an abominable air of if everyone he came across was no better than a worm! While I wrote my periodic reviews for the radio, he would inflict himself on me and insist on dictating to me who exactly to include and who to leave out and how much was to be said about whom. So unbearable were his literary pretensions, that I became rather impatient with him. I had barely begun to give vent to my feelings, when Partition happened. That released me from his intrusions. Years later, I heard that the eventful historical happening was because of the fact that I did not want such a friendship to grow! The blood of millions was shed to satisfy his perverted logic. Let psycho-analysts put such a mind to clinical tests if they will, I have nothing to say. Of course, I have occasionally read what he has continued to write about and against me. Its roots are to be found at the point where this cycle began.

The most gruesome accounts of marauding invaders in all mythologies and chronicles put together will not, I believe, compare with the blood-curdling horrors of this historic year. Tale after tale, each more hair-raising than the last, would take a whole lifetime to retell. Uprooted from Lahore, I had rehabilitated myself at Dehradun for a while, but later went to Delhi for work and a place to live in. On my return journey, I could not get a wink of sleep on the train. The pitch-black darkness of the night was like a sign of the times. So piercing were the sighs the winds carried and echoed, it seemed we were back in mourning over this Watershed of History. The trees loomed larger and larger like sentinels of sorrow. There were patches of stark aridity in between like the mounds of massive graves. The words of Waris Shah, "How'll the dead and departed meet again?" surged back and forth through my mind. I thought, a great poet like him alone could bewail the loss a Heer once had to bear. But who could lament the plight of millions of Heers today? I could think of no one greater than Waris Shah to chant my invocation to. In the moving train, my trembling fingers moved on to describe the pangs I went through—
From the depths of your grave, Waris Shah,
Add a new page to your saga of love Once when a daughter of Punjab wept
Your pen unleashed a million cries,
A million daughters weep today, their eyes turned
To you, Waris Shah.

The published poem found its way to Pakistan. Later still, Ahmed Nadeem Kazmi disclosed in his foreword to a book by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, that he had read the poem in jail. On his release, he recounts having seen copies of it with common men who would weep when they read it.
At a BBC interview in London (1972), I was introduced to Sahab Kizilbash, the Pakistani poetess, who exclaimed: "Am! So this is Amrita...the writer of those lines! I ought to be embracing her...!" At SurinderKochhar'san evening later, Sahab and other Pakistani poets, Saki Farruqui, Famida Riaz, Abdullah Hussain, the famous author of Udas Naslain, Nizakat Ali, and Salamat Ali had assembled. The cultural life of London that night was enriched by much reciting of poetry. When it was Nizakat Ali's turn, someone pointed out that he had never recited without some instrumental accompaniment. Yet, for one who had written on Waris Shah, he was chivalrous enough to consent and his superb voice enriched the airs afloat that memorable night.
In 1975, Mashkoor Sabri, a famous poet from Multan came to Delhi for an Urs recital. He told us of the Waris Shah annual celebration at which a folk-art exhibition is held, folk-dances are performed, and folk-songs are sung. The climax of this cultural evening is a Poets' Symposium. This multifaceted programme ends with a half-hour recital of Heer-Ranjha. The grand stage (100' by 80')on which the Heer-Ranjha sets form the darkened background, gradually lights up showing Waris Shah arising from his grave. The sets then continue to change with the shifting light, to synchronise with the lines of the poem. The reverberating sound effects of the finale acclaim a new dawn awakening a new spirit of love.
It was ironically the same poem that a quarter of a century earlier had evoked so much censure and disapprobation, with the Sikhs holding me guilty of not having addressed my invocation to Guru Nanak, and the communists, to Lenin or Stalin. Many a poet conspired to rant against the poem itself....
In the totality of myself as a writer, the woman in me has had only a secondary role to play. So often have I nudged myself into an awareness of the woman in me. The writer's role is obvious. But the existence of that other being have I increasingly discovered through my creative works.
When she came to life, three distinct incidents come to mind. Paradoxically again, there was no possibility of finding a place for her as she exists in the world of creativity. This fact I can realise and assess since the distance of years alone can make possible such a vision.
The first time was when I was twenty-five years of age. I had no child until then. Very often I dreamt of one: a fair face with finely chiselled features looking into my eyes. I began to recognise it after its repeated appearances. I used to dream of it speaking to me-so I began to recognise the voice as well. In one of these dreams I was watering plants. From one of the pots, instead of a flower, the face would suddenly spring up. Aghast, I would ask: "Where were you?" "Right here!" He would break out into laughter with the reply. And I would hurriedly lift the little one from the pot.
But when I would wake up, I would find myself all alone-a woman in name, who, if she could not become a mother, could find no meaning at all in existence....
The second time was when Sahir had turned up with a fever. He had racking pain all over and was finding it particularly difficult to breathe. I rubbed Vicks on his throat and chest-in fact I went on and on, as if I could spend the rest of my life doing it. The mere contact had magnetically rendered me into a mere woman, with no need at all for paper or pen.
The third time the woman in me came to the forefront was when Imroz sat once, working in his studio. On completion of the canvas, he dipped the brush into the red paint and with the tip of it, dabbed a mark on my forehead.
This secondary role as a woman, however, rakes up no quarrels with my main being as a writer. Rather, the woman in me has in a disciplined manner learnt to accept that secondary role. Only three times over the years did she wish to assert herself and the writer move aside to make way for her.

A Debt
I know nothing about the Mutiny of 1857. But the word "mutiny" had stuck somewhere deep inside me like a story from Grandmother's lips.
This word was associated with something alive-and as intriguingly at the same time, with something dead and buried. So many voices kept recurring from it, voices that I could neither define nor divine. They were human all right, but one got lost in another, one found another, each clashed against the other like swords and inflicted wounds that bled with all those thrusts and parries.
So many colours were drained out of this word, like blood glistening in the sun. But in the end it was all so hollow, dead. My thoughts would sometimes rally round it like ants quickening their movements over a dead body.
Only one sign of the Mutiny had I seen with my own eyes. The family I married into had inherited a carpet. A sardar had looted the priceless article in a melee at some place in Delhi. What colours were originally woven into it I cannot say, but I knew it as a faded, worn-out ancient mass of silk almost falling apart. Grandfather, however, always preferred to sleep on this relic when the family lived in Lahore.
During the mass exchange of refugees in 1947, the move to Delhi became inevitable. But the head of the family-Grandfather, that is-refused to leave. He could not bear to tear himself away from memories and possessions handed down from generation to generation. He had the firm conviction that the chaos and confusion would get sorted out in time. Governments could not seize peoples' homes. He wanted to stay back. But when conditions worsened, the military packed him off in a truck to Delhi. All that he could carry as bedding was the tattered silk carpet. The anguish of leaving behind all his treasures and belongings and the discomforts of the journey were too much for him. He lived only a few days after reaching Delhi. He was lying on that carpet when he died and after his death it was given away to a fakir. One thought came to all members of the family: "This carpet was looted from Delhi during the Mutiny. Today, accounts have been squared up. What belongs to Delhi has been returned to it after a century."
If loot too is a sort of debt that one day has to be paid back, the fearsome thought that time and again surfaced in my mind was that I too might have to return something. What it was, to whom, and when, I could not guess.
Like a comb in tousled hair, my thoughts too would often get tangled. My mother's mother and her mother's mother-every woman's mother had looted the sixteen graces in some mutiny against society. Those graces and arts should have passed on from generation to generation. I had to repay that debt to society. How and when I still do not know. All I know is, some day I will have to render accounts. How many more women will, I cannot say. I cannot presume to comment on how they feel. But speaking for myself, I sorely feel the weight of that debt.
I had that sort of feeling long before Partition. Out of that very pain I had written a poem once:
Fellow-traveller, we are parting company today
This distance between us will grow....
But this distance was not related to any event. It was something personal.
This distance grew with an avalanche in 1960, I feared the self within would fragment. The voice from the depth of my heart could no longer go unheeded. And I thought, "I cannot retain anymore what is due to my husband. I have stolen shelter under his roof. Like what was looted once in the Mutiny, I must return what is due to my husband. I have stolen shelter under his roof. Like what was looted once in the Mutiny, I must return to him what is his...I must...I must."
To him both ways were equally painful. The distance between the way our minds ticked and our nerves reacted was immeasurable. We could not work out a living together. Yet, must we carry on because it was the socially acceptable thing? There had to be another course. Between the two, after due deliberation, I thought it better, and so chose in all honesty, the second.
Neither of us had any grievance against the other. The decision was reached after long discussions in a friendly fashion. The question of any humiliation for either of us at ' any stage did not arise. What we had gained from each other, was undeniable; what could not be had, was no ground for unpleasantness. What was imperative was the distance between us to be recognised. A genuine need for the acceptance of that fact had arisen. To my mind, it was in the interest of both.
We divided the areas of anguish. But our expressions were immensely relaxed because of the candour of our approach. There was really no need to conceal the pain of parting. And so we accepted it, as we did each other's features and form, warts and all, as a constituent factor in the reality of our existence.
We took it to be a strange enough way out anyhow. Nothing was said about laws and courts. Nor was it at all necessary. We were far too immature when we were married. But the supremacy of law could not be denied. When the parting came, the truth that had to be faced by both of us was stronger than any code of law.
I have been treated better by fate than the fellow-traveller I had parted with. In the years that followed, I had Imroz; he has had only loneliness. Fate has also been all too frugal in giving him anything that gives life a meaning.
We still meet but like friends, fully aware that loneliness cannot be got over with in such meetings. I bow my head low before anyone who has to bear the curse of solitude....
I have nonetheless a sense of pride in this bowed head of mine. I have not had to pay the price of security. I have not allowed the prestige of family life to suffer, nor have I fallen for any of the usually accepted social sanctions. I have always had, in the course of my journey over each milestone in life's mutiny, the realisation of having been able to pay back the debts I owed.
What usually happens in such cases did not happen to •me. Characters in a story have normally roles of protagonists or antagonists. Some remain in the periphery even though they share or are the cause of the sufferings of the central characters. In my case, those who for years have risen up in arms against me are ironically the ones who have had nothing to do with the tenor of my life.
Some of my contemporaries had nothing to do with me and so could not have even recognised me had they passed me by in the street. To a certain extent, Punjabi journalists fall in this category. (A contemporary of mine went to the length of imploring my fellow-traveller to sign a paper so I should for the rest of my life be plagued by lawyers and court cases). But those woven in the warp and woof of my story followed the pattern of their lives in the silence of suffering that knows no words. Should we by chance meet after some time, our eyes fill with the sacred tears of love and respect. So much so that even today, my sight is dimmed by the tears of parting.
The one exception to these antagonists has been Davinder. While I had no idea as to whom Kalam da Bhedh -his book on me-was dedicated ("To the mind and threshold of a door that would always remain open for Amrita."), he had, with deep reverence, gone ahead to present the first autographed copy to the person from whom I had separated. He fully understood that separation had not meant that we were not to extend common courtesies to each other. On the contrary, at an hour of a child's need or over a problem concerning my income tax-even otherwise, after every few days-we would call each other on the telephone. If ever anyone outside the family has understood such plain dealings, it has been the Australian writer, Betty Colin, who in times of distress trots along for advice to her friend, her divorced husband-indeed, whose second wife rings Betty up whenever she is disturbed over the very same man. To share tea and sympathy!
Such plain dealings have to be lived through to be appreciated fully.

An Exhumation from a Grave of 1959
The first raw deal that had left him stupefied, Father used to relate repeatedly, was at the hands of a devotee in Gujranwala, his hometown. Before going abroad, he had left in her safe custody a chest full of the treasure he had inherited: jewellery and gold mohurs. And, without batting an eyelid, the woman had on his return blandly asked him, "Which chest?"
I seemed to have gone though a similar experience in 1959: "I saw a devotee in the same revered seat, with whom I had deposited my basket of trust, and who was now as tersely shrugging me off with, "What trust'?"
Such dealings had left me stunned. Deep darkness, like a cloud, blanked everything out; the oppressive atmosphere would not disperse. I had reposed much love and faith in that sweet face of hers. Like somebody gazing into the ever changing pattern of clouds, I have since wondered whether the clouds in the sky were formed to awaken memories of trust betrayed.
It was as if I had been pricked sore all over. Each such experience of mine found an outlet in a story-Kale Akhar, Karma Vali, Hath Toka, Kaile da Chilka, and so on. The character, Shanti Bibi, in the novella Ik si Anita somehow could not express all that was welling up in me. I therefore felt compelled to write a fairly longish story (Number 5), so that the lack I had in mind could be dealt with to some extent.
She was a child of tender years when I first met her. (A fuller sketch of hers is drawn in Do Aurtan: Number 5.) At the time of her marriage, I gave her whatever ornaments I had on me from the day of Partition. Not that I regretted parting with what little I had. What mocked at me in the raw weather was the glint and tinkle of those if bits and pieces of broken trust danced weirdly and scoffed at me in the surrounding darkness...
I had strung her child's prattle on a silken skin and hung it around my neck. Lord Shiva had garlanded himself with snakes, surely not under the illusion that they were skeins of silk. And I wondered why Lord Shiva had hung his fate around my neck....
I had the sensitivity to react to the faintest of odours...and I simply could not stand stinking lies....
Even Father could not. I had observed that fact in childhood. He was tutor to a young man from Sialkot who lived under our roof until a job was found for him. But the man one day tore off part of what was written on a sheet of paper and inserted a certain figure (I cannot recall exactly how much) in the blank space above the signature. That amount, he said, was due him. He did not stop at that. He went further and filed a lawsuit for non-payment of the debt. And I used to call that man "Uncle"! A pain similar to the one I had seen in Father's expression then, I had in 1959.
I wondered how close a resemblance experience can have. I too had paid for this child's education and had her living with me just as Father had a relative's son in the house. Later, Father had bought some land at Hazari Bagh, and had plans of raising on orchard. He had taken the boy with him. But the project did not work out. Father contracted typhoid, from which he did not recover. I got a few letters about that landed property for a while. Then followed dead silence. The trustee had illegally disposed off the property and pocketed the money. Thinking of him, and of her, I find myself muttering again and again. "How could anyone? How could...?"
That was the moment in 1959 when I saw the last of her. A star had fallen from the sky-the star of truth.

This is the saddest year: like a torn page from the calendar of my life. Having taken a decision , my mind had leapt over the threshold, yet tremblingly I did not know which way to
I had just about stretched my hand to pick up the phone to put a trunk-call through to Sahir, when I was flabbergasted at finding myself glaring at a page in Blitz. It blared forth the news-supported by a picture of his and his newly found friend. My hand stood suspended in the air inches away from the dial; my mental state corresponded to that of Oscar Wilde's:
I determined to commit suicide. After a time that evil mood passed away, and I made up my mind to live, but to wear gloom as a king wears purple: never to smile again: to turn whatever house I entered into a house of mourning: to make my friends walk slowly in sadness with me....
Some people advised me to forget all this. It was ruinous advice. It would mean-the beauty of the sun and the moon, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver-would all be tainted for deny one's experience is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.

It was still vacillating in my friendship for Imroz. My saddest verse belongs to this year. I vividly recall a weird dream I had. I was sitting in a moving train. Opposite me was an aged man with flashing, piercing eyes. I kept turning over the pages of my book as he began to talk:
"Have you ever seen a black rose?"
"A black rose? I don't think I have!"
"A path from the next wayside station leads to a small village. I know of a rose garden there with a few red roses, a few white...but the rest of the vast field is full of deep black ones..."
"Do I appear reliable enough to you, or do I not?"
"Have I said anything that makes you ask that question?"
"Would you like to see that rose garden with your own eyes?"
"I was wondering whether I could..."
"There is a myth about it...."
"And that is....?"
"Should you make up your mind, I'd rather relate the
story there itself."
We got down at the next station. Picking our way along a fairly long half-beaten track, we discovered to our dismay that no transport was available. But eventually, we got to the place we had set out for. Such winsome beauties I had never before imagined could exist anywhere in the world. There was a bright red patch; there was also a milky-white one, but what melted the sight was acre upon acre of deep black blooms melting into the horizon.
"And now the story...."
"A fair lady, so at least goes the legend, was pure of heart and... as pure of soul...One day, he, whom she loved, decked her hair with a damask rose, and she wrote and sang sweet and soft airs.
"The course of true love did not run smooth, and the lady spent the rest of her life thinking about what makes things go wrong. And verse after verse she wrote from the depths of her broken heart.
"Only those who have felt deep pain can understand the suffering of others. Merging herself in that general suffering, she continued to write of depths unfathomed..."
"And then what happened?"
"She died... and was buried here. And then as if by magic, three roses—one red, one white, and one black, came forth from her grave!"
"The bushes kept getting bigger and bigger. Not a soul was around to bud or prune one to water them. Yet they kept growing till the rose garden you see, took shape...."
"Oh And what have people to say to that?"
"They say the red blooms shot up from the love-poems; the black ones from those of pain; and the ones she wrote out of compassion for all, were milky-white..."
A shiver went right through me. I brought myself to ask: "And will you not tell me your name?"
"My name? Er....well, call me if you must....Time."
"Time! How's that? How can you be digging out of me the story of my own life?"
Time's smile and my own shiver then woke me up from my sleep....
And I wrote: "When you cannot fill the goblet of night with the nectar of life: when you cannot taste the honey life offers you, you cannot call it tragedy....
"Tragedy is, when the silver plating peels off and the contents of the bowl turn poisonous and penetrate into your imagination....
"Tragedy isn't, when fate cannot read the address of the one you love, and so your life's letter goes undelivered....
"Tragedy is, when you write your life's letter to your love and you yourself go and lose his address....
"Tragedy isn't, when social and other ties strew the long road of your life with thorns and nettles, and your feet bleed sorely....
"Tragedy is, when with sorely bleeding feet you stand where no pathway opens before you....
"And tragedy isn't when you keep covering the shivering, cold form of your love with ragged verse...."
Towards the end of that year, I underwent treatment at the psychiatrist's.... really to get to know myself. I read the standard books on psychology. At the instance of the psychiatrist, I put down on paper, to the extent I could, all my dreams...some of which still remember:
I stand on the top of a tower, all by myself, talking to the pen I have in hand, "Will you always be with me? Always?"
Suddenly someone clutches my hand.
"You're an illusion. Let go of my hand!" Sternly I command and breaking myself free, flee down the stairs....
No matter how fast I speed, the stairway goes on and on....Down and farther down 1 go, gasping for breath—yet I dare not stop, or I will be swooped on from behind.
Finally, I reach [he landing... and there spreads before me a fantastic garden... with a whole sea of thronging crowd! Was it a fair-ground right round the base of the tower? There was a spectacle of some kind a( one end: at another, a match.
Suddenly out of nowhere I spot an old bicycle of mine. Grabbing it, I hop onto the saddle...trying to find a way out But whichever direction I take, again and again I come up against a stone wall. When I wake up I still have this maddening feeling of wanting to escape and not being able to...
A huge statue of white alabaster lies flat at my feet. Looking at it in dismay, I finally accost it with the words: "What do I do with you? You have not the breath of life in you; you cannot speak! I'll break you to bits! I'll pack you off right away. You've wasted all my life.... You.... my image! My ideal!... Mastering all the strength I have in me. I hurl it away....
And with that my dream breaks.
A damsel of twenty years or so, stood by my side. She was the very picture of perfection. But she was ebony-black, carved out of black marble.,..
"Who is she now?" someone asked of me.
"My daughter."
"Come now! You're pulling a fast one on me, aren't you? I've seen both your children. So charming they are...but this one...."
"The fair ones are small.... She is the eldest.... Do you know something about the manifestation of my art? His Goddess Parvati was churned from my wrath. And do you know that her son Ganesh was in turn kneaded from the dough of her own body?"
I passed through a desolate region with neither face nor form in sight. A voice came to my ears. It was a song, "you've been the undoing of me, Sahiban, You've hung my arrows on a silver."
"And who are you?" 1 looked around on all sides and asked.
"I am the valiant Mirza. Sahiban, my beloved, went and hid my arrows....That was not fair....the way she had me shot dead...."
I again looked all around. Seeing no one, I said: "Stories have a way of changing sides....Today a certain Mirza has gone and hidden my arrows..,, is it fair.... the way he has had a courageous woman like me shot dead....?"
The clouds thunder and roar. The sky shakes with wind and rain. A jagged streak of lightning flashes through the sky and falls on my right hand.
The shock of it goes right through my body. When I regain balance, 1 look at my hand and shake it. It is a relief to find only a slight scratch, from which oozes a drop of blood.
Another peal of thunder, and on the same hand, strikes lightning again. Recovering from it, I examine the hand. A slight scratch....
Thunder and lightning a third time. Now I cannot move my hand-one finger is bent. Holding the parallel finger of my other hand as a supporting splint, 1 press it hard again and again. It straightens out-as before. And as a last test, I take up my pen. T can still write, as well as ever. My mental state at the time is like Baudelaire's in his Ode to Beauty.
On the eve of Republic Day the same year I was deputed to go to Nepal. I was still a mental wreck then I wrote the following two letters to Imroz:
Yesterday Nepal honoured the same pen with which I had written my love-songs for you. All the flowers showered upon me are therefore my offerings to you. How did some light kindle this inky night of separation? Thoughts of you will ever remain lit in this poem of mine. Talk of this light-and much more besides, went on until as late as late could be. A Persian poet's lines come to mind:
Under the desert sun They run.
The shimmering sunds as though water,
But the tortuous illusion soon passes.
'How can sandshine,' wise men opine-'
'Blinding sand's continuity
Confine them ?' But the thirst of those
Must, say I, first be seen-how it goes.
I might have illusions about my wisdom, but not of my thirst....

Wayfarer! Why did you the first time meet me at an evening hour!
I am approaching the turning point of my life.
If you had to meet me at all why did you not meet me at high noon
When you would have felt its heat.

The Hindi poet, Shiv Mangal Singh Suman, read this poem. Each feels his own pain. But sometimes such pains bear striking similarities. These longings of mine have been bruised against that stern citadel of yours in the same city of my earlier hopes. The first waiting too lasted a good fourteen years (like Lord Rama's period of exile); the remaining years too might well get added to those gone by...."
February 1,1960