Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam (b. 1919) is a distinguished Punjabi poetess and fiction writer. Her first collection of poems Amrit Lehrcm was published in 1936 when she was barely 17 years old. Starting as a romantic poet, she matured into a poetess of revolutionary ideas as a result of her involvement with the Progressive Movement in literature. Her magnum opus is the long poem Sunehray which won the Sahitya Akademi Award.
AjjAkhan Waris Shah Nun (I Say unto Waris Shah) is a heartrending poem written during the riot-torn days that followed the partition of the country. It is addressed to Waris Shah, the celebrated eighteenth century Punjabi poet and author of the immortal Heer.

I Say unto Waris Shah

Today I implore Waris Shah
to speak up from his grave
and turn over a page of the Book of Love.

When a daughter of the fabled Punjab wept
he gave tongue to her silent grief.
Today a million daughters weep
but where is Waris Shah
to give voice to their woes ?
Arise, O friend of the distressed !
See the plight of your Punjab.
Corpses He strewn in the pastures
and the Chenab has turned crimson.

Someone has poured poison
into the waters of the five rivers
and these waters are
now irrigating the land with poison.

In this fertile land have sprouted
Countless poisonous saplings
Scarlet-red has turned the horizon
and sky high has flown the curse.
The poisonous wind,
that passes through every forest,
has changed the bamboo-shoots into cobras.

The cobras mesmerised the gullible people
and bit them again and again
so in no time
the limbs of Punjab turned bluish.
the songs vanished from the streets
and the thread of the spinning-wheel snapped.
The girls fled the trinjan screaming
and the resounding whirr of the spinning-wheel stopped.
Ludden let go the boats
along with the wedding-beds.
The swing has snapped
along with the strong branch of the tree.
The flute,
through which blew the breath of love,
got lost in bewilderment.
The brothers of Ranjha
have forgotten
the art of handling this instrument.
Blood rained on the earth,
it seeped through the graves.
The princesses of the valley
called Love,
now weep in graveyards.
All the villains
now move about
as thieves of love and beauty.
Where shall we seek another Waris Shah ?
Today I implore Waris Shah
to speak up from his grave
and turn over a page of the Book of Love.                          Ajj Akhan Waris Shah Nun (1949)