“Mein ban ke haraf ik din kagzan te bikhar javangi
kalam di nok chon kavita de vangu utar javangi
juda hoke vi teri zindagi vich hovangi shamil
teri har rehguzar vich mahek ban ke bikhar javangi
mein nazuk shaakh han koi, hai gum di garad mere te
kise barsaat vich main pher ik din nikhar javangi
hwawan ton nahi mitna, ghtawan ton nahi khurna
smai di hikk te ik haraf aisa ukar javangi.”
Electing to lead a rebel’s life because she had to satisfy her inner urge, Punjabi poetess Sukhwinder Amrit had to face opposition throughout her life. It is the story of women even in the 21st century, she says.
Struggle thy name is woman, is the mantra for this woman, who overcame the odds to give voice to her inner urges and pen those feelings for others to savour and appreciate.
“Mere khamban ch ini ku parwaz hai
ke mai chahwan tan ambar vi sar kar lawan
eh na samjhin mein udna nahi jaandi
tere kadman ch je mein basar kar lawan.”
Indeed, Amrit finally managed to fly high after breaking the shackles that bind women in most households of the state.
Quoting her own life story: “I started writing when I was just 14. My parents, who were not literate, felt extremely bad about my poetic interests. In their ignorance they suppressed me. They felt it was not an activity meant for a girl to undertake.
“I got married when I was 17 just after completing my Class IX. I was really happy as I had this hope in my heart that I’ll somehow convince my husband about my poetic interest and he would allow me to write.
“But the same story repeated with my in-laws too. They didn’t think writing poetry was worth the effort.
“Then I secretly bought a notebook and a pen and started writing without their knowledge. I had to write because I had to live. It was something I couldn’t stop.
“But whenever my in-laws saw my notebook, they used to pull it apart, tearing it into pieces, venting their ire on the mute pages.
“On second thoughts, they were not mute at all. They spoke, loud and clear. After they were done with my notebook, I had to restart my task all over again.
“Once a girl from our neighbourhood borrowed my notebook and showed it to her brother, who was a singer. That boy composed one of my writing and got first prize for it in his college competition. When my in-law discovered the transgression, they complained to my parents. I had to face a lot of insult. But this episode inspired me to write more and more, because it was the only way of catharsis. After all it was the appreciation that I had never received at all.”
After the birth of two children, the atmosphere chilled down a bit for Amrit. Like a true poet the additions to the family failed to divert her from her chosen path.
“Eiyun na pher akhiyan eiyun na nakaar meinu
kavita zara mein mushqil phir ton vichhar meinu”
She wanted to study further and carry on her passion for poetry. She, somehow, convinced her husband and got admission in the same school where her daughter and son was studying in KG and nursery.
“I cleared my Class X and Plus Two. During my study I got a chance to get literature books. Shiv Kumar Batalvi impressed me greatly. I wanted someone like him to polish my poetry.
“Then someone told me about Surjit Patar, who was the most popular Punjabi poet those days.
“I, along with my husband, went to meet him. I showed him my poetry, which he really liked. He encouraged me to write. This was the beginning of brighter part of my poetic career. The subjects of my poetry became more optimistic.
“Staying in touch with Surjit Patar, I started writing ghazals, which was a rare thing for a Punjabi woman poet to do. People liked my ghazals a lot. In the year 1997 my first book ‘Suraj Di Dehliz Te’was published, which got me good critical acclaim.
“The appreciation changed my family’s behaviour too and they realised that I was doing nothing wrong. After that I got my books published one after other. Now, I am one of those rare Punjabi poetesses who get royalty for their books.”
That book was followed by others – ‘Chiragan Di Daar’, ‘Patjhad Vich Pungarde Patte’ and ‘Kesar Di Chhitte’ (Edited), while another book, ‘Dhupp Di Chunni’, is ready for readers to savour.
Amrit continued with her formal studies and completed her M.A in Punjabi and is now pursuing her PhD. She now teaches literature at Government College for Men (Ludhiana) and leads a happy life with her husband and children.
“It is a tragedy that woman who like to fly high have to balance their career and family life. But, I have been lucky to get a chance to enjoy both though I had to struggle a lot.” She says victoriously.
“My struggle period has not ended yet because after my being popular, many people hinted that I got all my writings from Patar (my guru). It hurt me a lot. People don’t understand that a mother can never give her child to anyone else. In the same way, writing is like a child for a poet. It is not possible for him to give its credit to another person.
“This is also a part of life and it always makes me realise that my struggle has not ended yet. There is lot more to come and perhaps these hardships gives me the inspiration to think more and to write more.