AN ERA VANISHES ….

- AJEET COUR

When the message came that Amrita had passed away, it struck me like a hammer against the ribs.

All of us who had seen her suffering during the last three years, had been expecting this.

Even she was expecting the end almost with restless longing.

During the first phase of her slipping into a horribly unending suffering, she longed for death.

Later, when she drifted into the twilight zone of forgetfulness and oblivion, she waited with amazing patience and resignation.

…..

At her home in Hauz Khas, on her bed, she was lying like a cuddled-up embryo in a mother’s womb.

Her body had shrunk ! She looked almost like a cuddled-up child, in deep slumber, seeing dreams of fairylands and butterfly lands.

Her arms and legs were folded up, as if she was holding herself in an eternal embrace.

He was there, her love, her companion for the last forty years, looking peaceful and composed and resigned. Like a saint ! Inderjeet, who had merged his self in Amrita, and acquired the name which contained syllables from both their names : Imroz. He had spent almost half a century in a unique, meditative love with Amrita.

For the last three years, it was Imroz who had been looking after her like a mother. He, and Alka, Amrita’s daughter-in-law.

Inderjeet met her in late fifties. After reading her first novel‘Doctor Dev’, he rang her up. ‘‘Hello ?” – she asked. “Doctor Dev”, he said, and put the receiver back into its cradle.

Keeping also the surge of his love and emotion for Amrita in a cradle of silence.

He is a painter. For earning a living during the first creative years, when paintings are a private passion, but necessities of life and of painting materials makes people work on other jobs for making a living, he was working for an Urdu magazine ‘Shama’ , making sketches to go with the poems and stories, and designing its covers.

‘Shama’ decided to serialise ‘Doctor Dev’ in Urdu translation. Designing was allocated to Inderjeet (now Imroz). He met Amrita to have a look at the sketches that Inderjeet had prepared, and it was the beginning of a unique relationship, the sort of relationship that kings immortalise in Taj Mahals !

Amrita would look at Imroz, and from the flicker of her eyelashes he knew if she wanted tea, or a cigarette, or wanted him to make a phone call !

They communicated with each other through their silences, with the sheer magic of togetherness.

It was a couple I have not come across anywhere else, in the whole of my very small world ! Two suns revolving around each other in their two orbits, in infinite space, searching for the ultimate in life together with a simple naivety and beautiful, unparalleled companionship.

A total merger of two souls ! An absolute emersion in each other !

Their love was like an eternal journey towards‘moksha’ ! Towards some unknown destination of ultimate redemption, tasting its nectar in every moment of their lives.

….

It was four in the afternoon. According to her wish, hardly anybody was informed. No last bath was given. Clothes were not changed. No wailing, no crying, no photographs. She had planned all of it long back. Had ordered that her body should be taken without unnecessary delay to the crematorium.

From her first floor room, Imroz picked her up, wrapped up in the bed sheet she died on, like his own child, because she ‘was’ his only child, ever since they had decided in the very beginning of their relationship not to produce any child of their own, because they had to bring up the two children from her first marriage, Sally, the son, the flower of her womb, and Kandla whom she had adopted when my father, who treated her in Lahore, had advised her not to produce a child until she was fully cured, which took almost three to four years, and she needed a child. So she brought this chubby little girl, large-eyed and helpless, from an orphanage. Sally was born after she was completely cured.

In her last journey, she was accompanied by just four-five friends, and Imroz, her son and daughter, two grandchildren.

It was Diwali eve. Dazzling lights, crackers, people buying sweets in their finest sarees and suits and diamonds and jewellery, revelory and noise on the streets !

Our small caravan of just the dead-bodies van, and two cars following it, passed through all the noise and merry-making !

“Don’t they know ? Doesn’t anybody realize that the queen of Punjabi literature is going on her last journey ?”

In the shadows of descending deep grey dusk, in the desolate and forlorn crematorium of Green Park, her body was kept on the rough wood. Nobody knew what to do.

‘Any special prayers ?’ the crematorium incharge asked.

All of us were silent.

The sort of affinity with the Ultimate that she had achieved, the sort of merging with the Infinite that only she was capable of attaining, resulting in absolute peace, and an end to all questions she had ever been asking all the realized souls including all the Sidh Yogis who flocked to her, including Osho Rajneesh, had been resolved. It didn’t make any difference to her what sort of last rituals were performed and what sort of prayers were said. Because all these prayers couldn’t reach even the threshhold of her exalted abode.