When Amrita Pritam started smoking while in love with Sahir Ludhianvi: “He appeared like a genie in the smoke…”

The unrequited love story of writers Sahir Ludhainvi and Amrita Pritam has been fictionalized over the past decades. Through her writings, Amrita wrote about her years with Sahir and how she always held him in high regard even though their love affair did not follow a conventional path. The unfulfilled nature of their romance has added a mythical side to their romance and their fans still cannot think of one without the other.

It is known that Sahir and Amrita never married. They had been in and out of each other’s lives for a long time and even after finding other partners, they still had a soft spot for each other. They first met in a mushaira and, for Amrita, it was love at first sight. “Walking some distance from Sahir, I noticed that where her shadow fell on the ground, I was entirely engulfed by her. At that time, I did not know that I would spend so many years of my life in his shadow or that sometimes I would tire myself and seek solace in my own words. These poems were written out of Sahir’s love, but I have never publicly revealed the inspiration behind them,” she said. wrote about the morning after their eyes met.

In her autobiography Rasidi Ticket, Amrita wrote about how they would spend hours staring into each other’s eyes without saying much to each other. He smoked endlessly and stubbed out every cigarette when it was only half smoked. Amrita wrote that after he left, she smoked the leftovers and felt like she was always around him. “I would carefully keep those leftover cigarettes in the cupboard after he left. I would only turn them on while sitting by myself. When I held one of those cigarettes between my fingers, I felt like I was touching his hands… That’s how I started smoking. Smoking made me feel like he was close to me. He appeared, each time, like a genie in the smoke emanating from the cigarette,” she wrote.


Amrita was married to her first husband Pritam Singh when she first met Sahir and although there was love between the two, her decision to eventually separate from her husband was not because of the writer. Sahir was a romantic soul, and Amrita too was surrounded by admirers, so maybe they never found the right time to be together, but Amrita had wanted Sahir, for years. “There were two obstacles between us – one of silence, which remained forever. And the other was the language. I wrote poetry in Punjabi, Sahir in Urdu,” she wrote, quoted by Akshay Manwani in his book Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet.

sahir ludhianvi Sahir and Amrita never married. (Photo: Express Archive)

In Rasidi Ticket, Amrita mentioned that she was once asked to sit down and pose for a portrait. In the photo, she was supposed to be holding a pen in her hand and pretending to write. She started scribbling, and after a few minutes realized that the sheet in front of her was filled with Sahir’s name.

Sahir was one of the most popular lyricists of the time and Amrita believed that Bombay (now Mumbai) had snatched him away from her. Although he never married during his lifetime, Manwani’s book suggests that if there was anyone he would have married, it would have been Amrita. According to Manwani, he was once quoted as saying to his mother, “Woh Amrita Pritam thi. Woh aapki bahu ban sakti thi (This is Amrita Pritam. She could have been your daughter-in-law).

Over the years, many Hindi filmmakers have announced films based on the love story of Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi. At one point it was said that the late Irrfan Khan was attached to the project. Several years later, Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan were in talks to play the love couple, but nothing ever materialized. Their love story didn’t have the ‘happily ever after’ ending, but decades later it’s impossible to think of Sahir Ludhianvi’s writings on love and not think of Amrita Pritam.


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