Amir Khusrow’s intentions when he meets his beloved

I kept searching for some Hindi words in Chhalla and Heer – the songs from ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan‘, written by Gulzar. A mainstream Hindi film must appeal to the lowest common denominator which means that both the dialogues and lyrics should be easily understood. Hindi as heard on All India Radio or Doordarshan news bulletins is neither the language spoken on streets nor expected in a commercial release. Gulzar, through his poetry, manages to convey the general meaning of the song while introducing us to new words from other languages.

So Chhalla reminded me of ‘Ji Haal e Muskin Maqun Ba Ranjish‘ by Gulzar.

That is not how the song title appears elsewhere. I wrote it the way I have heard Lata Mangeshkar sing the famous song. The first line hardly made any sense to me but the rest of the song was easy to understand. Back in 1985, I could make sense of Hijra as Judaai(Separation) and Ranjish as Distress (Ranjish is commonly used in Hindi Dialogues to convey Enmity but Distress makes more sense in a romantic song). In the absence of any other information, I understood the verse in foreign language to convey some distress owing to separation from beloved.

When I looked up this classic, I quickly discovered that the first line was a tribute by Gulzar to Amir Khusrow. The original verse with full translation can be read on Khusrow’s wikipedia page. Turns out that Khusrow who mastered multiple languages had written the original in Farsi with alternate rhyming lines in Hindi. So I walked up to my Afghan friend on the North London High Street who can speak Pushto, Farsi and Dari along with English and Urdu to get a feel for individual words.

जे हाल मिसकी मकुन तगाफ़ुल, दुराय नैना बनाय बतियाँ
कि ताबे हिज़्राँ न दारम ऎ जां! न लेहु काहे लगाय छतियाँ

शबाने हिज़्राँ दराज़ चूँ ज़ुल्फ़, व रोज़े वसलत चूँ उम्र कोताह
सखी! पिया को जो मैं न देखूँ, तो कैसे काटूँ अंधेरी रतियाँ

यकायक अज़ दिल, दो चश्म-ए-जादू, ब सद फ़रेबम बबुर्द तस्कीं
किसे पड़ी है जो जा सुनावे, हमारे पी को हमारी बतियाँ

चो शमा सोज़ान, चो ज़र्रा हैरान, हमेशा गिरयान, बे इश्क आं मेह
न नींद नैना, ना अंग चैना, ना आप आवें, न भेजें पतियाँ

बहक्क-ए-रोज़े, विसाल-ए-दिलबर, कि दाद मारा, ग़रीब ‘खुसरौ’
सपीत मन के, वराये राखूँ, जो जाये पाऊँ, पिया की खतियाँ

I could easily understand the Hindi words but the remaining lines were a little scary initially. Hamid, my Afghan friend, helped me in identifying several familiar terms in Persian words.

So let us begin at the beginning. taghaful means neglect, makun is no. miskeen stands for poor/helpless. haal is condition or state [I knew that. Soon I found other familiar terms – familiar that is when someone explains it]. Thus we get “Don’t neglect the condition of the poor soul”. I can easily understand duraye naina banaye batiyan as “[by] looking away and making stories”.

na daram is “Do not”. ay jaan is “Oh Dear/Oh My Life” another familiar phrase. taab is patience and hijr is separation. This could mean “Oh dear, don’t test my patience through separation.” which goes very nicely with the next line in Hindi na lehoo kaahe lagaye chhatiyan that means “why don’t you embrace me [instead]”.

Shab is night so Shaban-e hijran stands for “nights of separation”. chun means like. zulf is the extremely common term for tresses. daraz stands for long. A very common usage is umr-daraz for an experienced person where umr stands for age. Shaban-e hijran daraz chun zulf means “Nights of separation are long like tresses”.

It is time for a small detour. Hamid was convinced that I had approached him to understand a romantic poem about the beloved. Around this time he stopped to stress that the poem is addressed to God with an emphasis on God’s ज़ुल्फ़ (zulf/tresses) as कायनात (kaynaat) or the entire universe – that is – every single thing that exists around us.

(wa) stands for AND It has the exact same meaning in Marathi. रोज़(roz) stands for day, another extremely familiar term, which is opposite of night. वसलत(waslat) is opposite of हिज़्र (hijr/separation). उम्र(umr) is age/life and कोताह(kotah) is opposite of दराज़(darazo/long). Thus roz-e waslat cho umr kotah stands for “The days of union are short like life.”

The next line in Hindi Sakhi piya ko jo main na dekhun to kaise kaatun andheri ratiyan means “[Addressing a girl] Dear friend! How will the dark nights pass if I am unable to see my beloved?” where the beloved stands for God.

A lot of familiar terms like यकायक (Yakayak/suddenly), दिल (dil/Heart), दो (do/two), जादू(Jadoo/magic), चश्म(chashm/eye) & फ़रेब(fareb/deception) in the next line. तस्कीं(taskin) means alleviate/remove. Yakayak az dil do chashm-e jadoo, ba sad farebam baburd taskin could mean “Suddenly my heart is deceived by two magical eyes that have taken away the peace of mind”. The following line in Hindi Kise pari hai jo jaa sunaave, hamare pi ko hamaari batiyan means “(But) who cares enough to go and inform my beloved (about) my condition.”

शमा(shama) is a candle सोज़ान(sozan) is lighted, ज़र्रा(zarra) is a tiny particle, हैरान(hairan) is used for wonderful or excited. हमेशा(hamesha) means always. गिरया(girya) means weep, इश्क(ishq) is love. मेह(meh) is me. Cho shama sozan cho zarra hairan, hamesha giryan be ishq aan me could mean “I always weep(contextually it may mean wander around) in love, like a lit candle, where even my tiniest part is excited.” The Hindi line Na neend naina na ang chaina, Na aap aaven na bhejen patiyan means “no sleep in my eyes, no peace in my body, he neither visits nor conveys the address.”

खुसरौ‘(Khusrau) is the Poet Amir Khusrow. ग़रीब(ghareeb) is poor. विसाल-ए-दिलबर(wisal-e dilbar) is meeting the beloved. हक्क(haqq) is like हक़ीकत (haqeekat/reality) and रोज़(roz) stands for day. I am not so sure about कि दाद मारा(ki daad mara) which perhaps means “one who has been given a lot of trouble”.

Bahaqq-e roz-e wisal-e dilbar, ki daad mara ghareeb Khusrau could mean “(on) the actual day when poor Khusrow, who was troubled often, meets his beloved (Dies!?)”. So what are his plans? Does he share his intentions with us?

Well “Sapit man ke waraaye raakhun jo jaaye paaon piya ki khatiyan” means that “I will keep my intentions to myself for when I get to my beloved’s bed(resting place)”.


Update (15-May-2013): This is a very personal post and it is deliberately brief. The poet lets his readers derive the meaning hence I have used fewest possible words in this translation. Language evolves and it is futile to impose an artificial restriction of using words from a specific language. Hindi films avoid both Sanskritised Hindi and Chaste Urdu yet manage to reach parts of the globe where neither is understood. A tribute to Hindi Films was the secondary objective of this post. The primary objective was to remember my mother, who died after suffering from MND, as the Second Sunday of May approached. She left me behind to be with her beloved and I do not know anything about her plans when she eventually met her God. I have added this post-script after reading R.I.P, Mom by Prem Panicker.

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