Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hindi Poetry and Plastic Knives

Yesterday I tried out my Hindi writing skills after ages, on a lark. I am not as fast as I used to be and I am sure I misspelled a dozen or so words. But that's to be expected as the last time I actually expressed myself in the language was during the ICSE Hindi exam, which was more than ten years ago. I have never felt the need to scribble in Hindi after that, except may be to show my Chinese lab mate his name in the Devnagri script. After the first few stiff lines I picked up speed, the letters started looking plump as the jagged edges disappeared and the words flowed. I am impressed with myself. And what did I write... Mera Kuch Saaman by Gulzar. Apart from being a favourite of mine, this is also one of the few romantic lyrics written in a language which is usually very male centric in matters of the heart. You may have songs of love lost, poems of jilted love or melodramatic angst ridden odes to a heart less society, but all written from the point of view of men*. Mera Kuch Saaman is about all the little tit bits a dead relationship leaves behind. The woman in this case wants these remnants back, some tangible, some intangible but mostly stuff that romantic moments are made up of and hence non returnable. In that respect it reads like a list, very matter of fact. And like most Gulzar lyrics, the slightly off beat details (kaandhe ka til ) that make it so alluring also make a literal translation sound silly.

Now that we are done with the literary stuff we move on to some profound philosophy. When one buys plastic cutlery, why does the bag have an equal number of forks, spoons and knives when everyone knows that the knives hardly ever get used? Recently at the workplace all we had left were about 100 knives from the 360 piece set of spoons, knives and forks also called the communal plastic "silverware" dump. As a result at lunch time there were atleast two people practicing their chopstick skills with plastic knives. Someone got a replacement 360 piece set and guess what we probably have 220+pieces of knives sitting pretty in the shelf and they will just keep accumulating. Someone, somewhere should do a fair bit of research into this problem, follow it up with some tedious number crunching and come up with a fairly representative ratio for number of spoons to forks to knives in a set. There I said it, now will some enterprising soul please take up the challenge.

*Having said that I will also admit that my knowledge of Hindi language/poetry is rather limited to whatever was included in the 10th grade syllabus (not a lot of love there), old Hindi films and Doordarshan. So if you happen to disagree, please let us know.


Ayush said...


the song is beautiful (acutally most of the stuff by Golzar is amazing).

I am not sure however, if most hindi love songs are male-centered. Hindi movies might not have raged a battle against the social status of women, but I think the feminine heterosexual romantic narrative has not been absent from the hindi songs. The nature and depiction of a woman's expression of romance might be different from that of the male and in that it might reaffirmed the patriarchal society.

What I find a bit disappointing is a lack of women own voices ... rather than voice for women.

As for poetry, Urdu poetry actually has had rich liberal traditions. In fact, the urdu 'rekhti' poetry even has tons of same-sex (women) narratives, but under the colonial 'cleansing', most of these were forced to be misinterpreted/misrepresented. But scholars like Ruth Vanita are taking a front in liberating the pre-colonial literature of India from colonial interpretations.

Aditi Das Patnaik said...


Haven't heard this in a while and well looked up the lyrics...predictably so...i love this one too and now that you explicitly point it out i never really heard of a woman lyricist.


Anonymous said...

Nice post.
Here is an interesting story about the song.
When Gulzar first approached R D Burman with the lyrics of 'mera kuchh saman', Pancham da's first reaction was:
'yeh kya hai. Iske baad Statesman (newspaper) la ke bologe music de.'

Ofcourse we all know how beautifully R D's eventual composition fits to the lyrics.

Anonymous said...


Anyesha said...

ayush: Thanks for the information...I had a feeling you would have something interesting to add to this. The idea of "rekhti" poetry is intriguing.

aditi:join the club

anonymous: Suprisingly when I first saw the movie and heard this song I had a similar reaction. But I was in third grade and can't be blamed for my ignorance.It was only much later that I fully appreciated both the movies and this song.

anonymous: hindi teacher would be very happy if you told her so.

How do we know said...

nice handwriting.. really! Blogspot has a lot of indi blogs.. u must try to visit them sometime.. try that!
Oh, andi completely agree with the knives thing.. they cant even be used as paper cutters!

Aravind said...

hi anyesha,
I just heard that song frmo ijzaat.
Its very very nice.Also u have a very nice handwriting.Can u Translate and publish in you blog.