Sunday, May 08, 2005

jurm-e-ulfat pe hamein log saza dete hain

Greetings non-existent friend and reader

Amar is an ignorant enthusiast of urdu poetry, and he also has a passion for old hindi cinema that for reasons that shall remain mysterious he has not seen (nor intends to). He is constantly thus stumbling upon mysteries which he cannot resolve (and which in fact may not be mysteries at all), and thus he turns to you, wiser and more knowledgable in these matters, for kindly assistance, and benevolent guidance. There are many such mysteries, it is hard to say how many will be tabled here eventually, but let us for the moment make a beginning.

Mystery Number One

Film: Taj Mahal
Year: 1963
Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi
Song: Jurm-e-Ulfat pe hamein log saza dete hain
Line: "Takht kya cheez hai, aur laal-o-jawahar kya hai, ishq wale to khudaee bhi luta dete hain"

In the year 1963, Jawahar Lal ("laal-o-jawahar") sits on the "takht" of India. Surely in some obtuse way the line is a reference to Nehru.

It cannot be a coincidence to talk of thrones, and then find it necessary to mention "red jewels" (is this translation even correct?). Why jawahar, why lal jawahar in particular? Is there a historical cultural non-Nehru association that explains why the talk of takht brings up lal-o-jawahar? If so, what?

And if it is a reference to Nehru, then what is it that Sahir wishes to say to us, besides showing his mastery of word play (a rich tradition of Desh incidentally, going back to the classical sanskrit poets)? Is it a criticism? What does Sahir want to say? That those in love are capable of losing even more than Nehru managed (1962 war?)?

There is Amar's mystery number one. Wise reader, enlighten Amar, and earn his everlasting gratitude.

ps: Amar doesn't translate the couplet, frankly, because he doesn't dare to. To those who are left stranded, apologies, but he fears the sacrilege of murdering poetry by dire translation.