I have been wanting to translate this song for a while. I love this song and it is definitely one of my favourites. Recently a lady wrote me an email which I paste below:
I was wondering if you could translate this verse, which is in Hindi, to English.
My friends have expressed what it means, but it sounds peculiar.
You did a lovely job translating the song, “Aaj jaane ki zid na karo”; and I thought you maybe you can have try with this.
“Jab Bhee Khayaalon Mein Too Aaye, Mere Badan Se Khushaboo Aaye”
I would be very grateful if you could.
It is not often that one receives a request to translate and rarer still based on the goodness of a previous work. I was quite pleased that the love and attention given to the translation of “Aaj Jaane Ki Zidd Na Karo” was communicable and it had reached the far shores of the Western hemisphere (from where A hails). As much as I believe that translations kill the original work or are beautiful in a manner disconnected to the original work (except in being recognized as a translation), I also hold that translations provide an opportunity to recognise the nuances of languages and the possibility of certain expressions which might jar in an ear connected to a foreign tongue. Translations also re-open conversations especially the one in the poet’s mind while s/he was composing the poem. One could never really know what made the poet say something in a particular manner, but to allow the words to buoy one’s imagination, to allowe for conversations around the possibilities and the several interpretations possible, makes translation an interesting indulgence. When in Urdu, one can say Ishq, Pyaar and Muhabbat and shift the window slightly to give you a different view of the landscape of love outside, then it makes for very interesting conversation. To anyone who just said “Oh! They are all the same. E, just romantises things!” here is a line from a beautiful song – Muhabbat bhi na jo samjhe, woh zaalim pyaar kya jaane. I will leave you with that to mull over it and spend wonderful afternoons under the sieved sun thinking about how beautiful that line might be.
The song I am going to translate is from the movie Ghar. This song has been sung by Lata Mangeshkar (and many others thereafter but none matching the sweetness of the original rendition) and composed by Gulzar. The music is composed by R.D.Burman (absolutely brilliant job). The name of the song is “Tere bina, jiya jaaye na”. What I love about the music is the sheer the exultation in the tempo when the song starts. Unlike the mindset of having soft music for ballads, the music is rather energetic but still goes very well with the song. I have known composers who either make the song sound like soft rock music with all the metal and drums. Here is a piece that brings in the energy without making it the focus (ask most people who love this song and they would not praise the energy of the music but usually just the lyrics and/or voice). Of course, this translation is dedicated to A, wherever you are! 🙂
Refrain: Tere bina, jiya jaaye na (4)
Bin tere, tere bin, saajana.
Saans mein saans aaye na, oh oh oh.
Without you, my life flows not
Without your (love), without you, my lover
My breath is sans life’s breath.
[Jab bhi khayaalon mein tu aaye
Mere badan se khushboo aaye] (2)
When you fill my mind
My body is fragranced
[Notes for this couplet will be added at the end of this post]
Meheke badan mein raha na jaaye
Raha jaaye na.
In a fragranced body, I can’t habit
I can’t live then.
Reshami raatein roz na hongi
Yeh saugaatein roz na hongi
Such silken nights are not forever
Such fortunes are not forever
Zindagi tuj bin raas na aaye
Raas aaye na.
Life without you has no flavour
Flavourless it is.
Here is a snippet of the discussion I had with A.
Jab bhi khayaalon mein tu aaye, mere badan se khushboo aaye
As with most good poetry, there cannot be a singular interpretation and definitely not when taken out of context. Here the context is being set for the line that follows “Meheke badan mein raha na jaaye, raha jaaye na”. Else, that singular line, would sound too unctuous (IMO). And, with every interpretation comes a translation.
What the poet might be trying to say is:
“Whenever I think of you, my entire body is fragranced” which is rather terse and does injustice to the poet.
“When you come to my mind, you fill my body with a wonderful fragrance” would be the normal interpretation.
I would look at it differently:
“When you fill my mind, I smell (of) our beautiful union (hence, the fragrance)” which then fits with the next line “And in such a fragranced body (reminding me of our union), I am left breathless”
(Mehake badan mein, raha na jaaye, simply means that “In that fragranced body I am unable to live”).
The reason I prefer this, is that a recollection is of the mind, and when a lover remembers the other, it is rare that the love is recollected as a picture on a wall. It is usually recalled as moments of togetherness (imagined or past). Hence, the fragrance that is also imagined is typically of the togetherness.
Another, rather sensuous, interpretation is:
“When I think of you, the woman in me emerges (as a fragrance)” this is in the esoteric notion of a woman smelling different when aroused (and if you have a good nose, you would know).
This interpretation too fits with the next line “And in that fragrance (i.e. the woman in me finds) being by myself is unbearable” (Mehake badan mein raha na jaaye). This might also fit with the seductive on-screen appeal that Rekha had on many viewers.
As a verse in English:
At those moments whenever you pass my mind
Each fragment in me is that fragrance you signed.
This is one of those songs which can never cease to evoke a smile. Salut to all the great artists who gave us this wonderful world of sounds and beauty.