lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Thursday, December 21, 2006

In silence, in my heart

"Tumi rabey neerabey hridayey mamo, nibido nibhrito poorNimaa nisheethini samo," he sang.

"I appreciate the sentiment, honey, but shouldn't you wait until I go away before you sing songs of separation?" I said.

Bengalis. They are worth a 'tap tap tap' a la Obelix, I tell you. They refuse to speak the way the rest of the world does, they say 'sha' for 'sa' and the other 'sa'; they can't say 'ah' but say 'au' or 'o' or 'aw'; they can't make up their minds about 'ba' and 'va' and 'pa'; and he, she or it. But they write great poetry, I tell you.

I like Rabindra Sangeet in theory. When your introduction to the genre is through private recordings of Debabrata Biswas singing, accompanying himself on a harmonium, and cracking wise once in a while, you can't help but like the tunes, songs and the poetry of it. But when I heard what passes for Rabindra Sangeet on All India Radio, wailing and mournful dirge-like renditions of the same, I was shocked.

"How could they take something beautiful and destroy it so?" I ranted. But that seemed to be the norm. The pure and evocative voice and the discreet accompaniment of the harmonium of George-da seemed a far away and lost dream.

This particular song is a favourite of ours. We used to sing it as a lullaby, this and other Rabindra Sangeet.

"It is not so much a song of separation as a pledge, I think," he said. "Like the dense permeating night of full moon, you will stay in my heart silently." He said. I winced. "That's awful, honey." I offered my honest opinion. He bristled. "Let's hear you do it then."

"Um, you will dwell silently in my heart, like the night in her thickening moonlit secrecy."

"Ha!" He scoffed. "How did you arrive at thickening?" "By using the definitions for nibida and nibhrita, of course." I said. "But the use of 'nibida nibhrita' for a moonlit night is odd. One associates the adjectives with darkness, moonless nights maybe."

"Your definitions might be different than Bengali usage, Lali." I shook my head. "Not likely, these are tatsama words. The meaning won't change all that much, and I can prove it to you." I wandered over to the shelves and consulted my dictionaries.

"Nibida means density, thickness, that which is strong and firm. Nibhrita means wholeness, stillness, secrecy, that which is hidden, that which is not clear, that which is alone and low key and steadfastness." I recited, translating the Telugu words as I read.

"So how does this sound? You will dwell in silence in my heart like the still night in her moonlit secrecy?"

"Mamo jeebano joubano, mamo akhilo bhubano tumi bharibey gourabey nisheethini samo," he sang.

"My youth and life, my whole universe, you will enrich with nobility like the night."

"Lame," I said. "And why turn the order of the words around? My life, my prime and my entire world, you will make exalted, like the night, that night…"

"Hmm, why world, why not universe?" "Because bhuvana means world, not universe. That would be vishva."

"Jaagibey Ekaaki tabo karuNo aankhi, tabo anchalo chhaayaa morey rohibey dhaaki," he sang.

"You know, I never liked this verse." I said. True, this verse always jarred in the song. It is out of place with rest of the song's sentiment, and changes the mood. If the rest of the song is avowal, this is supplication.

"I always thought this was tacked on because there needed to be four verses, asthaayi, antara, sanchari and abhog. George-da sang it like sanchari, too, repeating the beginning.

"You will alone stay awake with your kind eyes and enfold me in your anchal, this sounds so awkward after the first two verses."

"Um, wakeful, alone, your benevolent gaze will hold me enwrapped in the shadow of your drape, like the night, that night… Right, this is plea, not pledge," I said.

"But George-da used to sing the words jaagibey Ekaaki with such depth of loneliness." "Yeah, he made it haunting."

"Mamo duhkho beydano, mamo saphalo swapano tumi bharibey sourabhey nisheethini samo," he sang.

"Sourabh is the root for surabhi, is it?"

I rolled my eyes. "Sourav is the ex-captain, sourabha is fragrance and that which is agreeable, and surabhi is a wish-granting cow. Nothing to do with each other." I said. He snorted.

"Isn't there a version that reads sakala svapna?" I asked.

"There is, but that doesn't make sense. The contrast of sadness and pain with fulfilled dreams makes better sense. George-da sang it as saphalo shapano, anyhow."

"My grief, my pain and my dreams come true, you will suffuse with fragrance, like the night, that night…" I offered.

"Tumi rabey neerabey hridayey mamo," he sang. And I sang along.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your refrain of the night, that night and you actually managed to make the third stanza better. Bravo, Lali.

8:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hridayey mamo, too. A beautiful song translated beautifully. Now if Lali can benevolently bestow her phone number...
Secret admirer

10:46 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Incredibly beautiful translation, Lali, but you know that already because I said it the other day :-)

You're secret admire has some nerve, by the way. I'd suggest the complete works of Shakespeare in large print, illustrated and bound in leather. Hard on the head.

11:57 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- Thanks.

Anon- Get a name.

Rimi- Thanks. Do you know, your suggestion has some merit? Anon, take note.

8:38 am  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Awesome. and this is one of my favorite songs too and I just loved the way you translated it.

7:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why didn't you give a proper version, Lali? You know, transliteration and your translation? That'd have been kind to us.

8:11 pm  
Blogger anantha said...

Impressive, even to a PC (Poetically Challenged, if such a phrase exists) guy like me!

Come to think of it, I might not be PC after all, in spite of the fact that my idea of verse always starts with a line that describes the color of a rose. And by color, I meant red, not crimson, lest someone thinks that I am not serious!

11:04 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

M- I am glad you like it. This is first approximation, and I am working on the cadences and rhyme part of it. This and deep nibhey geychhey mamo are my personal faves.

Rajesh- I am working on it.

Anantha- Thanks. Umm, which verse, which rose, and why only crimson? Why not scarlet or ruby or cerise? :-)

8:59 am  
Blogger db said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Missus Em:

I love this post .. I love the flow of language ... and even though I know zero Bengali, I seem to be able to comprehend a fair amount (seems remotely familiar to Sanskrit) ...

Ps: Saurabh may also be interpreted this way ... Sau (100) .. Rabh (Punjabi for God) .. Saurabh = 100 Gods ;-)
Pps: have posted on my blog

4:34 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ram- That you can follow the Bengali is because it is largely derived from Sanskrit, like most Indian languages.

Sourav, ahem means of the sun, like the solar dynasty and all that, but your Punjabi definition is irreverent. :-)

PS. GBS, hmmm.

7:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@missus em:

the punjabi thing was a joke ... albeit a pathetic one (now i realize) ... GBS ?

7:44 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ram- George Bernard Shaw, @ your post. And yeah, I know it was just a joke. :-)

9:02 am  

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