I have spent all my life in urban Indian settings. I have always only been to English medium schools, where being fluent in Hindi was considered trivial and fluency in English was stressed upon. Thanks to my South Indian roots, since childhood we were encouraged to speak and think in English. But since I grew up in North India, Hindi was the first language I picked up and till date it’s the only language that enables me to make comfortable conversations. But what kind of Hindi did I pick up anyway? The kind we use every day, casual and unrefined. The kind we treat as a means to an end while bargaining with shopkeepers and riksha walaas without really understanding its potential depth and beauty.
Being a millennial, the songs that were popular during my teenage years were Just Chill, Dhoom Machaale, Dard-e-Disco, Salaam Namaste etc. I do not mean to say that there were no meaningful songs written those days, it’s just that I did not have the sensibility to comprehend them. Even today the songs that catch momentum are not necessarily the most lyrically appealing. In fact, sadly the songs that become top hits these days are Baby Doll, Munni Badnaam, Laila Teri Le Legi etc that sow the seeds of vulgarity in young minds and do nothing to popularize the finer dialect.
Probably the first time I really enjoyed the lyrics of a song was when I heard Aaoge Jab Tum (Jab We Met). In an album that had chart-busters like Mauja Hi Mauja and Yeh Ishq Haye, I could not stop listening to Aaoge Jab Tum. Soon my mp3 player was filled with Naina Thag Lenge (Omkara), Yeh Honsla (Dor), Ha Raham (Aamir), Sapno Se Bhare Naina (Luck by Chance), Arziyan (Dilli 6), Maula Mere (Chak De! India) and many more such songs. It was also around the same time that I got my hands on a CD of Manna Dey classics and a CD of classics from ’50s-’80s. All these made me relish the language (Hindi/Hindi-Urdu). Here, I would like to mention my favorite lines from few songs mentioned above:
Sone chamak mein, sikkon khanak mein-milta nahi
Dhool ke zarron mein, dhoonde koi toh- milta wahi
Kya majaal teri marzi ke aage, bandon ki chal jaayegi
Taane ungli jo tu katputli ki chaal badal jaayegi
Ha Raham, ha raham farma aye Khuda
Mehfooz har kadam karna aye Khuda
(One does not find happiness in wealth, search for it and you’ll find it in trivial things. How dare we think everything will proceed according to our will when we are but mere puppets in Your hands? Oh Lord show some mercy, protect us at every step.) – Ha Raham (Aamir)
Poocho na kaise maine rain bitaayi
Ik pal jaise ik jug beeta
Jug beete, mohe neend na aayi . . .
Na kahin chanda, na kahin taare
Jyot ke pyaase mere nain bechaare
Bhor bhi, aas ki kiran na laayee
(Do not ask me how I spent the night; moments felt like ages. I could not sleep as ages elapsed. I could not spot the moon or the stars; my eyes deprived of light. Even the dawn could not bring a ray of hope.) –Poocho Na Kaise Maine Rain Bitaayi (Manna Dey)
Door he se sagar jise har koi maane
Paani hai woh ya reth hai yeh kaun jaane?
Jaise ke din se rain alag hai
Sukh hai alag aur chain alag hai
Par jo yeh dekhe woh nain alag hai
Chain toh hai apna, sukh hai paraye . . .
Sapno se bhare naina, toh neend hai nah chaina
(To the distant viewer even the sand appears as the ocean. Only the one who dares to venture knows about the struggle of finding the ocean. Happiness and peace are as different the day and the night, the one who sees this difference is the one with a different vision. Peace accompanies us but happiness continues to be elusive…Eyes filled with dreams can find neither sleep nor peace) –Sapno Se Bhare Naina (Luck by Chance)
In recent times if there is a writer who has made my heart pound with happiness with his writing, then it’s Varun Grover. He uses the most unadulterated Hindi in his songs. He manages to bring out the beauty of the language like no other present day writer. His songs have made me fall in love with Hindi all over again. As the writer of the film Masaan, he infused the story with beautiful shayaari and poems. In times when most songs and dialogues are written in hinglish, here is a film that celebrates classic Hindi literature and yet tells the story of modern India. The song Moh Moh ke Dhaage from the film Dum Laga Ke Haisha is in my opinion, the best written romantic songs of recent times. In the song he writes:
Ke aisa beparwah mann pehle toh na tha
Chiithiyon ko jaise mil gaya, jaise ik naya sa pata
Khaali raahien, hum aankien moondein jaayien
Pahunche kahin toh bewajah.
Yeh moh moh ke dhaage teri ungaliyon se jaa uljhe
Koi toh toh na laage, kis tarha girah yeh suljhe?
(My heat was never this careless before. All letters seem to have found a new address. On empty roads, I am walking with my eyes closed; hoping to reach somewhere for no reason. These threads of endearment have entangled themselves on your fingers; there is no compulsion, so how will this knot get resolved?)
My favorite work of Varun Grover is the song Mann Kasturi Re from Masaan. When I first heard the song, it sounded very fresh and appealing, but honestly I did not understand much about what the song was trying to tell. A few months later I came across an interview in which he briefly explained the song. Intrigued by this, I searched for a detailed explanation online and realized how beautiful the song is. Here, he says our heart is similar to a musk deer, which goes around searching for the scent of the musk, not realizing that it is within him. He writes:
Khoje apni gandh na paave
Chaadar ka paibandh na paave
Bikhrey bikhrey chhandh sa tehley
Dohon mein yeh bandh na paave
Naache hoke phirki lattu
Khoje apni dhoori re . . .
(My heart is searching for its own essence, cannot find it. It cannot find the pattern to this existence. It wanders like scattered verses; it cannot be tied into a couplet. It spins like a top in search of its own axis . . .)
My love for Hindi is extremely vague. I never considered it as a serious subject in school; in fact I struggled with it. I even dropped the subject in 8th grade to pursue French. I struggled to read and write in Devanagari. However, it is also the only language that I have ever used to think to myself. My love for Hindi grew as my love for Hindi cinema started developing. Today, I still have a tough time reading and writing the language but I feel my dialect has improved. Sometimes my sister calls me a banarasi because of the kind of words I use while speaking, I happily accept it as a compliment! I have a very long way to go on my path of becoming a Hindi geek but I can only hope that many more such amazing songs emerge to accompany me on this journey.
Finally, I am going to end this post with a shayaari by Bashir Badr which was used in Masaan because I absolutely love the film and this couplet:
सितारों को आँखों में महफूज़ रखना, बड़ी देर तक रात ही रात होगी| मुसाफिर हैं हम भी, मुसाफिर हो तुम भी; किसी मोड़ पर फिर मुलाकात होगी|