Bugs In Amber

“Someday, somewhere – anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.” ( Pablo Neruda)

A vigorous game of tennis this morning, where to my utter horror I lost most miserably, was followed by a lovely lunch with friends, in  the 1911 restaurant ,at the Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi. The Riesling ( German, Mosel) infused me with such gladness that I quite forgot I have a nasty week at work, starting tomorrow.

Mellow weather, after the showers last night, was perfect to stay the evening at home. Reading ” Umrao Jaan Ada” by  Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa, translated by David Matthews. I wish I could read the book in its original Urdu, though!

The book is about the life of a courtesan from Lucknow called Umaro Jaan.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umrao_Jaan_Ada). In 1981, the film maker Muzaffar Ali made this into a film, which won critical acclaim for the performances of its actors, especially the  central protagonist played by Rekha. It was also a remarkable period film , depicting 19th century Lucknow. The sets and costumes were breathtaking.

I had seen the movie before I read the book.In both, I marveled at the talent, dignity and strength of Umrao Jaan as she struggles to find and retain  herself/her identity in the face of patriarchal domination.

The song featured in the post remains my favorite from among other songs of great beauty in the movie. Every time I listen to it, the haunting poetry in its lyrics, pose a sort of existential question…. So  Kurt Vonnegut says “Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber”.

Here is the translation ( from the Internet):

yeh kyaa jagah hai dosto.N?
What place is this, friends?
Yeh kaunsaa dayaar hai?
What kind of world is this?
Had-e-nigaah tak jahaa.N, ghubaar hii ghubaar hai
Where, as far as the eye can see, there are only dust storms

Yeh kis maqaam par hayaat mujhko lekii aa gayii?
To what realm has life brought me?
Na bas khushii pe hai jahaa.N, na gham pe ikhtiyaar hai
In this place I have no control over my happiness, and no choice in my sorrow

Tamaam umr ka hissaa maa.ngtii hai zindagii
Life demands an account of all my years
Yeh meraa dil kahe to kyaa? Yeh khud se sharmasaar hai
What will this heart of mine answer? It is so ashamed of itself

Bulaa rahaa hai kaun mujhko chilmano.N ki us taraf?
Who is calling me from the other side of those blinds?
Mere liye bhi kyaa koi udhaas beqaraar hai?
Is anyone there for me who is restless in sorrow?

Yeh kyaa jagah hai dosto.N?
What place is this, friends?
Yeh kaunsaa dayaar hai?
What kind of world is this?
Had-e-nigaah tak jahaa.N, ghubaar hii ghubaar hai
Where, as far as the eye can see, there are only dust storms

 

That’s all from the accidental sufi tonight, folks 🙂

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