Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To sing or not to sing...

...Vande Mataram, is apparently, the question.

My most recent memories of Vande Mataram are from the A.R. Rehman directed version of it (very soft, very pretty), and then, Shubha Mudgal's knock-your-socks-off rendition (with the absolutely trippy video featuring this woman, who just by the way, would totally be second on the list of women whose babies I would want to have, If I ever turned lesbian. Oh I'm not supposed to say that out loud? Oh shush! You're the internet, internet, and if I can't bare my soul to you, then what use is a soul, I ask you!).

The first time I heard Vande Mataram sung (circa 1988), the only thought that crossed my mind was, "Oh pretty tune! It's the national song? Oh okay."

Was I flooded with feelings of nationalism? No. Did it appeal to the patriot in me? No. Do you know why? Because I hadn't a clue what it means. Nope. Not a one.

The song, you see, is in Sanskrit. Not exactly the Lingua Franca of the average Indian, let alone your average (and that's me being SO generous) eleven-year-old NRI.

And I'd be willing to bet a whole lot of money, that the cretins squabbling over whether or not it should be sung, haven't a clue either.

And yet, there's this.



Oh and while we're on the subject of songs, here's one that's been making perfectly seasoned, slow-roasted, melt-in-your-mouth seekh kababs of my heart (and also, not related at all, but I think I'm hungry).

Naina: OST Omkara, Lyrics: Gulzar, Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

Nainon ki mat maaniyo re, nainon ki mat suniyo,
Nainon ki mat suniyo re
Naina thag lenge

Jagte jaadu phukenge re, jagte jagte jaadu
jagte jaadu phukenge re neenden banjar kar denge
Naina thag lenge

Bhala manda dekhe na paraya na saga re
nainon ko toh dasne ka chaska laga re
Nainon ka zehar nasheela re

Baadalon mein satrangiyan bonve bhor talak barsaave
baadalon mein satrangiyan bonve, naina baanvra kar denge
Naina thag lenge

Naina raat ko chalte chalte swargaan mein le jaave
megh malhaar ke sapne bije* hariyali dikhlave
Nainon ki zubaan pe bharosa nahi aata
likhat parhat** na rasid na khaata
saari baat havaai*** re, saari baat havaai

Bin baadal barsaaye saawan, saawan bin barsaatan
bin baadal barsaaye saawan naina baanwara kar denge
Naina thag lenge

Jagte jaadu phukenge re jagte jagte jaadu
jagte jaadu phukenge re neenden banjar kar denge
Naina thag lenge.

Beg, borrow, download, if you have to, but listen to this song. If you loved Gulzar before, this song will make you want to get down on your knees and worship him.

P.S. There is some amount of dispute of about some of the lyrics. I have written what's made the most sense to me, the asterisked (I'm not sure if that's a real word) words according to the internet versions of this song are:

** parakh


Beth said...

Searching for translations. Would love to know what makes seekh kababas of your heart!

And good for you for brining up the notion of the internet keeping secrets. It's needed to hear about that for some time.

Vi said...

The pledge of allegiance of the US is in question because it uses the phrase "One nation under God". G-d forbid we offend the athiests.

Falstaff said...

Wait, isn't Vande Mataram in Bangla?

Chronicus Skepticus said...


Re: Translations

I can *try* my hand at it but gosh, translating boggles the mind.

Oh wait! See that guy one comment down? He's the Hindi/Urdu-to-English translation expert. Maybe if we ask him really nicely!

Ummm...Falstaff? Would you? Please?

Vi: Well, being an atheist myself, I can sort of see the sense in that. I wouldn't go as far as to protest, but it would make me feel pretty silly If *I* had to say it.

Falstaff: I'm pretty sure the version used these days is in Sanskrit.

Sougata said...

Vande Mataram was always in Sanskrit. It was inserted in the novel Anandamath written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. I say "inserted" because B. Chatterjee apparently wrote the song before he wrote the novel. I personally don't expect the song to evoke feelings of nationalism in anyone, except in the few Hindu Bengalis who have actually read the novel--in which group I include myself. I further say Hindu Bengalis since the novel was about the revolt of a war-like sect of Bengali Hindu Sanyasis against the then Muslim overlords of Bengal. Therefore, since the song decorated that novel, a Muslim Indian would have to be totally ignorant of the context of the song to have it elicit any sort of nationalist emotion in him/her.

I agree that no one should be forced to do anything, which includes the singing of national songs. Nationalism cannot be forced down anyone's throat. In fact, the Vande Mataram issue is threatening to become the Indian analogue of the Tebbit Test. I just sometimes wistfully wish that people would identify with their country first, and their religion second. Because as I understand it, the people refusing to sing the song are doing so on religious grounds. That is slightly more stupid than singing it for nationalistic reasons.

There are of course practical reasons for that above wish. Any ideology, nationalism included, is only useful insofar as it maximizes total human welfare. If humans were non-territorial and lived in a borderless world, nationalism would be a nuisance that any right-thinking person would hastily discard. But in a world that is structured around the idea of nation-states, nationalism takes on the form of a strategic game that one must play to achieve Pareto Optimality.

From the point of view of one particular country, here's how it looks. If everybody stopped playing the game (i.e. nationalism), then this particular country would be no worse off if it stopped too. Pareto Optimality is not sacrificed in this case.

However, given the fact that everybody else plays the game and tries to maximize payoffs for themselves, a country that stopped playing the game would run a high risk of being much worse off than if it played the game.

Too much nationalism is of course a bad thing [Too much of anything is a bad thing the last time I checked]. For example, aggressive nationalism can cause wars that invariably make at least one party worse off; or it can result in severe in-group out-group dichotomies and the consequent discrimination against a group within or without the nation. The case of the Sinhalese versus the Tamil in Sri Lanka comes to mind. So those are the pitfalls.

Note: Those with insight [and the patience] will question why the above analysis cannot be extended to religious groups also, i.e. if we substituted "religious chauvinism" for "nationalism" in the above analysis, would the analysis not hold true? Put another way, what if we suggested that every religion play hard [but not too hard] for itself, thus making everybody at least no worse off. My personal feeling is that this doesn't work because of the wide geographical dispersion of a religious group. A nation is by definition geographically coherent. A religion is not. Because of this, when a religion tries to cross boundaries, it comes into conflict with nationalism. Those of us caught in the crossfire can sometimes sit on the fence; but are sometimes compelled to choose [perhaps through voting preferences] between two less than utopian philosophies.

Sorry for (ab)using your comment space as a personal soapbox. It will not happen again.

Sougata said...

To quote myself:

Those of us caught in the crossfire can sometimes sit on the fence...

I just realized that if that isn't mixing metaphors, I don't know what is. Can you picture that above sentence in your mind? Darn funny, no?

Ha, ha.

Beth said...

I completely question having to say the pledge of allegiance in public schools in the US. I had to, and I wish I hadn't. First of all, I don't pledge anything to a flag. Second, the words are just irrelevant these days, as clearly the US is in most ways not one nation, and we're clearly quite divisible, and as for liberty and justice...well, you've seen the news. And yeah, I'm an atheist, and yeah, in a public school of all places I shouldn't have to say that my country exists under something I don't believe in. What we don't believe - or what we believe "not in," so to speak - must also be protected.

Anshul said...

Hey Divya,

Vande Mataram was supposed to be our national anthem. But due to "the desire to be secular" as in "nothing shud hurt minorities"....we replaced that with Jan Gan Man.

Falstaff said...

CS: here you go:

A little tricky because I've only heard the song once, and then during the film so that I have no memory of the lyrics. Still, it's the best I can do.

Sujai said...

I am not sure if making things mandatory is going to increase nationalistic feelings. It never worked in our country. Will BJP stop temple-goers from entering a temple just because they couldn't recite prescribed prayers?
More on this at:

Sublime Thoughts said...

Greetings.It's always a pleasure to meet a Gulzar fan.A bit late, i am sure you must have got it by now, but still here are my two cents on the doubts that you are having about some words in the song.

The first one is actually 'bhi de' and not dije or bije.

the second is 'padhat' which comes from padhaai - reading.In the context it means no written (likhat-padhat) agreement or even a receipt or an account(rasid na khaata)

the word is Havaai - which means 'in air'. Continuing from the above interpretation , there's no proof to what eyes say as everything is said in air.

Keep posting some of his gems.

kshama said...

gulzar is magician...amazing...agree completely...