What The Eyes Saw: AMARJIT SINGH CHANDAN, Translated from Punjabi by GURMEET KAUR
Two Poems Dedicated to Heer
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: The year 2016 marks 250 years of the great Punjabi epic ‘Heer’ written by Waris Shah. The following two poems on Heer were originally written in Punjabi by Sikh-Briton poet, Amarjit Singh Chandan, who turns 70 today, November 17, 2016.
The word ‘Heer‘, in Punjabi literary parlance, refers to the tragic heroine Heer herself, as well as to the genre of verses which have also been penned by poets before and after Waris Shah on the timeless love story of Heer and Ranjha.
I have attempted to pay tribute to both the poets by translating Amarjit’s two Heer poems from Punjabi to English.
1 WHAT THE EYES SAW
Damodar writes that when Heer and Ranjha met for the very first time they did not utter a word; they just looked down and drew lines in the earth as tears flowed down their cheeks.
Why do you cry, O my brother Ranjha
Why do you cry, O my sister Heer
Separated for ages you meet again today
The union has been reaped
The sound of the flute fills the ethers
The eyes have seen it all
Do the tears well up
For they too long to see?
The lines of fate that you draw in sand
An attempt to rewrite what’s been writ in the heavens?
Why does the heart sink already?
The path is very long indeed
The river is yet to be crossed
Dying while living
More separations to endure
Only to meet again
Why should my brother cry?
Why do your cry O sister?
* * * * *
2 ODE TO WARIS
Waris Shah, what praise can I offer you?
When I begin to write, words fall short
You are known as the king of the kings
The ones whose couplets abound the earth
You began with the admiration of the Almighty, as you did in Heer’s ballad
You had the Holy Quran to guide you
I only dare to begin where your note had ended
I kiss your hand
I kiss your pen
You had written what the Almighty had asked
You had united the benevolent souls
That enemies of love had once separated
Ranjha set out from home to marry death
In his journey long
He could not be reverted
Breaths utter the tune of the flute
But in the soul thorns someone had pricked
Punjab had become Ranjha
Waris became Heer
Yet none stopped their split
History demands answers from them
The ones who pulled the nail from the skin
Who to blame and for what
The bowl that was once full
Our own hands have spilt
* * * * *
November 17, 2016
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), November 17, 2016, 11:46 PM.
This comment was made by Sant Kartar Singh, son of Sant Sangat Singh ji of Kamalia, and appeared in Bhai Vir Singh ji’s 'Abhinandan Granth' presented to him in 1954 to commemorate his 80th birthday: “It was perhaps in 1942 or 1943 when tearfully Sant Sangat Singh ji related that one day Heer was found sobbing inconsolably when Ranjha appeared and asked the cause for sobbing. She replied that she was crying for those wasted years when she had not met her Ranjha. Likewise, Child, I too am crying for those wasted years when I had not met Bhai Vir Singh ji." Such was the bond between the two.