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What The Eyes Saw:
Two Poems Dedicated to Heer

AMARJIT SINGH CHANDAN, Translated from Punjabi by GURMEET KAUR

 

 

 






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, 9:46 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.

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Two Poems Dedicated to Heer"









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