Kids Corner


Under The Mango Tree -
Ambi De Bootey Thhulley





A mango tree
Grew in our home;
Sitting under it,
Life was paradise.
How to describe
This jewel of our home?
But without my lover
With him far away,
It gnaws at me,
O it tastes so sour!

Under the mango tree
I sit with my spinning wheel;
To cheer myself,
I spin out a few strings.
But the love songs of the koel bird
Pierce me like shots from a gun;
I cast aside my spinning wheel,
I tear apart my cushion.
Afraid of my mother-in-law
I try a bit of embroidery
Lost in memories I begin to
Gather my sundered heart;
The embroidery needle
Perforates my finger.

Soon I get up
And sit on the floor,
With hand on my chin,
I flow down the waters of memory
O those delightful events
Moments of union
Crepes and rice-puddings
Lovely monsoon showers
The handsome one's pleas
And my obstinacy
As they flash on my mind,
They ravage my being.

What was that day?
It was auspicious,
It was fortunate,
The day was blessed,
For my lover was at home.
O I was all bathed,
I had my hair long,
I had kohl in my eyes,
I put on jewels,
I scrubbed and scrubbed so
My diamonds sparkled.
I decorated my forehead,
Trying out many a fashion.
When I was done,
Fully adorning myself,
Under the mango tree
I started to spin, soft cotton in hand.

The moon-like lover too
Came and sat under
The shade of the mango tree.
He was a handsome vendor:
Carrying melodies of my love.
Stories of battles fought in
Some far away land
The buzz of engines,
The bellowing waves,
The enemy bombarding
My lover with his interludes!
He went on narrating,
I urged him on.

While he told his stories
The rustle of leaves,
The rumbling clouds,
The chimes from bangles,
The drone of the spinning wheel,
The rhythmic lullaby,
The koel bird's sweet call
Lured him to bed
And lulled him to sleep.

Seeing him sound asleep,
I took some black grease
From my spinning wheel,
And put it on the forehead
Of my sleeping spouse.
O how I laughed
And clapped loudly!
I was ecstatic,
Doubling and quadrupling in joy!
He woke up:
Taken aback.
Scared, he stared,
Merrily, I laughed;
Again and again he'd ask,
But I would not tell.

He frowned when he saw his face
In the mirror of my spinning wheel;
I made a quick dash
He chased me.
I would not let him catch me:
He was proud of his youth,
I had my woman's strong will;
I was ahead of him;
He, behind me.

Around the bed,
Around the mango tree,
We were running,
We were laughing too.
His sheet was rustling
My heart was quickening;
His noisy shoe
My jingling anklet;
His turban came undone
My dupatta slipped down;
And when exhausted
We both sat silent.

What was that day?
It was auspicious.
It was fortunate.
The day was blessed
For my lover was at home.
Today the breeze devours me,
Today its shade scorches me.
I must call in the gardener
To chop off the mango tree.
O but I forgot,
How awful it would be:
If I cut off the mango tree
What will I climb to see
My lover coming home to me?

A mango tree
Grew in our home;
Sitting under it,
Life was paradise.
How to describe
This jewel of our home?
But without my lover
With him far away,
It gnaws at me,
O it tastes so sour!


July 17, 2015


Conversation about this article

1: Hardarshan Singh Valia (Highland, Indiana, USA), July 17, 2015, 11:11 AM.

The translation of Ambi De Bootey Thhulley is done in a superb manner, without losing its soul and its luster. Thank you for bringing the richness of Punjabi poetry to the global doorsteps.

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 17, 2015, 7:36 PM.

I have a nostalgic recollection as a child hearing my sister Pritam humming this song while skipping the rope. What an idyllic life it was and this poem captures.

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Loumpur, Malaysia), July 18, 2015, 4:36 AM.

Credit must go to NIKKY-GUNINDER KAUR ji's equally excellent lyrical translation. Didn't know about this hidden talent of Nikky's.

4: Nawab Singh Heer (United States), July 18, 2015, 8:05 AM.

Nikki, you have taken us back to our village school down memory lane. Days when we lived in the present and read and re-read Prof Mohan Singh, especially his poem - 'Ik Boota Ambi Daa.' You have translated it very well.

5: Yuktanand Singh (Michigan, USA), July 18, 2015, 9:54 AM.

Beautiful translation! Brought tears of sweet childhood memories under those fruit trees. I feel for those who cannot taste the poetry in Punjabi. How fortunate are we to be born in a Punjabi household! Today we are too busy with technology but is there life without ever having spent some long lonely summer afternoons, under a mango tree?

6: Hardev Singh (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), July 18, 2015, 11:30 AM.

Nikki ji, thank you for the superb translation and for reminding us of the beauty and richness of the Punjabi language. Brings me back memories of the recital of the poem by Kenyan singer Deedar Singh Pardesi.

7: Tarsem Singh (United Kingdom), July 18, 2015, 12:40 PM.

This beautiful poem has been rendered into music by the Kenyan Singer Didar singh Pardesi.

8: Rup Singh (Canada), July 18, 2015, 2:53 PM.

Very nice translation, well done. The genius of this poem is that Prof. Mohan Singh used simple Punjabi to give such deep meanings. Singer Didar Singh Pardesi does justice to it.

9: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 18, 2015, 8:38 PM.

No, this one does not advocate sinning and came nowhere near the original sin (a la the Jewish/Christian biblical story) of the forbidden fruit. Near our house in Lyallpur (before the Partition of Punjab) there was a mango grove full of enticing mangoes waiting to be stolen with the joy of biblical proportion. Being a good boy I was a reluctant accomplice to a friend who could climb trees like a monkey. I only offered my services as a lookout, should the ‘maali’ (gardener) show up. And he did and shouted: “Oye, what are you doing up the tree?” and we answered, “Nahi, I am only trying to re attach the mangoes that had fallen”. And, we ran with the maali in hot pursuit . He was of course no match with us. This was my experience with ‘Ambi da Boota’.

10: Karamjit Kaur (USA), July 18, 2015, 10:32 PM.

Too literal ...

11: G C Singh (USA), July 19, 2015, 10:45 AM.

Bhai Vir Singh's Punjabi poetry needs to be translated into good, proper English and other languages. I think Nikki Guninder Kaur is uniquely qualified and talented and should seriously look into this project.

12: Hardev Singh Virk (Canada), July 20, 2015, 11:36 AM.

I knew Nikky growing up as a young girl when I was teaching in Punjabi University, Patiala. Her Dad, Prof. Harbans Singh, was a great scholar of Sikh literature and Nikky is his heir in so many wonderful ways. Nikky has rendered Mohan Singh's most celebrated poem in the same idiom as the original. Gurdev Singh Mann made a short film based on this poem in the 1950s and it was shown on a projector in the villages of Punjab when I was a school student in Malerkotla.

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Ambi De Bootey Thhulley"

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