Years ago I heard Rabbi Shergill’s rendition of Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s Ikk Kudi and I was mesmerized by the simplicity of the words and depth of its expression. Despite my lack of expertise in Punjabi language, I knew this poem was something very special and started reading some more work by Batalvi. The experience was a revelation of sorts, making it clear to me that when it comes to poetry, earthy and evocative phrases are as sublime as sophisticated metaphors.

Bollywood director Abhishek Chaubey’s latest film Udta Punjab (Flying Punjab), featured a part of this poem. I had been thinking of working on the meaning of Ik Kudi song for a while but was terrified of its simplicity. It’s so unimaginably difficult to preserve the effortlessness of Batalvi’s words, I can’t explain how unique this challenge can be. I had almost given up until Swaati C sent me a farmaish (a lovely urdu word for a request) for the same and I knew right then, that it’s time. While working on songs and poetry, I often imagine a poet or a lyricist writing in a studio or a desk, reflecting and re-writing repeatedly, much like I do. But Batavli’s work reminds of Dheedo Ranjha, the protagonist from from Waaris Shah’s epic telling of the Heer-Ranjha’s ill- fated love story based out Punjab.

Dheedo was a simple man who renounced the world after his beloved Heer was forcefully married to another man from a far off village. He craves to see her and spends his days searching for her everywhere. Much like him, Batavli writes lengthy songs in an unpretentious flow and his words are fragrant with the earthiness of his land. The pain and romance of his poetry is so enlightening because it’s so easy to approach it and get lost in it. Exactly what happened to me while translating the song from Udta Punjab. As I finished working on the part adapted in the film, I was overcome with greed to translate some more of this lovely ballad and then, some more, until I reached the end. That’s the magic of his writing; you never know how tightly it has gripped you. Thank you Swaati for this farmayish, it turned out to a de-cluttering my writing needed so much! I hope you will like my effort.
PS: My knowledge of Punjabi is limited at best so if there are any errors, please leave a comment here or on the Facebook or Twitter pages of bollywoodtarjuma. I will certainly correct it. Please do send me some feedback and share my work if you like it!

Song Credits
Lyrics: Shiv Kumar Batalvi
Singers: Shahid Mallya, Diljit Dosanjh

Music: Amit Trivedi

Movie Credits
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Starring:   Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosanjh
Produced by: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Aman Gill, Vikas Bahl, Sameer Nair
Release: 17 June 2016

Original Poem, Ik Kudi

Ik kuddi jida naa muhabbat,
Goum hai.
Saad muraadi, soni phabbat,
Goum hai.
Soorat ousdi pariyaan vargi
Seerat di o mariam lagdi
Hasdi hai taa phul jhaddade ne
Turdi hai taa gazal hai lagdi.
Lamm-salammi, saru de kad di
Umar aje hai marke agg di,
Par naina di gal samajhdi.
Goummeyaan janam janam han hoye
Par lagda jyon kal di gal hai.
Yun lagda jyon ajj di gal hai,
Yun lagda jyon hun di gal hai.

Huney taan mere kol khaddi si
Huney taan mere kol nahi hai
Eh ki chhal hai, eh ki phatkan
Soch meri hairan baddi hai.
Nazar meri har aande jaande
Chehre da rang phol rahi hai,
Ous kuddi nu tol rahi hai.

Saanjh dhale baazaaran de jad,
Moddaan te khushbu ugdi hai.
Vehal, thakaavat, bechaini jad,
Chau raaheyaan te aa juddadi hai.
Rauley lippi tanhai vich
Os kuddi di thudd khaandi hai.
Os kuddi di thudd disdi hai.
Har chhin mennu inyon lagda hai,
Har din mennu inyon lagda hai.
Judde jashan ne bheeddaan vichon,
Juddi mahak de jhurmat vichon,
O mennu aawaaz davegi,
Men ohnu pehchaan lavaanga
O mennu pehchaan lavegi.
Par es raule de hadd vichon
Koi mennu aawaaz na denda
Koi vi mere vall na vehnda.

Par khaure kyun tapala lagda,
Par khaure kyun jhaulla painda,
Har din har ik bheedd juddi chon,
But ohda jyun langh ke jaanda.
Par mennu hi nazar na aunda.
Goum gaya maen os kuddi de
Chehre de vich goummeya rehnda,
Os de gham vich ghullda rehnda,
Os de gham vich khurda jaanda!
Os kuddi nu meri saun hai,
Os kuddi nu apni saun hai,

Os kuddi nu sab di saun hai.
Os kuddi nu jag di saun hai,
Os kuddi nu rab di saun hai,
Je kithe paddhdi sundi hove,
Jyundi ya o mar rahi hove
Ik vaari aa ke mil jaave
Vafa meri nu daag na laave
Nahin taan methon jiya na jaanda
Geet koi likheya na janda!

Ik kudi jida naa muhabat.
Goum hai.
Saad muradi sohni phabbat
Goum hai.

Translation of Ik Kudi by bollywoodtarjuma

A girl, love’s namesake,
she is missing, lost somewhere in the maze.

With some modest dreams,
and an aura of glowing rays,
she is missing, lost somewhere in the maze.

Her face with divine beauty of fairies,
her dignity eternal like Mary’s.
Flowers cascade with her laughter,
where she walks, ballets follow thereafter.
Like a cyprus her soaring is incessant,
but her fervor is still so adolescent.
She can speak through her eyes,
and leave you surprised.
A lifetime has passed since she was lost,
but it seems like it was just recent past.
Or perhaps it was only today,
or just the last moment that broke away.
Or maybe I forgot the sense of time’s pace
thinking of that girl, love’s namesake,
the one who is missing, lost somewhere in the maze.

Just now she was next to me,
don’t know how she managed to flee.
I am bewildered by this deception,
am I losing my way and perception?
In every face that passes by,
I search for that butterfly.

As dusk perfumes the marketplace,
languor and anxiety come face to face,
On the curves, crossings and intersections,
they meet in that deafening isolation.
Her absence is all consuming,
her lack, so concrete and looming.
Every second and every day, I feel,
standing in this carnival of crowds and zeal,
from the swarms of scents, hers will squeal.
Then we will spot each other,
and run to reach over..

But in this cacophonous torrent of masses,
I don’t even get a second look,
without ever calling my name, everyone just passes.

Still I wonder, why my instinct cheats,
why this vague illusion seems so concrete.
In all crowds I pass through, every day,
her form touches me and goes away,
Perhaps everyone can see her.
But for me, she is just a blur.
I swirl ceaselessly in her imagery,
visualizing the lost girl even more vividly.
Her melancholy is slowly dissolving me,
weight of wistfulness sinking me undersea.

In the name of my love and hers,
in the name of the whole world
and also its creator…

to that lost girl, I implore,
if you read or hear my words pour,
whether you are alive or at death’s door,
please please come fore,
let me again see the face I adore.
Should my fidelity be blemished,
my reasons to live will be finished,
my poetry, my words
will disappear in a haze,
so I must see that girl, love’s namesake,
the one who is missing, lost somewhere in the maze.


A recitation by Shiv Kumar Batalvi himself