Urdu, Hindi: phir kahaaN

MonsieurGonzalito

Senior Member
Castellano de Argentina
Friends,

Is "phir kahaaN" an idiomatic phrase, meaning that something that was generally available "is no more", "is (henceforth) nowhere to be found"?
Or should it be translated literally, word-by-word?

For example, in the song "ye raat yah chaaNdnii phir kahaaN", by Sahir Ludhainvi for the 1952 movie "Jal".

yah raat yah chaaNdnii phir kahaaN
sun jaa dil kii daastaan


My attempt:
(Since) tonight the (canopy of) moonshine is no more,
listen to (my) heart's tale!


[possibly related thread]
Urdu: meaning of chiraaGh-i-rux-i-zeebaa
 
  • Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    This opening line is part of a beautiful song, from the film Jaal (1952) written by a well-known Urdu poet, Sahir Ludhiyanvi. Part of it is sung by Hemnat Kumar and the other part by Lata Mangeshkar.

    chaandnii raateN pyaar kii baateN
    kho ga'iiN jaane kahaaN.....

    Moonlit nights, those conversations of love
    Who knows where they have disappeared to

    The lover and the beloved are thinking of a past time when both of them were together and the moonlights and the conversations they shared are no more.

    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN
    sun jaa di kii daastaaN

    Will there ever be this night and that too, moon-light lit?
    Do come now and listen to the tales of my heart, bit by bit

    The beloved is telling her lover that the like of this night is not going to be seen again! As far as she is concerned, it is a one-off event.
     
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    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN
    sun jaa di kii daastaaN

    Will there ever be this night and that too, moon-light lit?
    Do come now and listen to the tales of my heart, bit by bit

    The beloved is telling her lover that the like of this night is not going to be seen again! As far as she is concerned, it is a one-off event.

    Though I agree with @Qureshpor jii's general meaning, and though in general I defer to his wonderful grasp on Urdu poetry and its meanings, I still would not agree with him completely here, because for me there is a difference between "will there again be such a night, such a moonlight" -- which is what the line is meaning for me -- and the much stronger "will there ever be this night ..."
    "phir" means "again" in general, and here it won't be a mistake to interpret it with its usual meaning.

    Also, I don't see the beloved asserting to her lover anywhere in the song that the like of this night (or that night, a night gone by) won't be seen again, or that it was a one-off event. Rather, the song is simply about pining: both the lovers sound a bit hopeless, indeed, but they are pining and wondering if there would be such a night, such a moment again in their lives together. That sad wondering does not mean that they are asserting that it's a one-off event: in fact, they haven't accepted such an eventuality, hence the sad song. The march of time is a very constant theme of Hindi-Urdu songs: it could come in the shape of an unable-to-accept plaint as in this song, a more philosophical acceptance as in the song "zindagii kaa safar," or a more upbeat acceptance as in Kisna's "ham haiN is pal yahaaN."
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    Shouldn't there be an interrogative "where" (kahaaN) somewhere?
    As in:

    kahaaN ................................. phir.............. yah raat, ..........yah chaaNdnii?
    Where (will there) (ever?) ........again ... be ... this night, ........this moonshine?
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    Shouldn't there be an interrogative "where" (kahaaN) somewhere?
    As in:

    kahaaN ................................. phir.............. yah raat, ..........yah chaaNdnii?
    Where (will there) (ever?) ........again ... be ... this night, ........this moonshine?

    In the sentence "kahaaN aisaa hone vaalaa hai!", does "kahaaN" mean the English "where"?
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Though I agree with @Qureshpor jii's general meaning, and though in general I defer to his wonderful grasp on Urdu poetry and its meanings, I still would not agree with him completely here, because for me there is a difference between "will there again be such a night, such a moonlight" -- which is what the line is meaning for me -- and the much stronger "will there ever be this night ..."
    "phir" means "again" in general, and here it won't be a mistake to interpret it with its usual meaning.

    Also, I don't see the beloved asserting to her lover anywhere in the song that the like of this night (or that night, a night gone by) won't be seen again, or that it was a one-off event. Rather, the song is simply about pining: both the lovers sound a bit hopeless, indeed, but they are pining and wondering if there would be such a night, such a moment again in their lives together. That sad wondering does not mean that they are asserting that it's a one-off event: in fact, they haven't accepted such an eventuality, hence the sad song. The march of time is a very constant theme of Hindi-Urdu songs: it could come in the shape of an unable-to-accept plaint as in this song, a more philosophical acceptance as in the song "zindagii kaa safar," or a more upbeat acceptance as in Kisna's "ham haiN is pal yahaaN."
    littlepond Jii, if you ever take part in an Urdu literary forum, you will find that based on Urdu poetics, people interpret a poet's intentions in many different ways. Of course, not every interpretation may be valid or acceptable by everyone and what the poet had in mind may have been totally different, yet still this is one of the beauties of Urdu poetry. So, your view is equally correct as anyone else's.

    In Urdu poetry, the concepts of ambiguity and exaggeration along with other factors which we need not go into here, play an important part. There is no ambiguity in Sahir's lines and one can translate them literally. Where then lies the additional beauty in the poetry if exaggeration is not infused into it?

    In his renowned nazm, "mujh se pahlii sii muHabbat mirii maHbuub nah maaNg", Faiz wrote:

    terii suurat se hai 3aalam meN baharooN ko sabaat
    terii aaNkhoN ke sivaa dunyaa meN rakhaa kyaa hai

    Spring has its permanence due to your countenance
    What is there in this world apart from your eyes?

    Well, there are a billion and one things in this world more beautiful than Faiz's beloved's eyes! But, for the poet, there is nothing more beautiful than her eyes. If it were n't for his beloved, the spring's duration would be as long as it lasts but with his beloved's presence, it will be spring all the year round and for ever!

    With this in mind, one reads in the additional exaggeration factor. Even if the two lovers were together the day before (which is still in a past time), this night which happens to be a moonlit night, is the night when he should be with her. But he is n't and for her, there will perhaps never be another such night! It is now or never for him to come and listen to the tails of love she wants to recount to him.

    There is no doubt padding in my translation which anyone will know is not a literal translation. She is not going to tell him everything in five minutes. She will want the whole night ....hence "bit by bit" which I have rhymed with "lit".

    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN = yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kab [aa'e gii] > yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kabhii aa'e gii bhii?

    The lines that follow reinforce my interpretation I believe.

    chaaNdnii raateN pyaar kii baateN kho ga'iiN jaane kahaaN
    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN, sun jaa dil kii daastaaN

    aatii hai sadaa terii TuuTe hu'e taaroN se
    aahaT terii suntii huuN xaamosh nazaaroN se
    bhiigii havaa umDii ghaTaa, kahtii hai terii kahaanii
    tere liye be-chain hai shu3loN meN lipTii javaanii
    siine meN bal khaa rahaa hai dhu'aaN, sun jaa dil kii daastaaN
    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN, sun jaa dil kii daastaaN

    chaaNdnii raateN pyaar kii baateN, kho ga'iiN jaane kahaaN

    lahroN ke laboN par haiN kho'e hu'e afsaane
    gulzaar ummiidoN ke sab ho ga'e viiraane
    teraa pataa pa'uuN kahaaN suune haiN saare Thikaane
    jaane kahaaN gum ho ga'e, jaa ke vuh *agle* zamaane

    barbaad hai aarzuu kaa jahaaN, sun jaa dil kii daastaaN
     
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    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    I completely agree with you, Qureshpor jii, regarding the importance of infusing some exaggeration into poetry (not exclusive to Urdu poetry), and also that most poems worth their salt would have different interpretations for different people. However, in Faiz's poem that you've quoted, the so-called exaggeration (which I would prefer to say as the intensity of the poet's emotion) is in the poem itself, and you've faithfully (and wonderfully) reproduced it in your translation. In Sahir's poem in the OP and in your subsequent post, I believed that you've introduced, in your translation, an element that I've not seen in the original: however, as you say, you may be interpreting it with that additional element, and of course any poem speaks differently to different person.
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    I don't know.
    Where (would) such a prospective (groom) be (found)?

    :) I'm very amused. I suppose your translation technically works, but this probably isn't what most people would understand @littlepond jii's sentence to mean by default.

    kahaaN is sometimes used to pose rhetorical questions where the understood answer could be "nowhere," but it could also be something like "never" or "no way." @littlepond jii's sentence would mean something like, "Would such a thing ever happen?!" but it's a rhetorical question, and the semantics would be clearer if we said that it means "Nothing like this would ever happen!" For the lyrics in the OP (ye raat ye chaandnii phir kahaaN), it might help to append a hogii at the end of the line to make it clearer how it's posing the rhetorical question, "Will such a night, such moonlight, ever happen again?"
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    :) I'm very amused. I suppose your translation technically works, but this probably isn't what most people would understand @littlepond jii's sentence to mean by default.

    kahaaN is sometimes used to pose rhetorical questions where the understood answer could be "nowhere," but it could also be something like "never" or "no way." @littlepond jii's sentence would mean something like, "Would such a thing ever happen?!" but it's a rhetorical question, and the semantics would be clearer if we said that it means "Nothing like this would ever happen!" For the lyrics in the OP (ye raat ye chaandnii phir kahaaN), it might help to append a hogii at the end of the line to make it clearer how it's posing the rhetorical question, "Will such a night, such moonlight, ever happen again?"
    "kahaaN aisaa hone vaalaa hai", could in theory be understood in four ways.

    a) Where is such a thing going to happen?

    b) When is such a thing going to happen?

    c) Is such a thing (ever) going to happen?

    d) Such a thing is not/never going to happen!

    With regard to "yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN", I have expressed similar views in the following.

    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN = yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kab [aa'e gii]? > yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kabhii aa'e gii bhii?
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Interestingly, in Hemant Kumar's segment of the song, the lover sings the song, while it seems, the beloved is within hearing distance of him!

    yih raat yih chaaNdnii phir kahaaN, sun jaa dil kii daastaaN

    peRoN kii shaaxoN pih so'ii so'ii chaaNdnii
    tere xayaaloN meN kho'ii kho'ii chaaNdnii
    aur thoRii der meN thak ke lauT jaa'e gii
    raat yih bahaar kii phir kabhii nah aa'e gii

    do ek pal aur hai yih samaaN, sun jaa dil kii daastaaN
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    I didn't watch the movie and don't want to spoil it.
    But the song in question is played repeatedly, it has a male version played by Tony, and a female version played by Maria. The female version occurs later, while Maria is alone.
    However, even during Maria's singing, the "yah raat ... phir kahaaN" part is always a replay of the previously recorded Tony voice, as if being remembered.

    All of it reinforces the idea that the "raat" was unique, unrepeatable.
     
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