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Mera Kuch Samaan – in English

It seems RDB was quite upset with Gulzar when he first showed him the lyrics of the song “Mera Kuch Samaan”. Looking at the abstract collection of thoughts and words, and the complete absence of rhyme and refrain, made him say “What is this? Tomorrow you will bring The Times of India and ask me to make a song out of it!”

The song was made anyway and now has the status of an undisputed classic. The poetry is vivid, evocative and conversational.

Translating any form of literature, but poetry in particular, is always difficult, often thankless, and sometimes even hazardous. Poetry is about nuance. And nuance is generally rooted in language. And yet we must try. Because there’s both joy and justice in attempting to acquaint people who don’t understand the language in which the poem is written with what the poet is trying to say in a language they understand. It is worth the effort. Even if the effort is inherently sub-optimal.

My own efforts at translation are inspired by Papa of course who tirelessly translated literature from Rajasthani to English – bringing joy to many readers and enhancing their understanding of Rajasthani culture.

So after this crazily long preamble, here’s my attempt at translating Gulzar’s “Mera Kuch Samaan” into English. Let me know what you think of it.


There’s some stuff of mine

That’s still with you

Some drizzly days

Are kept somewhere

And a night wrapped in my letter

Is lying around

Can you put that night out?

And return my things


Feels kind of Autumnal, right?

Last Autumn I wore once

The soft sound of falling leaves

In my ears

That Last Leaf is still trembling

Let it go

And return my things


Sharing one umbrella

When we were both half-drenched

Half-dry Half-wet

The half-dry bit I’d taken with me

My soaked heart though

Is probably next to the bed

Send that across

Return my things


A hundred sixteen moonlit nights

That mole on your shoulder

The fresh fragrance of henna

I should also remind you

Of all the fake quibbles

And the fake promises

Send all of it

Return my things


Give me your permission

Will you?

When I bury all of these

Right there

I too will end




Translating Hosh Walon Ko Khabar Kya

Translating literature from one language to another is such a tough ask! My father, Sh Shyam Mathur, is an award-winning translator and he speaks a lot about a core dilemma that translators face: stay faithful to metaphors / similies (which are so rooted in language and culture, and thus might sound totally weird in the other language) or take the translator’s license and play around with the words a bit to keep the emotion intact.

With Dr Amrita Das gaining her PhD last week (in great style, I might add), I have been in a ghazal zone. So here I have tried to translate Nida Fazli’s ghazal “hosh walon ko KHabar kya” as featured in the movie Sarfarosh. An interesting challenge – mainly stemming from the need to keep the Ghazal’s syntax in place. I try to stay faithful to the words but sometimes I take the liberty to play with the words a bit to preserve the emotion.

You’re sober. You don’t know what this dance is all about.
Be in love, my friend, to feel what this trance is all about.

We locked eyes once and my whole world lit up
Oh what wizardry their glance is all about!

This life is a poem when they wear their hair loose
Their eyes – so shy! – tell us what romance is all about

Couldn’t bring to my lips what was in my heart, “Nida”
And they couldn’t figure …what silence is all about

एक ग़ज़ल

अंदर की आवाज़ सी रहती है
वो अनोखे अन्दाज़ सी रहती है

ढूँढता रहता हूँ ज़मीन पे उसको
वो किसी फ़राज़ सी रहती है

उसके ख़त खोले नहीं जाते
वो अनखुली दराज़ सी रहती है

कैसा ये गीत है रात गुनगुनाती
वो अनछुए साज़ सी रहती है

सब मनाते रहते हैं उसको
वो सबसे नाराज़ सी रहती है

मुझे कुछ मालूम नहीं ‘अपूर्व’
ये ज़िन्दगी राज़ सी रहती है

(जून २०२०)

मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

छीना है जिन्होंने अमन तेरा
उनमें मैं भी शामिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

हूँ बेशक तेरा गुनहगार
तेरी ख़ुशियों का क़ातिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

थोड़ा सा सफ़िस्टिकेटेड
और बहुत ही जाहिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

ज़रा भी दिमाग़ नहीं है
मैं बस पूरा दिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

ना तेरी दोस्ती
ना प्यार के क़ाबिल हूँ
मैं मेरी ग़लतियों का हासिल हूँ

Train to Belgium – a short story

I was on my way to Belgium on a hurriedly-arranged business trip. Everything had to be organized last-minute so I couldn’t get a seat on the Thalys (fast train). I found myself on an Intercity train taking a rather long route due to construction work on the tracks.

At Breda, I was joined by an interesting group. A man of about 40 with his parents and his little son of around 2 years. The toddler was very excited to be in a train and immediately claimed the window seat opposite me. They were off to the Antwerp zoo as part of a group discount ticket from NS (the train company). The little one’s mum was at work – I was informed.

My travel companions were pleased with my broken attempts at speaking Dutch, and seemed to have decided that I was acceptable company despite being from (“pretentious” and “weird”) Amsterdam. The toddler had big, expressive eyes and couldn’t stop smiling at me while making cute but incomprehensible attempts at engaging me in a conversation.

Those who know me well do understand that I tend to get hungry every 45 minutes or so. So it wasn’t long before I extracted from my bag a large triple chocolate cookie – with the diameter of a small pizza and probably containing about 5000 calories.

The little kid was fascinated by the cookie and kept looking at me point blank as I worked my way through it. At some point my instinct to share kicked in and I instinctively asked the father “Can he have a little piece?”

I regretted my words as soon as they left my lips. The atmosphere turned heavy and a nervous silence ensued. The father’s face first showed irritation, and then graduated to absolute horror. Sharing of food among strangers is not at all common in The Netherlands. On top of that, what I’d offered the kid was a sugar bomb (as against, say, a mandarin or a small raisin bun).

Before he could answer I quickly said “Or maybe not – this has so much sugar!”. “Yes, therefore it’s not a good idea”, the father replied. His son looked confused and very distressed.

As the dad and I were negotiating the awkward silence that followed, the child’s grandmother calmly opened the zipper of her travel bag, pulled out a packet of Dora biscuits, and handed the kid a small treat he was familiar with.

The twinkle in the child’s eye was back. Life returned to our little train compartment. The Dad got his heart rate down. The grandfather, once again, started looking into the distance with a sense of satisfaction. The grandmother smiled. All was well with the world again.

I finally exhaled.

Forget me forever

It occurred to me
As I read
Your message on Whatsapp
That I no longer
Depend on your approval
Or admiration
You are deep
In your inebriated meanness
I don’t have to
Drown with you.

Do me a favor
And forget me forever
Don’t be jealous
Or be fake-proud of me
Even if we need
To get to the same place
We don’t have to arrive
At the same time
And I’m absolutely fine
Taking a longer route.

Outline for a music video

I haven’t watched the movie ‘Meri Pyaari Bindu’ so I’m not sure how the song’s visuals (Maana Ke Hum Yaar Nahin) fit into the movie. However, in my head I’ve been thinking about a late 90’s / early 2000’s – style music video for this song (which could also double-up as a nice, long advertisement for Emirates Airlines) whose outline I’d like to share with you.

Scene 1: Early morning at the New Delhi airport. As they are collecting their bags from the scanner belt at security, a woman in her mid-thirties (played by Katrina Kaif) bumps into a man in his mid-thirties (played by Ranbir Kapoor) It seems they know each other. There’s awkwardness, half-smiles and polite greetings are exchanged.

(A little side-note here. I really struggled with the casting of the main characters. In the end I asked myself: “What would Yash do?”)

Scene 2: They realize they’re on the same flight (to Dubai), and start walking towards the gate. Katrina is wearing expensive preppy clothes. She has a big, black Kate Spade bag with her. Ranbir is wearing a button-down shirt with jeans. He has a “normal” laptop bag with him. It turns out after a bit that Katrina is traveling business class so she hesitantly excuses herself at one point to enter the special lounge. Ranbir takes a deep breath.

Scene 3: Katrina is nicely settled in the lounge – sipping on coffee and looking at some slides on her iPad. Ranbir is enjoying an ice-cream as he types away a few emails on his laptop. This is when the flashback vignettes start – how they met in college, how they worked together on presentations, how they were a good team.

(Side-note: Scene 3 is a gift to all you marketing folks out there seeking product-placement opportunities!)

Scene 4: On the plane now – in their respective seats in the different parts of the aircraft. Flashback to the fun times they had together in the college canteen as food is served on the plane. Katrina is thinking of the time she spilt ketchup on her white lucknowi kurta. Startled, she checks if she’s dropped food on her clothes. She hasn’t!

Scene 5: Out of Dubai airport and in their respective hotels now getting dressed for work. It’s getting intense and the flashbacks are imposing now. The hotel room(s) take them back to their intimate moments during the college offsite. But this is immediately followed by flashes of the misunderstanding, the fight, and the fallout.

Scene 6: Of course they end up in the same meeting! Katrina is in a deep turquoise business outfit while Ranbir is in a dark grey suit and a (surprise surprise!) turquoise silk tie. Katrina and her junior colleague (yes you guessed it – Pakistani actor Fawad Khan) are pitching for business to Ranbir and his boss (I’m thinking Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki) somewhere high up in the Burj Khalifa. There are nervous little mistakes and there is uncomfortable eye-contact. The atmosphere is heavy. And beautiful.

(OK. A little pause here. How do we close this? I’ve come up with two ways to end the video. Let me know which one you like more, OK?)

Final scene (the Bollywood version): Katrina and her firm are hired to do the project. Ranbir is the project lead from the client side. Over time, they get their friendship back. Then one day, in an email titled ‘Project Status’, Ranbir sends Katrina a picture of a diamond ring 💍 as an attachment.

Final scene (the O Henry version): Nadine is very happy with the meeting and Fawad is also excited about the project. On their way back to the airport, from their respective cars, Katrina and Ranbir both leave voicemail messages for Nadine. Katrina tells her that she’s withdrawing her firm from the selection process. Ranbir informs her that he won’t be able to work on this project.

Say something

My friend

You are so quiet


As you




Your privilege


Please know

There’s no happiness

On our planet

Without justice



If you accept violence

(Or derive happiness from it!)

One day

(In the not so distant future!)


Will be subject to it


Your sweet ambrosia

Of personal happiness

Will taste awful

With the stench of misery

All around you


There’s time

There’s (almost) always time

Say something

Say something

Because your voice

Is usually heard


If you are silent

In despair

Say something

If you are silent

Because you’re complicit

Say something.

This year

In much fluster did my time pass this year

I saw as half-empty my glass this year


Much to their chagrin they caught me smiling

My frivolities left me en-masse this year


You probably ran into some cold souls too

We’ll see them again at the Midnight Mass this year


Some let me down and I was betrayed by some

Should’ve spent more time with Amrita Das this year


Bitterness can make one lazy as hell

I spent summer lying on the grass this year


What do we say of the world we live in

I watched gold turn to brass this year


Are you broken? You didn’t even write, Apoorva

A poem for Sinterklaas this year

मेरा साथी

मेरे साथी ने हसीं बाग़ को कुछ वीरान बना डाला

जो महज़ आदमी थे उन्हें हिन्दू, मुसलमान बना डाला


कुछ यूँ बुनी इस मुल्क़ की एक नयी हक़ीक़त उसने

जो सदियों मेज़बान थे, उन्हें मेहमान बना डाला


हम तलक तब पहुँचतीं थीं बस प्यार ही की बातें

अब बहन को बहन की नफरत का सामान बना डाला


मैं ये नहीं कहता कि पहले ऐब न थे वतन में

पर हालात ने इन्हें मौत का फरमान बना डाला


हालात-ए-क़ौम को देख कर क्या मुस्काएंगे मेरे ख़्वाजा

मेरे खोटे-से सच को भी अरमान बना डाला


मगर तुम्हें इससे क्या? तुम तो परदेस बस गए ‘अपूर्व’

ये कैसी चोट है जिसने तुम्हें इंसान बना डाला?