Say Hi to Heer. It’s in English now

After gathering dust for over 35 years, late S.N. Dar’s English rendition of Waris Shah’s epic Heer has finally found the printer’s mark. This is for the first time that the complete text of Waris Shah’s monumental poem has been translated into English. The work will bring the rural magnificence of Punjab and the ultimate love story to a global audience now, says Ashwini Bhatnagar

A few attempts have been made to render Waris Shah’s Heer-Ranjha into English and none of them could engage the reader sufficiently. Sant Singh Sekhon’s translation was published in 1978. It is clearly an uninspired effort which lacked fidelity to the spirit and soul of the original verse. Sekhon was apparently rendering into another tongue the dead letter of Waris Shah’s heart-wrenching poem.

Another translation of the love-legend was attempted by Richard Temple but it was not Waris Shah’s Heer but the story as narrated by “some jatts of Patiala State.” The translation in verse had appeared sometime early last century. Charles Frederick Usborne’s narration of “The Adventures of Heer and Ranjha—Recounted in Punjabi by Waris Shah” follows the original text carefully and is used the world over as standard text on this poem. However, Usborne (died 1919) did not venture into verse. His translation is in prose. There are some other attempts too but they stop at transliteration of Shah’s magnum opus.

The problem with translating verse into another tongue is that the nuances of original metaphors, idioms or phrases are invariably lost and the earthy appeal of the work at hand is crudely mixed up with ambience of another language. The translator has the unenviable task of transplanting expressions and phrases from a foreign tongue in place of the native usage and in doing so compromises with the spirit and, many a time, meaning of the original verse. This is especially true in case of complex texts whose literal meaning is different from the lateral connotations that the poet has in mind.

But S.N. Dar’s rendition of Heer has the translator’s fidelity to Waris Shah’s original composition and it is with ease that he creates the ambience for an English reader to get under the skin of this “rustic epic of the Punjab.” Sample a verse to have a feel of the rural heartland of Punjab:

Heer’s lament

“As Heer did set her faltering feet

Upon the dhooly’s bed, her cries

Did echo through the solitude

Of the surrounding earth and skies.

The farmer heard the passing screams

In far off fields beyond the streams,

And stopped his work to breathe a sigh

In consort with each doleful cry…

… …. …

My game of love is at an end;

No more shall I come back for play.

A captive withered with dismay

In Saida’s house, I’ll moan and rend

The air with my distressing cries.

Behold I leave my childhood’s home,

Renouncing all emotional ties

And worldly fortunes, through the loam.

See the four corners of my scarf

Are empty. Lo there is no gold,

No jewellery, not even half

A coin tucked in between its fold.

I find no pleasure and no pride

In the pretensions of a bride.”

“Lo! In the courtyard of the house

Are seen mud-plastered troughs of cows,

Hoof-marks and dips and ruts galore

On an uneven dusty floor,

Which bring to mind the vast array

Of carts and herds of cattle (bay

And black) by whom it has been trod.

The rooms commodious and broad

Disclose a medley trim of bare

And painted pots and earthenware.

Odd wooden swabs and scrapers mix

With glossy unused churning-sticks

On wall pegs. Scarlet quilts and sheets

And silken wraps and cotton seats

On hangers are displayed…..

The rural scene has been so vividly and effortlessly versified in a foreign tongue that one cannot but help marvel at Dar’s art. It seems Waris Shah himself is singing his song through the medium of the translator and Dar’s rendition is as lyrical as the original verse while it misses nothing of the detail.

Waris Shah’s task, though of a grand sweep and vision, was perhaps lighter than that of Dar’s. The artist lived during those times and sang the song as it came to him naturally and spontaneously. His images, metaphors and turns of phrases were the outcome of years of living in his own environment and the ‘feel’ of the land was native to him. Of course, the genius of Waris Shah lay in working with the material and forging it into a seamless whole which spun from one evocative song to another. His work therefore stands out as a priceless literary legacy though the story that he recounted had been in vogue two centuries before he was born. A Hindu poet, Damodar, who claimed to be a witness to the ill-starred lives of Heer-Ranjha, had composed Heer di Var during Emperor Akbar’s reign. Another dozen poets or so sang of the unrequited love thereafter but it was Waris Shah who made Heer into a Punjabi classic.

Apart from the literary merit of the long narrative in verse, Waris Shah’s Heer meticulously documents anthropological details of that era, its fauna and flora, its science and arts and its language and customs. It is verily a mine of information for scholars from different spheres of specialisation.

The information is woven into the text and is its life breath. Any tinkering with it takes away much of the charm of Waris Shah’s composition, if not its soul. The pastoral expanse wherein the tragedy of the two lovers unfolds is barren without these local references whose unique earthy flavour gives the narrative its special appeal. For example, the poet mentions in detail the types of sweetmeats that were prepared for Heer’s wedding. Another instance is who wore what during the rituals.

Translating such detail with elegance and style is a good translator’s dream job and a nightmare for the lesser ones. Dar, as a full perusal of the work will prove, has more than fulfilled the requirement of being a master at his job. A reading of the pastoral renderings in their English version bring to mind the easy touch that the old masters of the language had when they painted word pictures of England’s rural heartland. Dar’s translation of a very rustic poem, replete with its archaic Punjabi words, phrases, invectives and endearments, loses nothing of its earthiness. It rather sings its song in an elegant and lyrical English voice.

Perhaps the most quoted and sung passages from Waris Shah’s epic are those that relate to the Heer’s departure from her father’s house in the bridal litter. Heer’s heart-wrenching cry at being forced into marriage and her sense of loss of home and her lover were poignantly captured by Waris Shah. Whenever these passages are sung or recited they never fail to pull at the heart strings of the audience. The pathos is supremely and most lyrically captured in Shah’s work and it is faithfully communicated by Dar in his translation. It evokes the same images and feelings as the original work does and is never short on lyricism. It seems that he assimilated the feeling, imbibed the spirit and then sung his heart out a la Waris Shah, albeit in a different tongue.

Waris Shah’s long poem is chiefly known for its soul-stirring laments of the lovers, their passionate pinning for each other and their pathetic hopelessness. Given the mood of the story, Waris Shah consciously chose the classical dohara metre for its telling. The metre is made up of a series of stanzas which have a varying number of couplets. Every stanza has a uniform rhyme of its own which is used at the end of each line of its couplets. The rhythm of the metre is a rising one and the couplets are sung in prolonged notes. The structure of the verse is well-suited to convey the full extent of a lament as it mimics a human cry which starts as a sob and ends as a wail.

Another surprising aspect is that Dar achieved a remarkable fluency over a difficult text, with its nuances and very Punjabi core, in just 17 months. He started the translation on April 1, 1966 and completed it on September 7, 1967. His engagement with the love legend and its writer, therefore, can be said to be intense and all-consuming, and as the verses flow in English, they seem to be born out of a natural artistic repose. No where does the exercise appear laboured. Rather, his effort flows like pristine water from a cataract.

Dar died in 1971 at the age of 69. He was a bureaucrat with Defence Audit and Accounts Services. The masterly translation of Heer was his last offering for which he could not find a publisher. The manuscript lay in a corner of a dusty cupboard for over 35 years. Every work has its own destiny and Dar’s recounting of the traumatic love-game of Heer-Ranjha now fulfills its fate through the scent of printer’s ink.

Waris Shah completed his re-telling in 1770. Nearly 200 years later (a strange coincidence for Damodar too wrote Heer di Var about two centuries before Waris Shah), Dar rendered the legend in his own immaculate style in an international language thereby bringing the beauty and the power of this love-tragedy to global audiences. Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubbayiat made Omar Khayyam a household name across the world. Dar’s effort too is similarly destined. The song of Heer will move and enthrall like no other in recent history. It is a classic that has at last been retold classically.



Meditation keeps stress away
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Meditation is overtaking money as a priority for those not so-young new age professionals of the Doaba region. Exhausted by the long race for material bliss have set them on a voyage for peace of mind.

Though, these professionals and businessmen have touched heights in their respective fields, but, what has eventually driven or is driving them to spirituality is lack of peace and serenity of mind. Of late, they have realized that the happiness or for that matter ‘eternal bliss’ did not lay entirely in monetary gains, property or top slots in their profession, but, it has to ‘come from within’. Result-they have jumped into realm of meditation like millions of people like them across the country. Not only that they have become recluse or have shunned everything for the attainment of ‘eternal bliss’, but, they found ways and means to remain away from day to day tensions and stresses and have become more ‘calmer’ than ever in the past. Most of them strictly follow the ‘yoga-medidation’ route being propogated by new age spiritual gurus and guides ranging from Deepak Chopra, to Sri Sri and even others. If some have gone ahead by devising their own ‘spiritual healing techniques,’ some others are busy assimilating discourses from CDs, VCDs and books of prominent and not so prominent spiritual leaders.

“I have seen everything in life and have realized that money can give you happiness up to a short limit and it comes with its in-built demerits and blemishes Beyond a point after that you have to know yourself. Who you are? And why you are doing all this? Why the God almighty have selected you for this role. For finding answers to these questions you have to meditate. You have to grill yourself and your inner-self in a very very gentle and soothing way. It is a difficult way and it has so many distractions. I think you only get spiritual inclination if you are hand-picked by the Lord. You stumble upon this awakening only at that point when God selects you.

I also presume that genetics also plays a role and a certain age you get pushed for an upward flight. I was and still am very happy with my profession. My life changed with the death of my father in 1985 when I was a third year student at the Amritsar Medical College and I was face to face with realities of life. Since he was the only bread-winner of the family, I had a lot of hardships gazing at me face to face. I had to study hard and to stay afloat by flashing a false smile. All these hardships and ironies of life eventually turned out to be a base for my spiritual leanings,” said Dr. Anirudh Kapoor, 43 and a well-established radiologist of the city. Now, Dr. Kapoor spares about two hours each day for his meditation.

For Mr. Rajesh Gupta, a financial and investment consultant and the head of the Fairdeal Telecom and Fairdeal Stock brokers, spirituality is a way of life. Author of five books on computers, telecom, office automatin, securities, Mr. Gupta has already penned down , “The Art of Dying”, a book on spirituality and meditation. “ Even as I have had spiritual leanings from the age of 14-15 years, when, I used to serve and listen to discourses of visiting ‘Sadhus’ in Jalandhar cantonment, but, I grew into a spiritual and meditation practitioner only when I reached my late twenties and when I realized that the real happiness does not lie in acquiring monetary gains. “It helps me overcome stresses coming from profession and life. Now meditation has become a part of life. Not only that I keep visiting saints of the region to listen to their views, but, I also practice ‘Pranayama’ daily,” said Rajesh Gupta, who, has also been organizing shows of Sri Sri in the city.

Similarly, Rakesh Suri, a producer with the Jalandhar Doordarshan Kendra and Naresh Vij, an Indian Information Service officer presently posted with the Army as the Defence PRO, find solace in meditation coupled with ‘yogic’exercises. While Vij performs yoga through excercises like, “Anulom Vinlom’ and ‘Kapal Bhati’, Mr. Suri does “Pranyama” on a regular basis. “Besides, I am a follower of Guru Sudarshan Ji, who, does a lots of social work along with his followers. This is my way of keeping stress at bay,” said Mr. Suri.



NRI Sabha meeting
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

The NRI Sabha, Punjab, is planning its forthcoming general meeting on February 25 at Guru Nanak Dev District Library here with a clear agenda to amend the constitution so as to reduce interference of bureaucracy into the NGO’s affairs. However sabha chairman and NRI commissioner N.S. Kalsi has no information about the meeting. Conventionaly, the sabha meetings are presided over by its patron. But the meeting has been so timed that none of the two patrons Amarjit Singh Samra and Avtar Henry, or the chief patron Amarinder Singh would not be able to attend it.

The meeting is being organised after a gap of four years. No invites have been sent to its over 5458 members. The message has been sent through press notes to the offices of newspapers here and NRI magazines abroad, said sabha president Resham Singh Hayre. Since most NRIs have gone back by now, the meeting is likely to be attended by less than 200 members who have been around.

Also, in case the NRIs interested in coming down to attend the meeting, they would not be able to do so in 10 days. The sabha president says that at least the members putting up locally at this time or their nominees could attend the meeting .

Mr Hayre said that he was being forced to convene the meeting as he was absolutely divested of powers for the last one year. He said that he was neither authorised to make any appointment or raise their emoluments without taking a prior permission from Mr Kalsi. He said that he could also not spend a penny the NRI Commissioner permission.



Illegal taxi stands dot Phagwara
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

After snazzy cars illegal taxi stands have mushroomed along the Phagwara roads. These illegal structures have come up at a dozen corners in the city.

While the owners of these taxi stands term the practice of allotting separate lands for the purpose like what was done in the past as the need of the hour, the authorities here say that this could not be done.

There are around 20 taxi stands along the National Highway forming the heart line of the city. The taxi owners encroach upon any vacant corner or parking space for the purpose. As many as 400 cars are being used as taxis. The illegal taxi stands can be seen at all the major chowks like the Hoshiarpur Road, Sugar Mills Chowk, Hargobind Nagar, Model Town, near the Bus Stand.

Harpreet Singh, a taxi owner, rues that the authorities had given land for parking to hotels but not for taxi stands. The taxi owners are ready to pay reasonable rent for taxi stands, which could be set up inside the bigger parking spaces, he adds.

However, the authorities say that the modalities have to be worked out, as a majority of taxi owners do not approach them for permission for taxi stands. On the other hand, taxi stand owners say that the talks with the Phagwara Nagar Council authorities over the demand for land allotment have been going on since 1992, but no headway has been achieved so far.

Interestingly, Jalandhar Plus team found that most of the taxis were allegedly plying without paying the mandatory tax, thus, causing huge losses to the state exchequer. Sources say vehicles parked at such stands had neither the number plates painted in yellow nor was the word ‘taxi’ inscribed on these commercial vehicles.

The stands have cars like tempo traveler, Qualis, Scorpio, Innova, Indica, Sumo, Travera. The authorities say that the taxi stand owners do not want to get registered.

Denying the charges, the owners say it is a matter of survival for them as they have taken loans to run the business. Joga Singh, a taxi owner, says that they were asked to park taxis at spots outside the city rather than at the major spots in the city.



Just a thought
They died without knowing why
R. Jaikrishan

Those who got killed in the Samjhauta Express on Tuesday evening were not just numbers, but human beings. Some of them had saved for years to undertake this journey to be with their brothers, sisters, nephews and aunts.

No one took aim at them. They weren’t killed by a bullet or a dagger. A faceless entity called Terrorist decided at some remote place that their blood was essential to wash out the thought process of peace at the government level. He achieved this by getting a bomb planted in their compartment.

It is quite possible among the killed might have been his own kin. For him even their death was another collateral damage. Those who had decided to torpedo the fragile peace didn’t mind their own flesh and blood getting caught in flames and dieing without knowing why.

I am not a peacenik who goes to the border on the eve of Independence. But I certainly feel like mourning the death of those killed. One wonders how many more such death are required to shake the indifference of people who gulp down such tragedies with draughts of morning tea ;who go about their quotidian ways as if nothing has happened

If it is them today, it could be me or you tomorrow. Our quiet today can take more lives tomorrow.

Those responsible for keeping peace move quietly along the narrow walk of their fortified bungalows with pruned hedges.

They marvel at the beauty of leafless poplar rows. Lest the unending mayhem damage the psyche of their children, they send them to foreign countries for ballet lessons.

Joseph Brodsky says:

“The night clubs reek of cheese, spices and spies.

Yet more neutral you are, the less you are finicky.

In places like this, one craves infinity with double intensity.

We, who suffer the pangs of exclusion, separation and loneliness, need not to wait for

the police, be it of India or Pakistan. If ever they come, they come late. Our life is our responsibility .We can protect it from faceless enemies, if we become responsible for the life and liberty of our fellow beings.

Earlier on, I used to pray for death before old age. Now that the age is catching on, I pray to terrorists to target me when I am old and infirm. They will have me as number, that is all they need, and the earth would be purged of my dead weight.

Jayakumar comes close to this scenario when he says:

Our windows couldn’t withstand the fury of gales

walls trembled and collapsed

earth heaved and cleaved

monsters buried long ago

erupted as dragons

with fiery eyes and smoky nostrils .

The city whispered in poisonous prophecies.



Young World
A young fashion show
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

The fashion designing students of Kanya Maha Vidyalaya put up a ramp show of their creations on Wednesday. Students came dressed up in single length sarees, ready-to-wear sarees, skirts, suits and childrenwear dyed, printed, designed, stitched and embellished by them with embroideries and stones. The students experimented with various dying techniques and conflicting contrasts for the show.

Gagandeep crosses the finishing line in the second heat of 200 mts during the annual athletic meet of Layalpur Khalsa college in Jalandhar
Gagandeep crosses the finishing line in the second heat of 200 mts during the annual athletic meet of Layalpur Khalsa college in Jalandhar on Thursday. — Photo by S.S. Chopra

Athletic meet

The annual athletic meet of Lyallpur Khalsa College was organised on Thursday in which students from all streams participated. Various events including 2 kms race, 400 mts race, shot put, long jump, three-leg race, sack race and spoon race were organised. Munish Tewari was declared the best athlete among boys with 12 points while Mandeep Kaur was declared the best athlete among girls with 20 points.

PTU volleyball

DAV Institute of Engineering and Technology (DAVIET) emerged as the winner of the PTU inter-college volleyball tournament in the men’s category that came to a draw here on Monday. The final match was played between DAVIET and College of Engineering and Management Kapurthala. The team of Baba Bhag Singh Institute of Engineering and Technology won the second runner up match. In the women final match held yesterday, Guru Nanak Engineering College defeated Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Engineering College, Fatehgarh Sahib. Rail Majra based RIET won the second runner up title. Mr Shiv Dev Singh, SP and Sports Secretary Punjab Police, was the chief guest at the valedictory function. He along with college director, Mr C.L. Kochher, felicitated the winning teams.

Sanskrit Shivir

Eklavya School celebrated a three-day Sanskrit Shivir which concluded on Wednesday. Primary section children participated in various activities like worksheets, class room and games. Class I and IV students chanted shlokas, the meanings of which were also narrated by the students. Class III children performed a dance in which they paid regards to Goddess Saraswati. On the musical beats, children of class II sang very beautifully a Sanskrit song, ‘Chatak-chatak’, in which they demonstrated the daily routine work of the sparrow. Small pieces of information regarding Sanskrit language were also shared by the teachers. To improve the Sanskrit vocabulary, various charts and flash cards were displayed in each and every corner of the school like fruits, vegetables, birds, animal names, relations and instruments.

Sports meet

The annual sports meet of MGN College of Education concluded on Wednesday. Gurkirat Pal Kaur was declared the best athlete among girls and Ravinder Singh won the best athlete title among boys. Students Dr Amit Kauts, principal, said that the event helped the students inculcate leadership qualities and sportsman spirit.


Students of Innocent Hearts School attended a talk on “How to become an emphatic human being”. The resource person, Dr Anirudh Kapoor, explained that all animals and birds sent across a message to people around them.



Spring carnival
Tribune News Service

Spring Carnival will be organised by Joy de vivre and Purnam at Windsor Hall in Hotel Radisson on February 24 and 25 in association with Prayas, an organisation for mentally disabled children run by the Red Cross, Jalandhar.

Divya Dhanda said that the carnival will have handicrafts from across the country. Trendy fashion clothing done tastefully in vivid colours, chic home accessories like candles, mats, silk flowers, home linen, furniture, handmade paper products, gift items, wraps and stoles, bags and tees, foodstuffs like cookies and brownies, olive oil and suparis. There is also the special attraction for kids in the origami section where the little ones will be kept entertained . A café will also be where everyone will be able to freshen up with mouthwatering delicacies. Amarjit Kaur, chairperson of Prayas, will inaugurate the carnival.



Mannat is Miss Apeejay
Tribune News Service

Mannat Bhatti was selected as Miss Apeejay Pre-Primary, while the title of Master Apeejay Pre-Primary went to Abhishek Chopra in the Miss and Master competition organised by Apeejay School.

Ms Ranjana Sud, Principal, and Ms Sushma Kharbanda, in-charge of the pre-primary wing, crowned the winners and presented bouquets to them.

‘Oscars’ for outstanding achievements and non-academic activities were also awarded.



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