Every Hindi film music aficionado knows about the greatness of this man named Sampooran Singh Kalra aka Gulzar. We have all heard his famous songs a thousand times now, such as: “Tere bina zindagi se” from Aandhi, “Hazaar Rahen” from Thodisi Bewafayee, “Mera kuch saaman” from Ijaazat, or “Kajra re” from Bunty aur Babli. This series is about those lesser known songs penned by this master poet.
Movie: Pinjar (2003)
Music Director: Uttam Singh
Singer: Roop Kumar Rathod, Uttam Singh

This song is about the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. It brings the ethos, angst and pain of the suffering caused by the separation from one’s own land. Gulzar himself has been the witness of the horrifying events of the partition (he was born in the Jhelum district currently in Pakistan) and has penned many poems on this subject that had left many lives on both sides permanently scarred. I could not find the original video of the song. Here’s one for your listening:

vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve
vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve

batt gaye tere aangan, bujh gaye chhulhe saanjhe,
lut gayee teri heeren, marr gaye tere raanjhe

vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve!
vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve!

kaun tujhe paani poochega faslein seenchega?
kaun teri maati mein thandee chaoon beejega?
bairee kaat ke le gaye teriya thandiyan chawaan ve…

vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve
vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve

Hum na rahe toh kaun basayega tera viraana?
mud ke hum na dekhenge aur tu bhi yaad na aana
getee kanche baant ke kar lee kar lee kutti, vatna ve

vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve
vatna ve oh meriya vatna ve

This song is addressed to one’s country in first person singular – ‘Vatna ve’.

“Kaun tujhe paani poochega faslein seenchega”
– Who will ask you if you are thirsty and need water, who will water your crops
“Kaun teri maati mein thandee chaoon beejega”
– Who will sow the cool calming shades in your soil.

Gulzar (and most poets) personifies inanimate and abstract objects, in this case it’s the nation and its farmlands that he is directly addressing to. The consequence of the action is romanticized beautifully in the second and third line. He talks of sowing cool shades in the fertile soil, which is essentially the result of sowing a seed of a tree that provides it.
The third line is the one that comes as direct result of the devastation that the partition was:
“bairee kaant ke le gayee teriya thandiyaa chawaan ve, vatna ve”
– “Those wretched people slashed away your cool shades”
The “cool shades” represents a lot of things here: a home, the warmth of family and friends, and the peaceful life that’s now in the past.

This three line form of poetry is called “Triveni”. Gulzar makes extensive use of this format in his poems and songs.
In his own words: The Triveni sangam at Prayag (Benares) is of three rivers, Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati. Ganga and Jamuna are the physical rivers and Saraswati is the mythological meta-physical river that makes the Sangam a “Triveni”. This third metaphysical presence adds a whole new dimension to the Sangam. Similarly, in the “Triveni” style of poetry the third line changes the perspective and adds a new dimension (ek naya pehloo) to the first two lines. The first two lines in itself make a complete poem (sher), but it’s the third line that changes the course of the poem and gives to way to possibilities and thoughts to the first two lines.