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Film: Rahgir

Year: 1969

Singer and Music: Hemant Kumar

Lata Mangeshkar has famously said this about Hemant Kumar – “हेमंतदा की आवाज़ को सुनकर ऐसा लगता है जैसे मंदिर में बैठा कोई साधू गा रहा हो”

“Hemant da’s voice sounds like a monk singing in a temple”.

This spiritual, distant, and lonesome quality of his voice isn’t truer in any other song than this song from the 1969 film – Rahgir. (Loosely translated, “Rahgir” means a passer-by or a traveler).

Gulzar has penned a number of songs on the subject of “travelling and the traveller” – such as, “Musafir hoon yaaron” from Parichay and “Raah pe rehete hain” from Namkeen. For those, with a strong case of wanderlust and are lovers of Gulzar’s words, these songs speak to us in ways that is difficult to explain. In both the songs, there is the freedom and unrooted-ness of being an aimless traveler  -“musafir hoon yaaron, na ghar hai na thikana, mujhe chalte jaana hai”, “hum theher jaayein jahaan usko sheher karte hain..”, there is also the breezy carelessness of a fickle existence – “hawaa ke paron pe mera aashiyana” “udte pairon ke tale jab behti hai zameen, mudke humne koi manzil dekhi hi nahi”.

“Janam se banjaara” is also on similar themes. It is entirely possible, that the other two songs are a chronological continuation of this song, since Rahgir was released much earlier (1969) than Parichay (1972) and Namkeen (1982). But, here I make an assumption that Gulzar wrote these songs in the same year as the movies came out (trivia – both Parichay and Namkeen were written and directed by Gulzar). He repeats a number of words in all three songs – tinke, aashiyaane, subah, shaam, raat, namkeen!  However, there are subtle differences in the flavors of these songs. The Namkeen song is  about what he does in his travels, the Parichay song is about his condition of being a musafir, and the Rahgir song is about an attempt to explain the why of this nomadic existence. In this song, he claims that this nomadic quality isn’t an acquired trait, but something the he was born with. The opening line declares quite emphatically:

जनम से बंजारा हूँ बंधू जनम जनम बंजारा – (I am) a nomad by birth, (and will be) a nomad in all my lives..

The word “janam” is used in both the verb form – “to be born”, and the noun form – “life”. The second line then goes further to explain what this nomadic existence means:

कहीं कोई घर ना घाट ना अँगनारा  – (I) have no place to call a home! 

This line uses a common Hindi phrase “Na ghar ka na ghaat ka“, which means someone who is neither “here” nor “there”. It is generally used to hint at an useless and a hopeless existence. Gulzar adds a third word “anganaara” to this line – a poetic formation of the work “aangan” – the front-yard of a house. This word serves two purposes: alleviates the frivolous sentiment of “na ghar ka na ghaat ka” and completes the rhyme with “banjaara” from the previous line.

These first two lines on their own make it sound like the poet is wallowing in self-pity over his nomadic existence and the lack of having a home (with a yard). However, once we delve into the two stanzas, which are structured in the “triveni” format, we realize that this is no self-pity, but an attempt in describing this existence along with its joys and travesties.

जहां कहीं ठहर गया दिल हमने डाले डेरे : I camped wherever my heart decided to stay..

रात कहीं नमकीन मिली तो मीठे साँझ सवेरे : If I found a savory night I also found some sweet mornings and evenings..

Ugh! Namkeen literally translates to “salty/savory”, but the usage here is more sensual than that of the palate.  Note how beautifully, Gulzar describes the nomad’s (romantic) encounters without renegading them to one-night-stands. The escapades of the night are book-ended by the sweetness of the companionships of the evening before and the morning after.

In the second stanza, he delves into the fact that even the nomad is no stranger to falling in the “relationship” conundrum. However he must break away from them since that’s just his nature:

सोच ने जब करवट बदली शौक ने पर फैलाये

मैंने आशियाँ के तिनके सारे डाल से उड़ाए…

When (my) thoughts changed, and (my) likings spread their wings

I blew away the twigs of (my) nest from the tree branch….

कभी रिश्ते तोड़े नाते तोड़े छोड़ा कुल-किनारा….

I broke away all relations and bonds…I left my clan and my shores..

There is a lot that is lost in translation in the above lines. The core theme in these lines is the fact that he cannot be held down by any kind of a (long term) relationship, and as soon as he catches himself getting involved in one, he moves on. This may come across as intensely self-serving, but I look at it as someone whose inherent nature is to be un-grounded, so it’s futile to expect as such. An analogy I can think of is that of a lake, and a stream flowing downhill. Both comprise of water, but the nature of the water in each is polar opposite…one stays in a place, while another has to flow. It’s against the nature of a stream to just be (in one place).

Here are the complete lyrics:

जनम से बंजारा हूँ बंधू जनम जनम बंजारा,

कहीं कोई घर ना घाट ना अँगनारा…

जहां कहीं ठहर गया दिल हमने डाले डेरे

रात कहीं नमकीन मिली तो मीठे साँझ सवेरे

नगरी छोड़ी साहिल छोड़ा लिया मजधारा। ..हो बंधू रे….

कहीं कोई घर ना घाट ना अँगनारा ……

सोच ने जब करवट बदली शौक ने पर फैलाये

मैंने आशियाँ के तिनके सारे डाल से उड़ाए

कभी  रिश्ते तोड़े नाते तोड़े छोड़ा कुल-किनारा। …हो बंधू रे….