Praise for My Books

"Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising in Punjab's literary horizon. She has an excellent command of English and a sly sense of humour."
- Khushwant Singh on The Long Walk Home

"An enjoyable tale of a sassy girl's headlong race up the corporate ladder."
- India Today on Earning the Laundry Stripes

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Matter of Black and White

Kis wal akheya wey Majnu nu,
O teri Laila disdi kaali wey!
Majnu ney jawaab ditta,
O teri akh na dekhan wali wey.

Je tu dekheyn meri akh naal
Teri surat na jaaye sambhaali wey!

Ved vi chitte te Quran vi chitti,
Vich siyahi rakh ditti kaali wey,
Ghulam Farid jitthe akhiyaan lagiyaan,
Otthe kya gori kya kaali we!

Artist Shri Vitthal Das Rathore

After a long time, I stumbled once again upon this gem of a poem when listening to Jagjit Singh. It is by Ghulam Farid,  a prolific and popular Sufi poet whose poetry in Punjabi and Saraiki is woven so well into the Punjabi idiom that very often we quote him without being aware of it. Much as with Baba Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah.

What I find so appealing about this poem and the others by the Punjabi poets is that hidden in that apparent simplicity is a wealth of wisdom - to comprehend which one only needs an open mind. For those of you unfamiliar with Punjabi, let me  attempt a translation.

Some context: The poem deals with the popular lovers Laila-Majnu where, as is well known, Laila was of a wheatish complexion. In a culture where beauty is often equated with fairness, the poet takes the popular trope of 'gori-chitti' beauty-benchmark and illustrates how beauty is everywhere - if only we were to open our mind.

Someone remarked to Majnu 
Your Laila is dark complexioned!
Which Majnu did respond to,
Only because her beauty your eye hasn't fathomed.

If you could see Laila with my eyes,
Overawed, you'd change the way you apprise.

Ved and Quran are nothing but white sheet,
Which, the black ink upon them does complete,
Ghulam Farid, in matters of the heart,
The distinction between black and white falls apart.

Beautiful, isn't it?


  1. Yes, beautiful indeed. Obviously if one understands pubjabi, the words in original convey so much more feelings than any translation could do!

  2. @sunil deepak: Translation of poetry is a prosaic business; done well, it hints at some understanding of the original - which is always the best!

  3. this is brilliant!! stunning!

  4. It sure is a very beautiful poem....I am not from Punjab or northern India...but there is so much romance and expression in the Punjabi language that I am sure someday I will learn it very well..Thanks for sharing!

  5. @ Mallika Baruah: Glad you liked it! And yes, Punjabi is a language of love and some fab poetry. You shall get there, girl!