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poetry > spring 2016

कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?
महादेवी वर्मा

कौन मेरी कसक में नित
     मधुरता भरता अलक्षित?
कौन प्यासे लोचनों में
    घुमड़ घिर झरता अपरिचित?
    स्वर्ण स्वप्नों का चितेरा
       नींद के सूने निलय में!
          कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?

अनुसरण निश्वास मेरे
    कर रहे किसका निरन्तर?
चूमने पदचिन्ह किसके
    लौटते यह श्वास फिर फिर?
    कौन बन्दी कर मुझे अब
       बँध गया अपनी विजय मे?
          कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?

एक करुण अभाव चिर -
    तृप्ति का संसार संचित,
एक लघु क्षण दे रहा
    निर्वाण के वरदान शत-शत;
    पा लिया मैंने किसे इस
        वेदना के मधुर क्रय में?
          कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?

गूंजता उर में न जाने
    दूर के संगीत-सा क्या!
आज खो निज को मुझे
    खोया मिला विपरीत-सा क्या!
    क्या नहा आई विरह-निशि
        मिलन-मधदिन के उदय में?
          कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?

तिमिर-पारावार में
    आलोक-प्रतिमा है अकम्पित;
आज ज्वाला से बरसता
    क्यों मधुर घनसार सुरभित?
    सुन रही हूँ एक ही
        झंकार जीवन में, प्रलय में?
          कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?

मूक सुख-दुख कर रहे
    मेरा नया श्रृंगार-सा क्या?
झूम गर्वित स्वर्ग देता -
    नत धरा को प्यार-सा क्या?
    आज पुलकित सृष्टि क्या
        करने चली अभिसार लय में?
          कौन तुम मेरे हृदय में?

Who Are You in My Heart?

translated from Hindi by Shailly Pandey

Who are you in my heart?

What constant settles into my aching, 
Delicious, transcendent? 
Who creates luscious raindrops
From my parched eyes? 
The you of my gold dreams,
The you who left me stranded
In velvet torrents of deserted
blue sleep.
Who are you in my heart?

What does my breath unknowingly chase, 
Relentless, restless? 
Why does my breath command my lips to bow,
to press against the contours of footprints? 
Who, in trapping me now,
Has tripped and been caught? 
Who are you in my heart?

In the abundance of absence, 
This world hums with rightness. 
Even in a slight second, you lavish me
With each of nirvana’s boons. 
Who have I welcomed
In this honeyed-bargain of anguish? 
Who are you in my heart? 

I don’t understand what far-away harmony
thunders my heart-strings,
But in surrendering the reality of my ego,
I have found a kind of opposite.  
Has sorrow-night already washed
In the midday’s meeting-light?
Who are you in my heart? 

In what continues of darkness,
One idol of light refuses to flicker.
Fire stretches down its fingers today,
Burning my world divine.
And I hear a midnight sound
In decay and in life. 
Who are you in my heart?

How do mute joy and mute grief
Nestle jewels in the hollow of my throat? 
What love-like bangles do the prides of paradise
Slide up life’s graceful wrists? 
What does carefree, childish creation
Weave into the world’s drumming life-rhythm? 
Who are you in my heart?

Translator's Note

Mahadevi Varma was one of the Chhayavad poets of India, the equivalent of the Western Romantics, so to speak. Her command of the Hindi language is unparalleled to this day, with many of her words drawn from the ancient language of Sanskrit. It's no surprise then that translating her poetry proved to be a challenge. I consider myself bilingual in Hindi and English; my entire life has been a swirl of the two languages. However, translating Varma made me question myself a little bit. I had to decipher some of her words by using old Hindi dictionaries. Some of the phrases she used weren't even in those dictionaries, so I had to go further, into Sanskrit vocabulary. Her sentence structure and diction astounded me, and through translating her poetry, I learned more about my mother tongue. Varma's poetry reads like a song, and "Kaun tum mere hriday mein?" or "Who are you in my heart" is no different. The first four lines of each stanza rhyme, and then the penultimate and last lines of the stanza rhymed, with the last line always being "Kaun tum mere hriday mein?" The rhyming scheme was a mark of Varma's genius, as rhyming in a language like Hindi is extremely difficult due to the lack of words that all have the same sound in the last syllable. I initially tried to preserve the rhyming in my translation, but in doing so, I lost the dream-like melody of the song. I decided to stay true to the meaning of the poem rather than the rhyme scene. Another thing to note is that the inflection of the last line of each stanza, though the words are the same, is meant to change in each stanza. This is a common practice in Hindi poetry - having a refrain that repeats throughout the poem, with the inflection changing every time it is read. Though I could not translate this practice into English, I tried to give each stanza of my translation a different emotional pulse, so that when the reader got to "Who are you in my heart?" it would very naturally emote the way the rest of the stanza did, be it a despairing cry or a relieved sigh.

SHAILLY PANDEY is a sophomore studying Biological Basis of Behavior and pre-medicine at the College of Arts and Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She started translating poetry in her freshman spring and she has loved doing it ever since, and she is now a staff editor for Doublespeak.