Indhan by Gulzar

A poem by Gulzar sahab. I have always loved Gulzar sahab’s poetry — always found his songs a cut above the regular fare at Bollywood. They are musical, harmonious, rhythmic both in words as well as meaning:


छोटे थे, माँ उपले थापा करती थी
हम उपलों पर शक्लें गूँधा करते थे
आँख लगाकर – कान बनाकर
नाक सजाकर –
पगड़ी वाला, टोपी वाला
मेरा उपला
तेरा उपला
अपने-अपने जाने-पहचाने नामों से
उपले थापा करते थे

हँसता-खेलता सूरज रोज़ सवेरे आकर
गोबर के उपलों पे खेला करता था
रात को आँगन में जब चूल्हा जलता था
हम सारे चूल्हा घेर के बैठे रहते थे
किस उपले की बारी आयी
किसका उपला राख हुआ
वो पंडित था –
इक मुन्ना था –
इक दशरथ था –
बरसों बाद – मैं
श्मशान में बैठा सोच रहा हूँ
आज की रात इस वक्त के जलते चूल्हे में
इक दोस्त का उपला और गया!

– गुलज़ार

Indhan literally means fuel. The poem starts off describing uppla, or cow-dung cakes used to feed the fire in the villages (and cities) of India. The end however is philosophical because in the larger picture what are we humans but the fuel to the fire of life. The multitudes whom we know as brother and sister, father and mother, spouse and friend are drops of oil in this yagna of existence. All we do is fuel the fire in the crematoriums. A translation is given below:

When we were young
Mother splayed some dung
On the wall
Called it upla

And we
Put faces on,
Eyes, ears
A nose
The upla with a turban
A cap
My upla
Your upla
We named them as we pleased
Chosen after our hearts

The playful sun
Spread its warmth each day
On our uple
And when the chulha was lit that night
We gathered around it and waited

Whose turn was it going to be tonight?
Who would burn to ashes?
There goes Pandit
That was Munna
This was Dhashrath

Years later
I’m at the crematorium
Tonight, I watch
As another friend is lost to the burning chulha
One more upla reduced to ashes


The poem has been shamelessly lifted from Kaavyalaya and the translation is from The Little Magazine. I liked both the resources immensely.

Have also been spending time reading Jhaansi ki Raani (Subhadra Kumari Chauhan), Maa Keh Ek Kahani and Arya (Maithili Sharan Gupt).


About kpowerinfinity
I *♥* technology, business, conversations, experiences, books, music, theater, coffee and people. I am an entrepreneur in the city of Bangalore - my company, Capillary, provides customer engagement programs and marketing services to retailers around the world.

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