Tributes on the birth anniversary of the great Hindi playwright, novelist, and poet Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850-1885)!
Yesterday was Bharatendu’s birth anniversary, so I spent some time re-reading his poetry and prose, including his नए जमाने की मुकरी — Mukari for a New Age. Mukari are a riddle-like poetic genre, in which a woman appears to be speaking about her lover, until the last line reveals otherwise.
For example, in this verse, Bharatendu expertly targets colonial authority. The first three lines employ language of love and playfulness—mind and body, giggling, even sucking (चूसना). But the final line forces a re-read, colouring each of these playful elements with a darker meaning. I have tried to maintain some of this in the translation.
A remarkable verse from 19th-century India. Truly, poetry for a New Age—
भीतर भीतर सब रस चूसै।
हँसि हँसि कै तन मन धन मूसै।
जाहिर बातन मैं अति तेज।
क्यों सखि सज्जन नहिं अँगरेज।
He strips my essence, inside and out
Loots with laughs, my body’s storehouse
With grace, and style, and sparkling wits;
Who, your lover? No, the Brits