Diali Jan

Pani mari gala jhain
Pani mari gala jhain
Pani mani gala jhain, re dada
Pani mari gala jhain

Nanir muh ke dekhi deli dada
dasra dekhla bele,
Diali jan kain udla ache uansha ratir kale
Mitha pan gote chabi dei tunde,
hasurale khili khili,
Pir pinia ne khosirela sia
golabi, itla, malli;

Tahr pase thile kie nai,
Jai Pase chhida heli muin,
“Kun gaon nani”, balli dada,
kata pade hela nai


It was a thundershower, dada
It really was.

I saw her in the Dussehra melee
Her face was like fullmoon in a dark night
She had a Mitha pan in her mouth
And she smiled unrestrained
In her hair bun,
She had rose, itla, malli

No one was with her
I went up, stood with her a while
and asked,
“which village u from, nani

She didnt even speak a word!

(Dada: elder brother, clansman Mitha Pan: Sweet bettle leaf chewable item, Nani: Na is pronounced like ‘no’ in Fanon, Canon. It means girl, babe etc. even daughter in context. Itla: probably a local wild flower, malli: jasmin. The “strike out” lines are difficult to understand for me too)

It is a beautiful song, in the dialect of one of my neighboring districts and I can’t seem to remember where I might have heard it first. Definitely early 90s when I was in school. The translation is very rough. I thought of and then refrained from the title, “love in the time of dussehra”. Dussehra is usually in October (or rarely September), when rice is flowering, growing spikelets. Rain is, at best, a surprise. Just like her appearance, out of the blue. Or can be unfortunate, destroying the crop, like his dashing hope when she says nothing at all. We must have mixed it up, with the beats from hardcover books as drums, desks as tabla/dhol, multiple singers and self-styled instrumentalists without instruments and many onomatopoeic words a number of times in school/college but we never knew what it meant except that it was about a beautiful stranger.

(courtesy: anonymous construction worker who sang it from the darkness of his dilapidated ‘tin and bamboo’ hut and reminded to archive it.)

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