Maher

जातो माहेरी माहेरी
शुभ्र स्फटिकांची वाट
जातो माहेरी माहेरी
निळ्या नदीची ही हाक

जातो माहेरी माहेरी
येथे देवांचा निवास
जातो माहेरी माहेरी
गार अमृताची आस

जातो माहेरी माहेरी
मन शोधेल माउली
जातो माहेरी माहेरी
डोळां तिची निळी सावली

अशा ह्या माहेरी
माझी अवचित वारी
परतून आलो कि मी
सांगीन तिच्या एकेक लहरी

-o-

Nitin Anturkar, a friend from undergraduate college (where he was commonly known as Dadhi), and teammate in the athletic and mountaineering clubs, wrote this poem. He was going back to the Himalayan mountains after thirty years for a winter trek. The poem captures his eager anticipation of a sense of reconnecting, of fulfillment, bordering on the religious.

The poem is difficult to translate into English. About a third of it is the word “maher” for which there is no English or Western equivalent in word or concept. It translates as “maternal house”, typically of a married woman, and connotes the loving, safe, innocent, carefree environment of childhood under the parents’ indulgent protection. In Marathi consciousness, the famous song “Maze maher Pandhari” connects the maternal house to the city (house) of the Lord. In English, the word and concept of “home” (as opposed to “house”) comes closest to signifying love, comfort, and acceptance. I have used “my home”, also close in sound to “maher”, in the translation.

The Himalayas (literally, house or place of snow) are revered as the abode of the Gods, again a sense difficult to translate into English. The pilgrimage aspect of this visit is expressed by the word “wari” which literally means “turn”, but is used for specific pilgrimages in Marathi, for example, of the “Warkari Panth“—folks who go annually to Pandhari.

Gentle readers, as you may know from my other works by now, the translation often progresses through multiple versions based on your feedback. So feel free to comment and suggest improvements.

-o-

Literal Translation

Going to the maternal house the maternal house
White crystals’ way
Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Blue river’s this call

Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Here Gods’ residence
Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Intense thirst for the cool elixir

Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Mind will search for the mother
Going to the maternal house the maternal house
In my eyes her blue shadow

In such a maternal house as this
My unexpected [rare] turn [pilgrimage]
After I return I will
Tell you her waves [moods] one by one

-o-

Poetic Translation
[Pentametric Sonnet]

I am going back to my home my home
Where the snow flakes press into a brilliant way,
I am going back to my home my home
Where the blue river’s call takes my breath away.

I am going back to my home my home
Where Gods reside in heaven’s enormity,
I am going back to my home my home
Where yearning [thirst] is cooled by immortality.

I am going back to my home my home
My eyes, my mind will search for the mother’s grace,
I am going back to my home my home
My heart will feel her subtle blue embrace.

I will recount each ripple and mood, I pledge,
Of this rare and fortuitous pilgrimage.

[A more literal alternative for the second line, but hard to connect to ice:
Where white crystals form a brilliant way,]

[The word “thirst” could be removed from the 8th line.]

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17 thoughts on “Maher

  1. I know you are trying to fit a rhythmic meter, but “my home” grates, and I suggest dropping the “my”, e.g.:

    I wish I was,
    Homeward bound,
    Home where my thought’s escaping,
    Home where my music’s playing,
    Home where my love lies waiting
    Silently for me.

    – Simon & Garfunkel

  2. Rajeev, thanks. In this attempt I have kept the line-by-line correspondence (except at the end), and kept the “maheri maheri” repetition in translation. Any suggestion for the refrain line? It’s crucial for the whole translation if these constraints are kept.

    On the other hand, if these constraints are removed, there are many possibilities for free translation.

  3. Btw, there’s this other nuance that “home” doesn’t capture. Maher is not your home anymore; it once was, but now you have a different one, your own home, where your “music’s playing and love lies waiting”.

  4. Ok, here’s another take – softens the “my home” repetition while still keeping it, brings in more evocative phases of life to reconnect back to specific experiences, repeats the “Where”, and cleans up a few things.

    -o-

    I am going back to the home of my youth
    Where snow flakes press into a brilliant way,
    I am going back to my home my home
    Where the blue river’s call takes my breath away.

    I am going back to our ancestral home
    Where Gods reside in heaven’s enormity,
    I am going back to my home my home
    Where yearning is cooled by immortality.

    I am going back to my childhood home
    Where my eyes will search for the mother’s grace,
    I am going back to my home my home
    Where my heart will feel her soft blue embrace.

    I will recount each ripple and mood, I pledge,
    Of this rare and fortuitous pilgrimage.

  5. Like Rajeev’s comment, I have received some more privately about the “my home my home” construct. Regarding the “home of youth/ancestors/childhood”, one comment I received was that these make the home too specific while the original “maher” leaves it abstract. Another comment was to substitute the repetition of the word by a repetition of the sense of maher. So here’s another variation (treating “youth” as non-specific and hence abstract).

    -o-

    I am going back to the home of my youth
    Where snow flakes press into a brilliant way,
    I am going back to my home, sweet home,
    Where the blue river’s call takes my breath away.

    I am going back to my ageless home
    Where Gods live in heaven’s immensity,
    I am going back to my home, sweet home,
    Where yearning is cooled by immortality.

    I am going back to my coveted home
    Where my eyes will search for the mother’s grace,
    I am going back to my home, sweet home,
    Where my heart will feel her soft blue embrace.

    I will recount each mood, ripple and image
    Of this rare and fortuitous pilgrimage.

    [Alt for line 1 or elsewhere: I am going back to my cherished home]

  6. I was looking into Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri and here is something which presents it most delicately and vividly:

    Savitri the bride is on her way to the new home, going from māhér to sāsar:

    The past receded and the future neared:
    Far now behind lay Madra’s spacious halls,
    The white carved pillars, the cool dim alcoves,
    The tinged mosaic of the crystal floors,
    The towered pavilions, the wind-rippled pools
    And gardens humming with the murmur of bees,
    Forgotten soon or a pale memory
    The fountain’s plash in the wide stone-bound pool,
    The thoughtful noontide’s brooding solemn trance,
    The colonnade’s dream grey in the quiet eve,
    The slow moonrise gliding in front of Night. ||114.10||

    Left far behind were now the faces known,
    The happy silken babble on laughter’s lips
    And the close-clinging clasp of intimate hands
    And adoration’s light in cherished eyes
    Offered to the one sovereign of their life. ||114.11||

    The sense of māhér is of happy innocence and joyous growing youth looking forward to life, a place also of loving safety and protection and fulfilment of desires and wants where there are no expectation in return. You may have to introduce this sense by using appropriate phrases wherever māhér māhér appears. Sense is to be repeated and not necessarily the word.

  7. In one place Sri Aurobindo uses “apron strings” instead of what we would call “padar” in Marathi:

    As if a fond ignorant mother kept her child
    Tied to her apron strings of Nescience. ||152.20||

  8. If too many liberties are allowed then here it is:

    I am going back to my home of fondnesses

    Where snow-flakes press into brightness of day,
    
I am going back to my home, sweet home,

    Where call of blue streams takes my breath away.

    I am going back to my lovelong home

    Where gods live in heaven’s immensities,
    
I am going back to my home, sweet home,

    Where the warmth’s yearning is immortality’s.

    I am going back to my coveted alcove

    Where my eyes will drink and drink mother’s grace,
    
I am going back to my home, sweet home,

    Where my heart will feel the softness of embrace.

    I will recount each ripple and mood and image

    Of this precious unmeditated pilgrimage.

  9. Unlike previous translations, this one was initiated at the request of the original poet, and we have him here with us. So I want to thank all the readers and commenters for helping improve the translation, and I invite Nitin Anturkar to give his impressions and to make a choice as it suits his taste and purpose, which is to serve as a translated preface to a photographic travelogue.

  10. I am sincerely honored to be part of this discussion among all of you. All of you are obviously very learned and well-read individuals and it is genuinely very exciting to be part of your group. When first I saw Akash’ translation of this poem, I was amazed. It had captured almost all aspects of the poem very effectively. Translation of “Maher”, especially when it also conceptually means mountain instead of maternal home, and repeats of that word remain as challenges. All of your efforts to address these issues is absolutely fantastic. Sincere, BIG THANKS to all of you.

    At one end, as a poet, I would like reader to draw interpretations of the poem individually based on their own experiences (and, hence would like to leave some ideas unexplained), and at the other end, Maher does not have good equivalent word in English, and hence, requires some explanation in the poem (or outside the poem as a footnote or something.). With this व्दिधा mindset, I propose the following (hopefully, I am not disturbing any poetic structure):

    I am going back to the home of my youth
    Where snow flakes press into a brilliant way,
    I am going back to my home, sweet home,
    Where call of blue streams takes my breath away.

    I am going back to my lovelong home
    Where Gods live in heaven’s immensity,
    I am going back to my home, sweet home,
    Where yearning is cooled by immortality.

    I am going back to my home, my home
    Where my eyes will search for the mother’s grace,
    I am going back to my home, my home,
    Where my heart will feel her soft blue embrace.

    I will recount each mood, ripple and image
    Of this rare and fortuitous pilgrimage.

    Let me know what you think. THANKS AGAIN.

  11. Very living. I’m very fond of this river, Zanskar. There is something charming in the name itself.

  12. To readers of this blog, if you desire, please feel free to forward the link of Chadar trek photo album to anybody. Thanks.

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