Uchaki

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Literal Translation

A season of abundance has arrived hence I am walking so fast so fast
This tale is not worth telling
Someone on my cheek snapped their fingers
Refrain
Whose hiccough afflicts me?
Chorus
Whose, dear, whose? Of this one, or that one?
Don’t be shy, don’t be shy, don’t be shy

Young and erect, woman tall and slender, I climbed up on the embankment
Compact embankment, fair shoulder, the border of my sari on the breeze
In the roots a footfall, sounded his step
In my chest filled a palpitation
Refrain & Chorus

I slept on my left side, making a pillow of my hand, somehow
Ripples of breeze, goosebumps from the cold, in my mind a strange joy
He appeared in my dream and teased me, lady
His eyesight is slanted
Refrain & Chorus

Waking up in the morning really early I went to the watering place
Sat in the sun bathing, the water is tickling my body
In the water I see, I have lost my wits for him
He has taken me for a whirl
Refrain & Chorus

Night and day I wake and wait for him, how much should I call
My sleep has taken flight, how did this magic happen, his memory doesn’t leave
I came to meet, my mind oppressed, I to myself am foreign
Refrain & Chorus

-o-

Notes

This lavani is a song of inveiglement sung by an entertainer to attract patrons. The singer, a young woman, affects desire for an unknown someone, leading each patron to imagine he is the one to fulfill it.

There are many difficulties in translating this song.

  • The language is of the village and farm and the dialect is unrefined yet rich in vocabulary and terminology
  • There are double entendres or suggestive word phrases
  • The rhythm is fast and complex, supported by internal rhyme and assonance structure

In addition, there are untranslateable concepts such as “uchaki” (hiccough) and “padar” (the free end or border of the sari draped over the shoulder). In Marathi, a hiccough is the sign of being remembered by an unknown dear person who is far away. Having the end of the sari untucked is a sign of leisure and having it wave in the wind a sign of freedom with a hint of availability.

This translation attempts to recreate the rhythm of the song which can be heard here:

-o-

Poetic Translation

Full and ripe, as much as I like, I just cannot linger
For someone has done, he flicked my cheek with a finger
To tell this tale I wouldn’t choose
My breath is caught, his thought is nigh
Refrain & Chorus
Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Tall and slender, fair and tender, scrambling up the bank
The bank so narrow, wind is a harrow, shirtsleeve rose and sank
Twigs in a rustle, stalks in a bustle, his step was soon on the crest –
A flutter filled my chest, oh my – his thought is nigh
Refrain & Chorus
Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Lying on this side, sighing on that side, a pillow is made of my arm
A flowing breeze, a biting freeze, and yet my mind’s in a charm
For me is meant this sweet torment, he in a dream appears
His looks are sidelong spears, oh my – his thought is nigh
Refrain & Chorus
Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Awoke this morning, before the dawning, and went to the river side
Swimming and sunning, the water is running, tickle in a slippery glide
In the water, wits a-slaughter, I’m spinning in his thrall
He has me in a whirl, oh my – his thought is nigh
Refrain & Chorus
Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Night and day I watch his way, how much should I call him
Fitful tragic, how this magic, his thought is never dim
Lest we met, oppression set, my mind is in a danger
To myself I’m a stranger, my – his thought is nigh
Refrain & Chorus
Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

-o-

Please read the comments below for an organic discussion of this translation, or read the “finished” version of these translations here: (pdf).

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11 thoughts on “Uchaki

  1. But this is good. I’d reproduce the text of the refrain and chorus at every marked point instead of asking the reader to go back to it. In the digital world it’s so easy. If you can voice record the whole thing and put on the blog it will be wonderful. Try.

  2. Thanks. I updated the entry with repeated refrain/chorus. Will attempt the audio, though I am no singer.

  3. अटकर बांधा does not allude to the embankment!! I think you confused it with बांध which means a small dam to block a small stream.

    अटकर बांधा is a slim build. अटकर is one of those rural usages which are difficult to translate into urban marathi..

  4. Abhay, you are right – good catch. In the literal translation, the line

    “Compact embankment, fair shoulder, the border of my sari on the breeze”

    should be

    “Compact build, fair shoulder, the border of my sari on the breeze”

    There may be a touch of double entendre with “bandh” and “bandha”. In any case, I have to figure out what to do with the corresponding line in the poetic translation (“Bank so narrow”).

  5. Well, an immediate thought is to change it to “My waist so narrow”. This preserves the structure, retains the wind, and brings in a body part (waist instead of shoulder), noting that the “fair” of the shoulder has been transferred to the first line of that stanza.

    Readers: feel free to suggest your improvements here and elsewhere.

  6. Abhay points out that “tarnitathi”, while literally “young and erect”, means young and healthy or in prime.

  7. Alt. for “Fitful tragic, how this magic”, since tragic is extraneous (though it could be argued that not being able to sleep is a tragedy):

    Sleep is fitful, magic beautiful

    That said, I’d prefer the form with “tragic” – but, can’t tolerate the extraneous … so:

  8. Final:

    Full and ripe, as much as I like, I just cannot linger
    For someone has done, he flicked my cheek with a finger
    To tell this tale I wouldn’t choose
    My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

    Chorus

    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

    Tall and slender, fair and tender, scramblin’ up the bank
    My waist so narrow, wind is a harrow, shirtsleeves rose and sank
    Twigs in a rustle, stalks in a bustle, his step was soon on the crest –
    A flutter filled my chest, oh my – his thought is nigh

    Chorus

    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

    Lyin’ on this side, sighin’ on that side, a pillow is made of my arm
    A flowin’ breeze, a bitin’ freeze, and yet my mind’s in a charm
    For me is meant this sweet torment, he in a dream appears
    His looks are sidelong spears, oh my – his thought is nigh

    Chorus

    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

    ‘Woke this mornin’, ‘fore the dawnin’, went to the river side
    Swimmin’ and sunnin’, the water is runnin’, tickle in a slippery glide
    In the water, wits a-slaughter, I am spinnin’ in his thrall
    He has me in a whirl, oh my – his thought is nigh

    Chorus

    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

    Night and day I watch his way, how much should I call him
    My sleep is fitful, magic bea’tiful, his thought is never dim
    Lest we met, oppression set, my mind is in a danger
    To myself I’m a stranger, my – his thought is nigh

    Chorus

    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

  9. The poem is titled Uchaki but the uchaki is missing. Since a direct hiccup may not make sense in English, an equivalent can be attempted. Also without it the refrain begs a question – whose? – without it having reason to question. So maybe the refrain could be something like:

    Why do I feel a catch in my throat
    Is there someone thinking about me?
    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

  10. Thanks, Lopa.

    In the first stanza it says, “My breath is caught, his thought is nigh”, thus bringing in the uchaki and tying it to the phrase “his thought is nigh” which is the essense of the hiccough and which is repeated at the end of each stanza.

    So the question, “whose dear whose” applies to the “his’ whose thought is nigh, and who caused the hiccough.

    I suppose, the entire phrase “my breath is caught, his thought is nigh” could be repeated after each stanza – but I haven’t gone back to check if it flows in the rhythm.

  11. Yes, it works:

    Tall and slender, fair and tender, scramblin’ up the bank
    My waist so narrow, wind is a harrow, shirtsleeves rose and sank
    Twigs in a rustle, stalks in a bustle, his step was soon on the crest –
    A flutter filled my chest.

    My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

    Chorus

    Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
    Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

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