Kitni girhein kholi hain maine, kitni girhein ab baaki hai
paanv mein payal, baahon mein kangan, gale mein hansli, kamar band, challe aur bichue
naak kaan chidwaayein gaye hain, aur zevar zevar kehte kehte
reet rivaaj ke rassiyon se main jakdi gayi ,uff kitni tarah main pakdi gayi
How many knots have I untied, how many still remain?
Anklets for the feet, bangles for the arms, necklace around the neck, waistband, rings and toe rings,
My nose and ear were pierced, and with each ornament,
I found myself all the more restrained with ropes of customs and mannerisms, oh the ways in which I have been chained (literally caught)
ab chilne lage hain haath paanv, aur kitni kharaashein ubhri hain,
kitni girhein kholi hain maine, kitni rassiyaan utari hain
Ang ang mera roop rang, mere naksh nain, mere bol bain
meri aawaaz mein koyal ki tareef hui, mere zulf saanp, meri zulf raat,
zulfon mein ghata mere lab gulaab, meri aankhein sharaab
ghazal aur nazmein kehte kehte husn aur ishq ke afasano mein main jakdi gayi
uff kitni tarah main pakdi gayi
Now my hands and feet have begun to develop scratches, and so many bruises have surfaced
Since I started untying the knots, and freed myself of so many ropes
Every part of my body, my facial features, my talks and mannerisms,
My voice was admired by comparing it to that of the cuckoo bird, to some my hair is like a serpent,
to some its like the night, to others my hair is like the clouds, my lips like the rose, my eyes (as intoxicating) as alcohol, I
And in this way I have been caged in different songs and poetry of beauty and love, oh the ways in which I have been chained.
main poochun zara, aankhon mein sharaab dikhe sabko, akaash nahi dekha koi
saawan bhado to dikhe magar, kya dard nahi dekha koi
phan ki jheeni si chaadar mein, buth cheele gaye uriyaani ke
taaga taaga karke poshaaq utaari gayi
mere jism pe phan ki mashq hui, aur art kala kehte kehte sange marmar mein jakdi gayi
batlaaye koi batlaaye koi, kitni girhein kholi hain maine, kitni girhein ab baaki hain
I would like to ask those who saw my eyes, they found them intoxicating like alcohol, but didn’t they see the sky in them (referring to her dreams)
They see monsoon clouds in my eyes, didn’t they see the pain (the pain that comes from being tied down or restricted)
In the name of this lightly woven cloth called art, bare (naked) statues were carved out
thread by thread I was unclothed,
On my body art was practiced (referring to the numerous works of art based on females be it poetry, statues paintings songs etc.), and in the name of art, I was imprisoned in marble
Can someone please tell me, how many knots did I untie, how many still remain?
There are a lot of versions of this poem, but I like the one narrated by rekha – Kitni girhein kholi hai maine. I am amazed at how this is written by a man (gulzar sahab) and still captures very delicately and precisely the feelings of women. Women have been the symbols of beauty, grace for as long as civilization’s existence. You will rarely find anyone tell the little girls to be bold or brave or to fight it out, they are always the delicate darlings who must dress pretty, maintain grace, speak softly, walk gently, look beautiful. Delicateness has so long been associated with women, that a girl who behaves otherwise is referred to as “a tomBOY” and a boy who cries has to listen to things like : “now, stop crying like a GIRL.”
In the country that I come from, married women have to wear golden and black beads around their neck as a symbol of marriage. Why only women, why shouldn’t the men wear something similar? Women are often asked to dress properly with almost a no skin show rule even in the hot summers, and they have to attend parties where paintings and sculptures of scantily clad or naked women sell for huge amounts of money. Hypocrites!
There are so many prose and poems that describe the beauty of a woman, but most of them are only skin-deep. I would also have grown up with the same idea that I have to look beautiful, pretty, and behave in a so-called ladylike manner at all times as a rule, but I am glad the people in my life made me realize there is more to me than the jewelry I wear or the way I look, that its okay to go crazy at times, act wild, not care about who is watching, breathe in fresh air, smell freedom, freedom from unnecessarily rules that tie and restrain so many women around the world. Here’s hoping that you can find your freedom, find someone in your life who can see beyond the mascara in your eyes, see the dreams you have and help you achieve them, who can listen to your voice midst the clank of your bangles and who can let you be who you are.
I also realized that even though this poem talks about the agony of women, I am sure there are boys who have to put up a fake act of being rough and tough everyday of their life because that is what the society demands of them. Here’s hoping that you can find someone too who lets you be your gentle self, who lets you cry your heart out when you have to, who can let you be who you are. As humans we should all be allowed to cry, laugh, dream and live the way we want to, we only need the courage to defy the society and its norms! It’s not easy but it’s not impossible 🙂
PS : Yes the jewelry in the picture is all mine and I wear it when I feel like wearing it, not because I have to but because I want to 😀