Poochho Na Kaise

Today is the 90th birthday of the legendary singer Manna Dey. I wish him a very happy birthday and a healthy life, and I’m going to spend this week listening to his wonderful songs.

Mohammed Rafi once said (to the reporters) that “You listen to my songs. But I listen to Manna Dey’s songs only.” His rich repertoire includes so many of my personal favorites. At the risk of leaving some real gems out of the list, here are some of them that I absolutely love: Hoke majboor (Haqeeqat), Na to karvan ki talash hai (Barsat Ki Raat), Kasme vaade (Upkar), Aye mere pyare vatan (Kabuliwala), Kaun aaya (Dekh Kabira Roya), Tum bin jeevan (Bawarchi), Sur na saje (Basant Bahar), Aaja sanam (Chori Chori), and of course Zindagi kaisi hai paheli (Anand).

But if I had to pick one song, it’s Poochho na kaise from Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen (1963), composed by S D Burman and written by Shailendra. Almost every word of this song is sung with such dexterity and subtle intricacies that they seem like strands of a piece of cloth woven so carefully, thoughtfully. The poetry is simple, rather simplistic, and meaningful. S D Burman aptly chose the right singer to sing this composition. Only Manna Dey could have done such justice to this melancholic melody, not Kishore Kumar, not Talat Mehmood, perhaps… not even Rafi!

Below are the lyrics of this song, with a rough translation by, ahem, your truly.

Poochho na kaise maine rain beetayee

Ek pal jaise ek jug beeta

Jug beete mohe neend na aayee

Poochho na kaise maine rain beetayee

Don’t ask how I’ve spent the night. Each moment seemed like an eon. Eons have passed, and I couldn’t sleep. Don’t ask how I’ve spent the night…

Utte jale deepak, itte mann mera

Phir bhi na jaaye mere ghar ka andhera

Tarpat tarsat umar gawayeen

Poochho na kaise maine rain beetayee

A lamp is burning there, and my heart here. Still the darkness prevails in my home. In agony and anticipation, wasted the whole life. Don’t ask how I’ve spent the night…

Na kaheen chanda, na kaheen taare

Jyot ke pyase mere nain bechare

Bhor bhi aas ki kiran na layee

Poochho na kaise maine rain beetayee

Neither the moon nor the stars have come to rescue. These poor eyes are bereft of any light. Even the dawn didn’t bring any ray of hope. Don’t ask how I’ve spent the night…

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