Previously on this blog I wrote a small post on the most succinct word (link). Here’s another word that has such a delicate and beautiful meaning, and has no immediate translation in English:
Saudade: [n] A vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.
The closest English word is perhaps ‘yearning’, but saudade carries with it a heavier, gloomy connotation. A melancholic, brooding emptiness… a feeling of despair that’s associated with the fact that the object of yearning (whether a place, person, or a situation) is unattainable.
I don’t think there’s any Hindi synonym for saudade, but this Portuguese word reminded me of one of my favorite songs ‘Dil dhoondhta hai’ written by Gulzar, which comes pretty darn close to the sentiments packed in this sublime word.
The opening stanza of this song is taken from Ghalib’s famous ghazal ‘Muddat hui hai yaar ko mehmaan kiya hue’. The original refrain went like this:
jee dhoondhta hai phir wohee fursat ke raat din
baiTHe raheiN tasavvur-e-jaanaaN kiye hue
Gulzar took this sher and interpreted it in his own peculiar way. “MiSra Ghalib ka hai, aur kaifiyat har ek ki apni apni […]” as the man himself had said once. He changed the first word jee to dil which improved the consonance of that line.[UPDATE: Not sure about this any more. See the comment section.] Later, ‘aundhe pade rahe’ – which means lying on your back – was a nice touch too; it perfectly evokes a feeling of reverie that this song revolves around.
The composer Madan Mohan, who shared Gulzar’s penchant for Ghalib’s work, made several tunes for this song, but only two were used in the movie. An unused version was later utilized by his son in the movie Veer-Zaara for the song ‘Tere liye, hum hai jiye’. (See this video where the third version can be heard, in Madan Mohan’s voice I believe.)
By the way, can you recall another one of his songs in which Gulzar used one of Ghalib’s verses again?