Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ek Akela Is Shahar Mein (Gharonda)

Cities can be cruel. The bigger the city, the more ruthless it is. Many a men come to cities with dreams in their eyes and hope fueling there ambitions. The anguish caused by crushing of these dreams and hopes has been captured by Gulzar a few times. This song is one of the most memorable examples that come to mind. 

Another striking one that I came across while reading his book 'Pukhraaj' is as follows:
"मैं इस शहर की मशीन में फिट हूँ जैसे ढिबरी,
ज़रूरी है ये ज़रा सा पुर्जा...
अहम भी है क्योंकि रोज़ के रोज़ तेल देकर,
इसे ज़रा और कस के जाता है चीफ़ मेरा...
वो रोज़ कसता है, 
रोज़ इक पेंच और चढ़ता है जब नसों पर,
तो जी में आता है ज़हर खा लूं...
या भाग जाऊं..."
(excerpt from a poem titled 'Diary')

A pattern I've noticed is that Gulzar makes use of inanimate objects to describe hardships. So, while a person becomes a 'purza' or a 'dhibree' (a part of machinery), life becomes a 'khaali bartan' or an empty vessel etc.

This song becomes even more effective due to the deeply resonant voice of Bhupinder (perfect for this song) and the non-intrusive music of Jaidev.

Lyrics, and translation

Ek akela is shahar mein, raat mein aur dopeher mein
Aab-o-daana dhoondhta hai, aashiyaana dhoondhta hai

[[The mukhda begins simply enough by describing an outsider in town, lonely, day and night searching for something to eat and drink, searching for a house. The sadness in Bhupinder's voice sets the tone for the song. (Aab-o-daana = water and food)]]

Din khaali-khaali bartan hai, aur raat hai jaise andha kuaan
In sooni andheri aankhon mein, aansoo ki jagah aata hai dhuaan

[[Days are like empty vessels, and nights are like bottomless pits. My eyes have dried up and instead of tears, they only have smoke in them. (see points 1 and 2 below)]]

Jeene ki wajah to koi nahin, marne ka bahaana dhoondhta hai, dhoondhta hai,
Dhoondhta hai, dhoondhta hai

[[There are no longer any reasons to live, so I just look for an excuse to die. And I keep looking, I keep looking...]]

In umr se lambi sadkon ko, manzil pe pahunchte dekha nahin
Bas daudti phirti rahti hain, humne to thaharte dekha nahin

[[These roads, longer than lifetimes of those running on it, keep running without pausing for breath; and are still somehow incapable of making people reach their destinations/destiny. (see point 3 below)]]

Is ajnabee se shahar mein, jaana-pehchana dhoondhta hai, 
Dhoondhta hai, dhoondhta hai

[[In this city of strangers, I keep looking for a known face. And I keep looking, and I keep looking...
(When you are new and alone in town, few things can match the happiness a known face gives you. Beautiful!)]]

My two three cents
  1. Khaali-khaali bartan (Empty vessel): Anyone who has lived alone for long enough could understand what a depressing sight an empty vessel is. In India, we are so used to mothers keeping food prepared when we get home that almost everyone has faced the issue of not wanting to eat when living alone. The utensils in kitchen somehow seem to mock your loneliness, making it all the more worse.
  2. Ansoo ki jagah aata hai dhuaan: Could mean either of (a) you've cried so much that you are no more capable of doing that; and (b) the city has made you heartless, and you've lost the capacity of crying.
  3. For someone coming from a small town, the roads of a city are a labyrinth, a sea of people constantly running, faces wrought in grim determination. They can be most intimidating and can make you feel so small, insignificant and lonely. I think these feelings (and more) have been perfectly described in second antara.

(Sharing this song sung in beautiful karaoke style, that I came across while browsing. I don't know who the singer (Amitabha Bhattacharya) is, but he's quite good!)


  1. another song from the same film with similar lines (at least in the beginning)- do deewane sheher me, a duet, again symbolizing hope & dreams which two people together cherish. what an irony!-tresa

  2. yeah, I know that song. in fact, was thinking of writing about that, but then decided on this one :)

  3. nice post as always :-)
    now that i am living alone in a city, i can very well relate with the song.
    this is one of those songs which i disliked in my childhood days but loved it later on.
    Also, i used to think it was "Saabu-daana dhoondte hain" :P
    not related to this song: similar misunderstanding was with "aap jaisa koi meri zindagi me aaye to "baap" ban jaye"

  4. @Anonymous:
    thanks :)
    I think every kid must have thought it to be 'saabudaana', not so sure about 'baap ban jaaye' though :P

  5. I agree. Empty vessels are so depressing.

  6. and so is eating alone, day after day.

  7. Hey, thanks for the translation and the additional notes also ...

  8. dunno if u have seen the movie or not but this song very well resonates the mood of the whole movie

    1. No, I haven't seen this movie ... do intend to, when I get the chance and time :)

  9. Your #1 cent is so true.
    When you leave your family and friends back home and live a lonely life in the big city.... How you wish that at least one day, almost by miracle, there is "maa ke haath ka khana" even if it is just daal-chawal. I never listen to this song although it is in my playlist. It takes me to a place from where it is very difficult for me to come back. I am scared of this song. I guess the greatness of this song is that it cuts right down to your core.

  10. Gulzar sahab & Bhupinder Singh my god what a phenomenon composition..............................................................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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