‘Amma Puchdi’ Himachali Folk Song Translation & Meaning
I first came across this song while watching TVF Tripling S1, and ever since this song has gently caressed me a hundred times over.
The song is written in Himachali, a regional tongue of Himachal Pradesh which sounds somewhat familiar to Hindi. Being a folk song, it has been passed down generation by generation among the native people, sung and re-sung in a thousand voices over the years. It was also released in the Silk Route album ‘Pehchan’ back in 2000, sung by popular Indian playback singer Mohit Chauhan. And in 2016, a version of it sung by Vivek Hariharan was featured in the web series Tripling.
The song is set as a conversation between a mother and her daughter which seems to be a casual one but has a deeper undertone of an unspoken story. The lyrics go like this:
Amma Puchchdi, Sun Dhiya Meri E, Dhubari Itni Tu Kya Kari Hoyi Ho…
The mother asks, “Listen oh my daughter, what have you been worrying about that’s making you so skinny?”
It has been asked with a certain softness and warmth that gets lost in the translation. Just imagine a typical rural Indian setting, not very progressive, not very developed, where a girl’s only close confidant is her mother and it’s not always possible to openly tell her everything either. So she answers her mother in metaphors:
Paar li vaniya, mor jo bole ho, amma ji ine more nindara gavayi ho
“Across the forest, when the peacock speaks, mother, hearing it I lose my sleep”
The sound of peacock here might as well stand for the calls of a lover or destiny, the longings of her heart that have been making her sleepless. The mother not being able to understand her daughter’s hidden gesture, innocently tries to reassure her:
Sadh le banduki jo, Sadh le shikari jo, dhiye bhala eta more maar giraana ho”
Let’s call the hunter who will aim with his gun, oh daughter he will kill the peacock and drop it to the ground.
This can also alternatively be interpreted as the mother understanding her daughter’s desires, and knowing her unsupportive situation (having lived through a similar one) she plays along the peacock metaphor and asks her daughter to be the hunter, aim the gun and kill the peacock, thus telling her to kill/forget her beautiful dreams and desires.
To me, the second interpretation makes more sense considering that the song is a folk song written in older times when women didn’t have much freedom or choice in Indian society. Also, the songwriter’s choice of a mother-daughter relationship instead of any other possible kinship engraves it too with a sad yet protective undertone of a limited life.
Mor ni maarna, mor ni gavaana ho, amma jee eta more pinjara puvaana ho…
The daughter seems to jump up in defence, almost horrified, saying “I don’t want to kill the peacock, I don’t want to lose the peacock, mother, I will just put it in a cage.” And the imagery created here is almost like one in ‘The Bluebird’ poem by Charles Bukowski, of true emotions hidden up in the heart like a caged bird, not allowed to be seen and not allowed to take control when dealing with the world, only sneakily let out on solitary nights to bring memories and tears.
Thinking about the inevitable separation and letting go of her love and dreams, she gloomily asks her mother,
Kuthi jaanda chandrama, kuthi jaande taare ho? Oo aamaji kuthi jaandey dilaan de payaare ho…
Where does the moon go? Where do the stars go? Oh mother, where do people who are loved by our heart go?”
Chupi janda chandrama, chupi jaande tare ho, ho dhiye bhala naiyo chupde dilaan de pyaare ho
The mother consoles her saying, “The moon hides and so do the stars, Oh daughter but those we love never disappear”, and so whatever happens, love stays with us in our hearts even when it’s away and can’t be seen.
The song ends here with a lingering taste of beautiful love poetry, telling a heartfelt story without even telling it, brimming with too many emotions in a few words.
PS: I was looking for translations/interpretations of the song which would express everything that I felt every time I heard it, but none of them seemed to do enough justice to it, so here is my own version, feel free to add on :)