27 Jul

This post is an English translation of the post ‘SARANG by Asad Mohammad Khan” and which is in Urdu.It can be seen at

I wrote in its Urdu (Original) version that I failed to fully understand the story but liked it all the same and could any reader please enlighten me. One said she could not help for she could not read Urdu. I have then taken up the task of translating it knowing fully that I may not be able to translate the magic and beauty of the original. Here you are.:


The little child Grija nand Ganesh pressed the play button, stretched his trunk, took a relaxed breath and focussed his tiny eyes on the screen in the front. There was still time before the transport from the Vishnu Nursery and Kindergarten Viddyalay of Dev lok (upper world) would arrive. It was a small thing for him to open the lunch box and gulp a few modak laddus (sweet balls of rice flour and jaggery). But Ganesh remembered that mom gets annoyed when she sees food crumps on the rug, ‘she will yell at me for sure’. He let the lunch box slip from his belly and concentrated his small eyes on the screen with his huge ears poised.





In the middle of the room was a mattress on which a young guy was lying. There was a water pitcher and an earthen cup in a corner. It was dark in the room except that some light trickled from a small grilled window high up in a wall. In a while the youth got up and yawned. Suddenly he said “Oh my mother, where am I?”

His mother or anyone else was not there. He went to the wall that had the small window high up near the ceiling allowing some light in and called, “Hello, any one there?” then said to himself, “no one answers”. After a while he called again, “Any one there? Please tell me where am I” No answer. He returned to the mattress and started scratching his loins.

Seeing him scratching, Grija nand Ganesh burst in to laughing. He struck his thigh with his trunk and trumpeted. A woman’s voice from somewhere said,” What happened Grijanand?” “Nothing, maa” he said. The one who called was Uma, Shiva ardhangini, Maa Parvati.

The youth stopped scratching his loins, went to the pitcher and had some water. Then returned to the mattress to lie down. He was hungry.

Girianand caressed his huge belly with his trunk and murmured,” I am hungry too”. He had a heavy breakfast just a while ago.

The youth slipped in to a slumber. When he woke up it was apparently late morning as the high window was quite bright. He heard someone trying to start a car engine which won’t start. Weak battery?

Grijanand strained his ears to hear the noise of car starting and thought, this can’t be the transport from the kindergarten, there is still some time before it should arrive. I am sure this noise is coming from the screen. He focussed his eyes on the screen again.

The morning progressed to noon and then to evening. No one came. He was hungry and the occasional water sips were nowhere near alleviating his hunger.

Grijanand yawned, leaned back, and spread his arms across the back of the sofa he was sitting on. The sofa gave a creaking sound.

Suddenly the youth heard a faint clicking noise and soon discovered it was due to some little glass pieces being dropped from the high window. He saw they were pieces of bangles. He went to the wall and tapped lightly on it and heard similar faint tap in answer from the other side. There is someone there on the other side, he thought.

Grijanand did not hear the sounds but his curiosity was on the increase. He shuffled his position and the sofa creaked again.

The youth called, who is there? No answer. Then he went to the wall and tapped again, this time with greater force. It was duly answered with a similarly intense tap.

“Oh my God”, Grijanand  Ganesh gave a yell of delight. He had understood that there was someone on the other side.

He asked again, who is there? He heard a girl whispering,” Do not make noise, talk slowly”. Oh, there is a girl on the other side. He asked, “Who are you?” The girl said something he could not fathom.

Say again? What did you say?

“It is me. I cook food for them here.”

The youth liked mention of food, “I am hungry” he said.

“I know”

“Can you get me something to eat? Please find out.”

“It is difficult. I am also kept under lock and key. They fetch me when they need me or when they want me to cook food for them.”

“Why would they need you other than for cooking?”

“For sex”

He did not like her frankness. He kept quiet. She said, “You did not eat for a long time. Is it not?”

“hooN” he grunted.

“I cannot promise, but tomorrow morning I will try to get you something”

“It will be a long wait, till next morning”

“hooN” she grunted.

“Will you tell me what place is this?” the youth asked.

“It is a sort of factory”

“I can see that, but what town is it in”

“I do not know”

After a while he asked, “From where have they brought you?”

“I do not know”.

“Why did they bring you?”

“I just told you. For cooking and for….”

“Ok. Ok.” The boy did not let her complete the sentence.

“Do they talk to you?”

“Yes, but seldom”

He said, “Ask them where do they plan to take you, and me”

“They will not say, and will beat me besides.”

“Is that so? They beat you?”

“Quiet. Someone is coming.”

He heard a faint noise of a door opening, A man talking and the girl shouted, What now?

The man said, ghooN ghoon ghoon, (not clear sounds) Then he sensed there was a tussle, a sharp clack of a slap.

The boy looked up towards the window and formed on his hand a fist.

He heard a cloth tearing, and the girl, weeping, being dragged. He heard a door banged shut. Then there was silence.

The youth was looking up all this time and now his neck hurt. He came back to his mattress and started dreaming food.

Girija nand moved his trunk on his belly as he imagined the sweet and fragrant modak laddus that were in the brightly coloured plastic lunch box. He started humming the (poem) ‘stuti’ written by Goswami Tulsidas and in which his own greatness was sung and modak laddus were mentioned. [modak priyah mudmangal daata…] He soon realised that his singing was horrible and was silent.

The youth slept and was awake several times and now it was morning with light coming from the high window. He saw something warm and soft come from the window and hit him. He got up in a hurry as he thought it was some sort of an animal. But he heard the girl ask from the other side, “Did you get it?”

He lifted the thing and saw that it was a boiled potato. He started eating it, not bothering to peel it first. He must have made a pained grunt for it was hot and the girl, knowing the situation said, “Eat carefully you, it is hot.”

“Thank you very much, much obliged”

“Here, take another”. Another potato was thrown which landed on the other side. The girl laughed and said, here, I will throw it again. This time it landed right on the mattress. She said, “May be not enough food but you may drink some water and feel better”.

“It is ok.” And he laughed. He could laugh now that he had had something to eat. Then asked, “What is your name?”

“Roopika” [good looking]

“Oh” the youth was surprised.

“What happened?”

“My name is Roop” [good looks]

“Oh, how strange!”

“But never mind.” Said the youth, “I am Roop, you Roopika” Both laugh at this.

“Ketu”, Maa Parvati’s voice could be heard “O my Ketu, go, your transport is here”

Grijanand had slipped into sleep and now he woke up with a start. He hurriedly collected his lunch box and ran toward the door. In his haste he forgot to press the stop button.

Parvati, beaming with her calling her son Ketu (my light, my comet) strolled into the room and sat down on the sofa in front of the screen.


“Yes Roop,” there was music in the voice of the girl.

“I thought you had gone.”  

“I won’t go anywhere. You hear?”

“HooN” he grunts,

“And I will come over to you, on that side, you will see.”

Maa Parvati felt her long and slim fingers against her cheeks that were glowing pink due to her thoughts about her husband Maheshwar Shiva Shankar. Jai Umawar, Jai Digambar, Jai Maheshwar.    

“Hey, what is your age?”

“I am 18” said the boy.

“So you are younger to me”

“Am I? Well, what is your age?” asked the boy.

Maa Parvati was not attentive and wondered what these two have been talking about. She did not hear or heard but did not understand. She was tempted to rewind and hear but decided against it. She realised that they were asking each other their ages.

“I am seventeen, but…”

“What if and but, you are younger to me”

“No, not me, you are younger. You’ve seen nothing in life as I have”

Annoyed, he said, “What is there so great that you have seen?”

“A lot,” There was pain in her voice coming from over the wall, “If you had gone through what I have suffered since I was 14, you would have grown; grown in only one night.”


Now she was weeping, “They came to take me. I cried, help me, save me. No one came to help. No body.”

The youth made a sympathetic noise.

“I cook for all these who are here. Wash their clothes. They take me daily whenever they so feel, day or night. Before these, there were others. Before them still others. All of them are very powerful. They keep me till they are satisfied, then they push me to others.” She was crying all the time as she spoke.

He was torn between saying something and keeping quiet. He said at long last, “I am sorry to hear all this”. She was silent.

The girl was now in a light mood. “Oh not to worry. I am used to it now. I related this story to someone in a year. That is why I was sad.” She even tried to laugh a little.

“To whom did you tell a year ago?”

“To the walls.”

Both were silent now.

The girl called after a while, “Roop, dear Roop”


“Say something”

“What can I say? I will never forget this what you just told me.”

“What did I tell you?”

“That Roopika has been suffering and she is in trouble.”

“Oh no. The pain, dear Roop, lasted only as long as it took me to relate it to you. Now I am fine. I am sort of hardened. And I am even able to exact some revenge from these rascals too.”

“Revenge? How?”

“I made one fight the other. One struck the other with a knife. The car that brought you took the injured away. He will not survive. He has his neck vein slit.”

“How did you manage to get them quarrel?”

“Nothing, but I won’t tell you. It is quite shameful.”

“But if they find out that the fight was engineered by you, they will be very hard on you.”

“They can never be harder than they already are. And rest assure they will not know the reason of the fight.”

“They will surely know. The one who will survive will know.”

“No man will ever tell what I did, surely.” The girl was sure.

“What do you mean?”
The girl said, “I said something which made both of them fight each other. But they did not tell each other. It was something to keep mum about”.

“I don’t understand”

“Didn’t I tell you are just a kid?”

“Now don’t start that again. Ok. Go to sleep” said the boy.

“Are you angry”.

“No, I am tired, and I am afraid you might start crying again.”

“OK, if you are tired then go to sleep, my friend” said the girl.

“Oh I am so pleased you called me your friend.”

The girl over the wall gave a musical laugh and the youth thought there was spring in his dark room.

The youth said proudly, “I am so glad you admitted we are friends”.

“Oh it was just a pretence, a lie.” said the girl.

Maa Parvati removed the ‘moon ray’ flower from her hair and threw it towards Roopika’

“What was it?” the boy asked as he heard the clink sound.

The girl laughed heartily, “what?”

“I heard something fall over there.”

“It is a golden flower. Did you throw it?”

“What, me? No.”

“Don’t be silly, liar”

Shiva Ardhangi Parvati moved to the kitchen with a mild smile and with eyes on the screen. Much has been happening here.

“Are you going to the market?” asked the boy.

“Yes, they are taking me to the market. The spices and the grains are finished.”

“Good, it will be better for you to go away from here for a while”

“No, I will not be away from here at all. You will be with me too”

“How is that?”

“You will be in my heart, understand?”

“Ah” the boy was flabbergasted. He laughed.

“Why do you laugh? Don’t you trust me?”

“Yes I do trust you. Ok, tell me what will you bring for me from the market?”

The girl considered for a while and then said,” Sarang”

“What is sarang?”

“It is something and everything. When someone wishes to give a loved one something, wants to give the whole world, and does not know what, it is said sarang.”

“But what is this sarang thing? He insisted.

“Everything, like lotus flower, kohl, cloth, pearls, gold, lamp,…swan, peacock, horse are all sarang. And tiger, like you are. And so you are also sarang. Also deer, koel and papiha (birds of song). Hey, shall I bring you a koel, ‘koouu, koouuu’.”

“You must be mad”

“I haven’t finished yet. Sarang is Moon, Sun, Earth, and sky. Also sarang is moth, pigeon, plough and king. The crown and the sandal wood that could be used to touch your feet.”….”Moreover, a bird and a woman is also sarang.” “Hey do you want a woman?”

“You have surely lost you mind”

The girl was in tears. “Yes O Roop, Mahadev (Lord Shiv) is witness, you have caused my head to spin really. “

All of a sudden, there was a huge noise, The damru of Mahadev was beating, and there was lightning that demolished the wall between them. The mattress which had become dirty and shiny due to numerous acts of coupling performed on it, was replaced with a tiger skin carpet (Bagambhar). Jai ho.



DAMRU ( double ended drum played by the twist of hand)


BAGHAMBER (TIGER SKIN)  Seat of Mahadev, Shiva.


Roop and Roopika came face to face for the first time.

“So you are Roop?” The girl asked.

“And you are Roopika, You are Nirmala (pure) and also ujjwalta (light)”

“No, I am just a harlot Roopika kept by some rascals.”

“You are sattya( Truth), and also Shiva and sundar (Beauty)” said the boy.

“There is filth of unclean fire between my thighs.”

The boy touched her knees, “You are the one most modest, most pure and most innocent”

The youth touched her fore head, “Jai ho”

The girl caught his feet. He brought her on the bagambhar.(Tiger skin)

It looked like it was after a last supreme dance (of Shiva), when nothing was left, a new carefree life was emerging that blocked the path of all rascals and adulterers. Roop and Ropika were lying on the bagambhar of the most gracious Mahesh. Where these two dalit (low caste) man and woman, who were rejected and mistreated by the whole world, were meeting. In their arteries one could hear the beat of Lord Shiv’s damru.


Posted by on July 27, 2016 in adab and literature, Afsaane


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “SARANG (IN ENGLISH)

  1. Sonya Kassam

    July 28, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Thank you for translating this Shakil. It is most powerful and gives us hope. Coincidentally, just a couple of nights ago I heard a talk about how Shiva embraces all the dejection and rejected of the world. I was delighted to read this story soon after.

    I am surprised though that the original was in Urdu. Could you shed some light on this?

    • shakilakhtar

      July 29, 2016 at 8:29 am

      Ahsante sana Sonya. Asad Mohammad Khan is a famous Pakistani Urdu witer who hails from India (MP) hence his Hindu knowledge. I too hail from India (UP) and have some knowledge and with the help of the Internet was able to find English words for Sanskrit/ Hindi words. Before I was unable to fathom the theme or the whole story but while translating I could get to the bottom of it. It seems to me it is his way of highlighting the plight of dalits in Indian society and the generosity of Gods. The beauty is in his depicting the love between man and woman when he sees purity among filth. This post could’t have come at a more proper time given what is happening to dalits in India these days. You might like to read my blog, “India’s Untouchables” also.

  2. Carolyn Page

    July 28, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    What a mammoth task you undertook. Credit to your patience and thoroughness, indeed.
    You may not think you have captured the magical beauty of the original. However, Shakil, I leave with magic and beauty by my side. A wonderful translation indeed.

    • shakilakhtar

      July 29, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Thank you very much Carolyn. I was unable to translate the fact that these dalits, boy and girl, were yokels and their speech is imperfect. If I write same instead of shame, it will turn out wrong. but she says ‘sor na karo’ insead of shor na karo (do not make noise), it caries the effect of their low origins. etc. this is just an example. But I am happy you enjoyed it and it was all your fault. my mistakes, if any, are on you? 🙂 :).

      • Carolyn Page

        July 29, 2016 at 11:27 am

        Hahaaaa… I have broad shoulders, though, in this instance, I will gladly take the credit… 😉 😉


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