Kanwar Grewal: Mast Bana Denge Biba


The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain. -Shams of Tabriz

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I never thought in the most rainbow dreams, let alone clouded reality, that I could do more than shake a tremulous foot and raise my hands in a shy clap to music of any kind. So reluctant have I been of letting my arms move up in flailing abandon. So mortified at the sight of letting the body melt into the beating drum. So embarrassed I couldn’t get past the feeling of several pairs of eyes boring into my very limbs and spying a crouching simian ancestor behind a very poised appearance.

Kanwar Grewal’s Mast Bana Denge Biba has in just a few hearings changed much of that. As I write this I still sit in my chair, but am not sitting still. My insides are dancing. And as though on cue, the arms go up and the torso moves in joy, eyes close, face breaks into a small smile. It occurs to me the body is only an outpost that can be ‘seen’ to be dancing. The real dance is, and begins, within. Yet, I am grateful no one’s watching!

But there in Vrindavan, Krishna is gazing down where the gopis are dripping with water and shame. He has taken their clothes, perched himself on a tree and is half-teasingly urging his friends to step out of the river if they want their garments back. Their pride, filial honour, dignity and dharma of womanhood is melting away in the warm light of Krishna’s all-piercing eye. They stand there trying their utmost to cover their nakedness, all the while begging for their materials to be returned to them.

Krishna, the Irrepressible One, is no mood to humour them. He must uncloak his beloved gopis – of their delusion, their false identification to the physical – and the fear of losing it all – and do it all playfully. And he must strip them of the last vestige of their pride and self-image – for it is this veil alone which separates them from him. And so, he tells them, they must raise their folded hands up in supplication to Varuna, Lord of the Waters, and seek his forgiveness for bathing unclothed. The quintessential storyteller must always have a credible pretext to an interesting, instructive story!

The gopis yield to him. Once again.

No longer do they hold on to their own false fetters of social mores, vanity, reputation and desires. They now stand resplendent in new apparel – of union with him. The eternal bandit who waylays to break the pitchers of personality, the Crooked One who steals their hearts and minds with his flute and lures them away from husband, children and family duty, takes away their butter and, now their clothes too, has set them on the path leading unto him alone….

Their great love for Krishna, says a commentator beautifully in Srimadbhagavat, can find perfection only when he gathers them to his heart. And that he will do when they come to him – having given up all dharma – ready for absolute surrender.

We often pray to the Lord asking for His mercy, for His one gracious glance to fall upon us. Look what the glance does, at the madness it wreaks upon the recipient! Look how it leaves her bereft of all things she holds tightly and dear, and turns her into a beggar. Neither beauty nor family, not pride, no honour will be protection against the Divine as He decides make her dance to His tune, taking over body, mind and soul…

Hosh bhula den ge biba, Mangan la den ge biba, Rang chada den ge biba, Mast bana den ge biba, Nachan la den ge biba…

The seeker continues to sing hands raised. He is dancing on the razor’s edge, seeking for his bowl to be emptied of the world he carries in it, so he can beg and be filled again. His pierced ears strain to hear the footsteps of the Divine Robber as his finger moves on his tumba in invitation. Is anyone listening?


 



Lyrics and translation:


Rom rom vich vaas sajan da
Dada e darwaas sajan da


In every pore of my being lives the Beloved; His presence, a consolation.

Tur paiyan hun yaar de ghar nu,
Mai chad ni sakdi ode darr nu


Now that I have sighted His door, I cannot give up walking towards Him.

Duniyan pai khasma nu khave fe
Duniyan pai khasma nu khave fe
O masti mai firdi


Let the world go to hell; as for me, I am drunk with love, roam as one mad

Mera tunka yaar wajave
O masti mai firdi


My lover instigates the drunkenness, I roam as one mad

Ruh Allah Allah gaave... Maula...
Han ruh Allah Allah gaave
O masti mai firdi
Mera tunka yaar wajave
O masti mai firdi


The soul chants Allah, Allah; O Maula
And I roam as one mad
My lover instigates the drunkenness, I roam as one mad.

Mast bana den ge biba
Nachan la den ge biba
Na jain mastan de wehde
Mast bana den ge biba

​​​​​​​
They will make you drunk, and they will make you dance. Don’t keep the company of the drunk, they will make you drunk too.

​​​​​​​Aisi mastan di yaari ni
Bhul jayengi duniyan dari ni


Such is the friendship of the drunken, that you will forget all worldly duty

​​​​​​​Jado chad gai masti bhari ni
Teri hasti mit jau sari ni


In that state of intoxication will your I-ness be destroyed

Ena iko ghut pyoni, iko ghut pyoni
Te hosh uda den ge biba
Na jai mastan de wehde
Mast bana den ge biba


A sip is all they will give you to drink, and you will be blown away. Go not near the drunk, they will make you drunk too.

​​​​​​​Pakke mastan de bhane
Ni tere badal den ge bane ni
Jehna sur punde te lale ni
Nale bhajan Sain de gale ni


The drunk are true to their way; they will change yours as well. Their tumba is tuned, their song praises the Beloved.

O kanni mundra
Kanni mundra, kassa hath fada denge biba
Na jai mastan de wehde
Mast bana den ge biba


Soon you will look a beggar, ears pierced and a begging bowl in hand. Do not go…

Nadiyon paar sajan da thana
Kitta kol jaroori jana
Nadiyon paar sajan da thana
Kitta kol jroori jana


The Beloved is across the river, and I have promised to reach.

​​​​​​​Minta kara, minta kara
Minta kara mallah de naal akh larh gai
Larh gai beparvah de naal akh larh gai


I beg the oarsman, I beg, o how I beg him! I have fallen in love with him… I have fallen in love with the Indifferent One.

Jo vi peevan naale pinda
Jo vi khavan naale khanda
Jo vi peevan naale pinda
Jo vi khavan naale khanda


He drinks as I drink, eats as I do… He drinks as I drink, eats as I do.

​​​​​​​Saah lenda e
Saah lenda e mere saah de naal, akh larh gai
Larh gai beparvah de naal akh larh gai
Os deen duni de shah de naal
Deen duni de shah de naal
Deen duni de shah de naal
Akh larh gai
Larh gai beparvah de naal akh larh gai


He breathes… he breathes as I breathe. O, I am smitten with the Indifferent One. Smitten with the lord of the three worlds, in love with the Indifferent One.

​​​​​​​Kache mastan de wehde ni
Jithe nachde bann bann gede ni
Kar denge tere nabede ni
Jehde tunde karam sahede ni
Lekhan diyan puthiyan likan
Lekhan diyan puthiyan likan
Sidhian waah denge biba
Na jai mastan de wehde
Mast bana den ge biba


Impermanent are the homes of the drunk. With abandon they dance in circles of their own kind. The deeds you have accumulated over lives, they burn away to the finish straightening the ways of crooked fate. Go not near the drunk, they will make you drunk too.

Na jai mastan de wehde
Mast bana den ge biba
Mast bana den ge biba
Nachan la den ge biba
Kan phadhva den ge biba
Hosh bhula den ge biba
Mangan la den ge biba
Rang chada den ge biba
Mast bana den ge biba
Nachan la den ge biba
Sidhiyan pa den ge biba
Hosh bhula den ge biba
Kan phadhva den ge biba
Hosh bhula den ge biba
Mast bana den ge biba
Nachan la den de biba
Na jain mastan de wehde
Mast bana den ge biba...


Go not near the drunk, they will make you drunk too. And they will make you dance. And get you to pierce your (inner) ear (so you may hear the sacred sound). And they will blow you away. And make you a beggar. And stain you with colour divine. Go not near the drunk, they will make you drunk too. And they will make you dance. And put you under a spell. And blow you away. And get you to pierce your ears, so you are blown away…


This week's poetic write up is contributed by Bhavana Pankaj, a gifted writer and fellow pilgrim across the vast sound-scapes of life.


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