Childhood

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (1904-1948) was a renowned Hindi poet and freedom fighter. Her pièce de résistance is her epic poem on the Queen of Jhansi, Lakshmibai. While she was known for her poems in the vira rasa (the aesthetic experience of courage; one of the nine rasas), this is a beautiful poem about childhood in the karuna rasa (the aesthetic experience of compassion, pathos, and empathy).

Commemorative stamp (1976)

बार-बार आती है मुझको मधुर याद बचपन तेरी |
गया ले गया तू जीवन की सबसे मस्त खुशी मेरी ||
चिंता-रहित खेलना-खाना वह फिरना निर्भय स्वच्छंद |
कैसे भूला जा सकता है बचपन का अतुलित आनंद?
ऊँच-नीच का ज्ञान नहीं था छुआछूत किसने जानी?
बनी हुई थी वहाँ झोंपड़ी और चीथड़ों में रानी ||
किये दूध के कुल्ले मैंने चूस अँगूठा सुधा पिया |
किलकारी किल्लोल मचाकर सूना घर आबाद किया ||
रोना और मचल जाना भी क्या आनंद दिखाते थे |
बड़े-बड़े मोती-से आँसू जयमाला पहनाते थे ||
मैं रोई, माँ काम छोड़कर आईं, मुझको उठा लिया |
झाड़-पोंछ कर चूम-चूम कर गीले गालों को सुखा दिया ||
दादा ने चंदा दिखलाया नेत्र नीर-युत दमक उठे |
धुली हुई मुस्कान देख कर सबके चेहरे चमक उठे ||
वह सुख का साम्राज्य छोड़कर मैं मतवाली बड़ी हुई |
लुटी हुई, कुछ ठगी हुई-सी दौड़ द्वार पर खड़ी हुई ||
लाजभरी आँखें थीं मेरी मन में उमँग रँगीली थी |
तान रसीली थी कानों में चंचल छैल छबीली थी ||
दिल में एक चुभन-सी थी यह दुनिया अलबेली थी |
मन में एक पहेली थी मैं सब के बीच अकेली थी ||
मिला, खोजती थी जिसको हे बचपन! ठगा दिया तूने |
अरे! जवानी के फंदे में मुझको फँसा दिया तूने ||
सब गलियाँ उसकी भी देखीं उसकी खुशियाँ न्यारी हैं |
प्यारी, प्रीतम की रँग-रलियों की स्मृतियाँ भी प्यारी हैं ||
माना मैंने युवा-काल का जीवन खूब निराला है |
आकांक्षा, पुरुषार्थ, ज्ञान का उदय मोहनेवाला है ||
किंतु यहाँ झंझट है भारी युद्ध-क्षेत्र संसार बना |
चिंता के चक्कर में पड़कर जीवन भी है भार बना ||
आ जा बचपन! एक बार फिर दे दे अपनी निर्मल शांति |
व्याकुल व्यथा मिटानेवाली वह अपनी प्राकृत विश्रांति ||
वह भोली-सी मधुर सरलता वह प्यारा जीवन निष्पाप |
क्या आकर फिर मिटा सकेगा तू मेरे मन का संताप?
मैं बचपन को बुला रही थी बोल उठी बिटिया मेरी |
नंदन वन-सी फूल उठी यह छोटी-सी कुटिया मेरी ||
'माँ ओ' कहकर बुला रही थी मिट्टी खाकर आयी थी |
कुछ मुँह में कुछ लिये हाथ में मुझे खिलाने लायी थी ||
पुलक रहे थे अंग, दृगों में कौतुहल था छलक रहा |
मुँह पर थी आह्लाद-लालिमा विजय-गर्व था झलक रहा ||
मैंने पूछा 'यह क्या लायी?' बोल उठी वह 'माँ, काओ' |
हुआ प्रफुल्लित हृदय खुशी से मैंने कहा - 'तुम्हीं खाओ' ||
पाया मैंने बचपन फिर से बचपन बेटी बन आया |
उसकी मंजुल मूर्ति देखकर मुझ में नवजीवन आया ||
मैं भी उसके साथ खेलती खाती हूँ, तुतलाती हूँ |
मिलकर उसके साथ स्वयं मैं भी बच्ची बन जाती हूँ ||
जिसे खोजती थी बरसों से अब जाकर उसको पाया |
भाग गया था मुझे छोड़कर वह बचपन फिर से आया ||

In school, we had an extract from this poem and I had to even learn it from memory. But it was the most joyful task given that the poem is written in such a lyrical poetic meter. Here is my translation:

Time and again, O childhood, I recall your sweet memories
You took away, far away, my life’s greatest joys
Carefree games, food; wandering fearless, pure
How can one forget childhood’s matchless bliss?
Unaware of rich and poor, who knew social divisions?
A hut was built there and I, a princess, dressed in rags
Rinsed my mouth with milk, sucked my thumb, drank nectar
I filled an empty house with my shrieking and frolicking
Sobbing and cribbing too brought such pleasure
Tears as big as pearls formed a necklace of victory
When I wept, Ma left her work, lifted me in her arms
Swept and mopped and kissed my wet cheeks, drying it
When Grandpa showed the moon, eyes glowed through tears
Seeing my washed up smile, everyone’s face lit up
Leaving this kingdom of comfort, O stupid me, I grew up
Like one who’s duped and destitute, I ran to the door and stood
I had shy eyes and a heart filled with colorful hopes
The voice sounded sweet to the ears; love was frothy and playful
Something prickly in the heart; this world was beautiful
A riddle haunted the mind; I was alone amidst everyone
I found what I was looking for, O Childhood! You cheated me!
Ah, you trapped me in the noose of youth
I have seen all its lanes – its joys I can’t understand
O beloved, memories of the lover’s pranks and games are lovely too!
I agree that the life of youth is quite strange
It charms us by awakening desires, fulfillment, wisdom
But the hassles are heavy; family life has become a battlefield
Caught in a whirl of worry, life has become a burden
Oh come, Childhood! Give me again your spotless peace
A cure that’ll destroy unease and pain – that natural leisure of yours
That innocent, mellifluous simplicity; that lovely life free of sin
Can you come again and erase my mind’s agony?
I was calling my childhood when suddenly my daughter spoke up
My small hut bloomed like a heavenly garden
“Come, Ma!” she called out to me with mud in her mouth
A bit in the mouth, a bit in her hands, she brought, to feed me
Hairs standing on end, eyes beaming with curiosity
Face red with ecstasy, glowing with the pride of victory
I asked, “What have you brought?” She replied, “Ma, eat”
My heart swelled with joy; I said, “You eat it!”
I found childhood again; it came in the form of daughter
Seeing her lovely form, I got a new life
I too play and with her, and prattle with her
Joining her, I myself become a child
What I sought for years, I found it finally
The childhood that had fled from me came back

Author(s)

About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.

Prekshaa Publications

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