from Holi Songs of Demerara

Lalbihari Sharma

Chautal 1

Even with spring’s blossoms
unfolding, separation stings.
Frangipani, roses, sunflowers,
hibiscus, and jasmine unfurl

as night folds. Juhi and honeysuckle
erupt as flames—
thousands of match-like marigolds—.
The red pomegranate buds,

the silk flower in fine bloom.
In the garden without my beloved
flowers slay me. O friends,
O Sakhi, were he beside me,

he’d banish my fears. In the garden
the koyal’s each cry breaks me.

Lalbihari explains, “Fair one,
your beloved soon comes.”

Chautal 2

In the forest the papiha bird’s epics
stave off sleep. It’s at midnight;
separation from my love
torments me. Without him

I have no peace. My youth wastes.
Phagun is supposed to be a blissful month,
but without Krishna how can
I enjoy it? Should the day-breeze blow,

it’s blistering. I even regret night.
All my friends gather to compose
chautal songs, knocking drums.
Abir in the hands and colored water;

my pain wakes. What fate
that I take such a ruinous life
and squander it.                  

                         Lalbihari says, “Fair one,
with peace comes happiness.”

Chautal 3

Sakhi, As soon as I wake I dress
as Spring, with armlets,
bangles, and rings. The necklace
around my throat gleams

like my forehead’s bindi.
I sit on the bed and call,
Piya. Piya. Don’t tell me any news
of him, don’t tell me

I’ve wasted my life. My blouse
bursts; my whole body aches
for him. This distance between us
I cannot bear. I am lost.

The papiha bird cries, Piya.
Piya. Hearing this unstitches me.

Lalbihari: “Peace. Peace.”

Chautal 4

From abroad Piya sends no word.
I’m listless in the month of Phagun
without my love. The papiha bird cries,

I’m overcome by this distance between.
He stole away to another country
without telling me. The rain falls
like arrows or serpents stirring worry

in my heart. All of the men
of my house go to search for him.
How can I be patient when my youth
itself is a poisoned arrow? Night and day

I sit watching for any sign.
My love has not yet returned.

is just a resonance chamber, the beloved
will come and banish your pain.

Chautal 5

Sakhi, spring has come yet
my beloved has not. In Phaag
my heart yearns. All who sing
Phaagun, all drums that beat

light rhythms twist the dagger
in my heart. In longing I sob
into my bed, drunk
with this sickness.

Pichkaris filled with color, 
every house raises celebration.
Raining down on all,
colorful streams.

Abuse goes all around, today
no one’s shy.

                         Lalbihari says,
“The one who suffers separation
sits alone, heart wilting.”

translated from the Awadhi-Bhojpuri by Rajiv Mohabir

Recording credits: Amar Ramessar (vocals), Tarun Deodat (tabla), and Avinash Roopchan (keyboard and sound engineering).