Sapnon Se Bhare Naina (Hindi Song)

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I attended a great concert by Shankar / Ehsan / Loy last weekend. They performed many great songs, but skipped my favorite song, Sapnon Se Bhare Naina. (Probably because the crowd was too pumped up and they didn’t want to put them in a pensive / reflective mood?)

In any case, this is their best song by far in my opinion. Fantastic lyrics (by Javed Akhtar) and incredibly passionately sung by Shankar Mahadevan to a beautiful tune. While listening to this song, I have experienced a series of intense emotions in quick succession. Everything from sadness, pity, compassion, mild amusement or cynicism, anger, defiance, triumph, and euphoria. I believe all of them are legitimate effects of this song, depending upon how you interpret the lyrics and what your state of mind is when you listen to it. Every time you listen to it, one of those interpretations will stay with you for a while. I guess that is how all great works of art are.

I looked for translations for the lyrics on the internet, but all are a little too literal in my opinion, and not really capturing the real essence of the song. Of course, like any great piece of art, capturing its essence is next to impossible. And unless you have the whole cultural context, it is hard for any translation to express everything the song is trying to convey. Still, here is my attempt. And again, your translation – and even mine – will probably vary somewhat from time to time depending upon which emotion stays with you longer.:

The child runs after a butterfly,
Chasing it from garden to garden,
But the butterfly remains elusive.

Who will help the poor child understand?
What it is looking for,
It will never find in this world.
But it can find it inside itself.

One who does not understand this,
Will only find a new path at the end of every path.
And on every such path,
The harsh midday sun will burn his feet.

The path will take many turns,
But will offer no shade.
He will keep on walking forever.
There will be no one around
To help him understand.

From afar, what looks like an ocean to everyone,
Might turn out to be a desert.
Just like night and day are different,
So are happiness and peace.

But the eyes that can see this,
Are different.
(Those eyes can see that)
Peace is always there with us,
But happiness isn’t.As long as your eyes remain full of dreams,
You can have neither sleep nor peace.
As long as your eyes remain full of dreams,
You can have neither sleep nor peace.

Some people might translate the “sukh hai paraya” line differently. I have translated it as “happiness always belongs to someone else”, but one could also say “happiness belongs to no one” or “can’t be owned for long”. Slightly different interpretations.

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