I will do my very best to make it as easy as I can for you to enjoy.
I am very sorry, you do not know deep Punjabi to enjoy the full lyrics of this song, I will do the best to translate as much as I can. I have vested interest in this song/story/ and lot attachment of my own.
This song is in fact based on as we know on a true story of Sohni and Mehiwal, we also know at until my generation that “ love affairs” and pre marital affairs were taboo, in our Punjab, falling in love for young couple was no…no….no, but love is/was blind and defied all odds. Some couples lost their lives, some suffered all their lives. In such cases most of the time girl was most of time was married off and the guy was left alone to suffer and in some cases got killed. In some cases both got killed, most of time in it was most dangerous thing to do. Regardless, true love is/was there and it defied all nonsense, though the end point was very painful in most of the cases.
Therefore meeting your beloved openly was out of question, this girl Sohni used to meet her soul mate at night when everyone was sleeping, the only problem was she had to swim across the river “ Chanab” on a pitcher under her belly, this acted like a inflated rubber tube. Her cunning sister in law (brother’s wife) was jealous about this affair. One night this woman replaces the solid pitcher with an unbaked basically a clay pot, the idea was that Sohni in darkness will not know, and when the clay will dissolve in the water she will drown in the river.
A tribute to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,
This clan most likely one of the very best on the earth, in Punjabi singing, Nusrat sahib has sung the same song in Qawali form. When they sing I believe even the angels in the paradise must drop everything on their day to day life and listen to these qawalis and songs. Rahat sahib started singing qawalis, and later on go on to song version, reason modern generation is not too keen in qawali version.
Now to answer your question.
Sohni is standing on bank of the river ( "kande utte utte kande utte")
She is waiting for the signal from Mahiwal from the other bank, to show up, so she could swim across to meet him as promised. I will give you heart rendering meaning of this song, in version of Sohni’s self questions and self answers. I wish I could sit beside you and translated word for word, translating in English will not be the same.
- She knows her sister in law has replaced solid baked pitcher with a clay one, she knows she may not make it.
- She is waiting for Mahiwal to give signal, his every minute of delay is unbearable for her.
- She knows this may be the last time she sees him,
- She knows that night is very dangerous night storm/rain/
- She says to herself I am dead serious to see him, I promised him I be there.
- She begs her Almighty not to drown her,
- She jumps in the river knowing fully well that she may not make it,
- As expected she drowns
- When she is drowning , Mahiwal jumps in to save her,
- It is too late both were drowned in the Chanab,
FYI, most of these legendary stories ended up in tragedy, Laila Majnu, Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, Mirza Sahiba,
In modern times Shri Shiv Kumar Batalvi, ( although he denied that the tremendous pain in his poetry is from this kind of affair), regardless he died very young, but left a legend of poetry mostly based on this theme. One of the greatest poet of our time called Virah da Sultan ( king of separation) Every major and huge singers of India have sung his poetry, no one ever could fill that gap, when he died at the age of 36, due tremendous amount of alcohol consumption.
There was another heart breaking story was Shrimati Amarita Pritam and
Shri Sahir Ludhianavi,
Other well known story of our modern times and failed love story of Shri Dev Anand and Shrimati Suriya Jamal, she never married and he put all his efforts in be something bigger than life, he was very brave and moved on at least from the outside, she did not take well, never married. What a waste of two lives, at least one per sure.
I know at least three 100 percent true stories in Punjab it happened more or less in front of my eyes in the late 60s and early 70s, where three girls from separate families separate stories ( I knew all of them extremely well) wanted to marry interfaith, these three committed suicide by pouring kerosene oil on themselves and burnt to death, one was full qualified doctor, she did not die right away, she lingered on for a few days, I knew her extremely well, in fact I visited her in the hospital, before she breathed her last.
This kind of pain can only be soothed either by death, alcohol, or merge yourself so much in work and that you do not feel the pain. Well, this is/was the very dark side of our culture, of many faiths, caste system and economic differences.
Regardless I hope you get some meaning out of this song, as you know the timing have changed, society is more willing to bend, and in reality in modern world no one gives two hoots.
These kind of stories, poets wrote lyrics, music directors composed one of the best music, world famous singers sung these songs, however these genres I believe are on death bed, due to change in mind set and due so many reasons due to some extent liberal society and excellent ways to communicate through modern methods. This is just a shadow of the old time, in modern times there are no Sohnis and Mahiwals, email/text/phone cuts that drowning and finding a new Sohnis and Mahiwals now there are songs : which stress the need to move on for example (Tu nahi aur sahi aur nahi to aur sahi….which literally translates if it not you then someone else or some else….. To me it is just past and great creation but in a few decades people may find total unrelated to present time frame, and these songs/lyrics no one will remember ever. In modern times the definition of everything is changing, the new generation is very smart, much smarter than the previous one.
with best regards