The Hope Interlude

When by my solitary hearth I sit

And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom

When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit

And the bare heath of life presents no bloom

Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed

And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head

The above is part of a poem called “To Hope”, by English poet John Keats. His contemporary, PB Shelley too wrote on hope in his poem “To A Skylark”, the bird that symbolizes hope. Here’s what the amazed poet asks the bird:

What objects are the fountains

Of thy happy strain?

What fields, or waves, or mountains?

What shapes of sky or plain?

What love of thine own kind? What ignorance of pain?

In an attempt to exhaust all possibilities, the poet goes on to wonder whether the skylark sings because of some pain. This line became so celebrated:

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought

Hindi cinema’s own lyricist Shailendra took the reverse route from Shelley. He started with celebrating sadness in this ghazal from Patita (1953):

Hain sab se madhur wo geet jinhen hum dard ke sur mein gaate hain

Jab had se guzar jaati hai khushi aansoo bhi chhalakte aate hain

Only to navigate through hope:

Jab gham ka andhera ghir aaye, samjho ke savera door naheen

Har raat ka hai paighaam yehi, taare bhi yehi dohraate hain

Two stellar examples of privation and hope

1929 was the year of birth of India’s melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. Many of us know her as one of the greatest singers in the history of our cinema, having impacted millions and millions of us over the decades. She has received not just India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, but also the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is as high as it gets for people from the film fraternity. Besides these, she has numerous awards and citations, PhDs from various universities and so on. In the light of these achievements, it is hard to recall that the lady’s initial years in films were times of struggle. These struggles really started when her father suddenly passed away in 1942, when Lata, only 13 and the oldest of 5 children, had to go out and make a living for everyone. Hers is an inspiring story of grit and hope.

As Ms Mangeshkar was grappling with her situation here, several thousand miles away, another innocent little girl, also born in 1929, was also showing grit and hope from 1942. Anne Frank was a Jew whose family had fled from Hitler’s Germany to live in Holland. The girl was 13 when she had to go into hiding from German concentration camps—and assured death. She died in a concentration camp in 1945, when she was 16 years of age. Her story, written by herself—The Diary of Anne Frank—has been a huge international bestseller. It has been translated into 60 languages, and needless to add, is a source of inspiration for millions of people around the world.

Other stories of people who battled and survived life’s vicissitudes, of poverty, indignity, of the death of a loved one, maybe some health issues—it’s a long list—all are underpinned by hope when the going was bad. Hanging in there until the darkness backs away has helped people come out through many a crisis.

These film songs had hope embedded in them. From the crew, only the lyricist is mentioned:

  • Bande kabhi na himmat haar (Pt Indra/Station Master, 1942)
  • Kiye ja pyaar na himmat haar (Pt Indra/Rajputani, 1946)
  • Jeene ka dhang dikhaaye ja (DN Madhok/Parwana, 1947)
  • Raat ke raahi thak mat jaana (Sahir/Baabla, 1953)
  • Haariye na himmat bisaariye na Ram (Ramesh Gupta/Mahapooja, 1954)
  • Kabhi hai gham kabhi khushiyaan (Qamar Jalalabadi/Waris, 1954)
  • Gham na kar khushi ka daur ayega (Tanvir Naqvi/Shahzada, 1955)
  • Jaago Mohan pyaare (Shailendra/Jagte Raho, 1956)
  • Aaj naheen to kal bikhrenge ye baadal (Pradeep/Naag Mani, 1957)
  • Himmat na haar raahi (Rajinder Krishan/Paayal, 1957)
  • Himmat na haar are bande (Qamar Jalalabadi/Zamaana, 1957)
  • Dheeraj dhar manwa (Bharat Vyas/Baalyogi Upmanyu, 1958)
  • Wo subah kabhi to ayegi (Sahir/Phir Subha Hogi, 1958)
  • Raat bhar ka hai mehmaan andhera (Sahir/Sone Ki Chidiya, 1958)
  • Mere nadeem mere humsafar udaas na ho (Sahir/Bhai Behen, 1959)
  • Gham ki badli mein chamakta ik sitaara hai (Shailendra/Kal Hamara Hai, 1959)
  • Maanjhi re himmat na haar (Bharat Vyas/Samrat Prithviraj Chauhan, 1959)
  • Jeevan hai madhuban (Indeewar/Jaasoos—Unreleased, 1950s)
  • Jahaan mein aisa kaun hai ke jisko gham mila naheen (Sahir/Hum Dono, 1961)
  • Kabhi to milegi (Majrooh/Aarti, 1962)
  • Gham gaya to gham na kar (Majrooh/Gyarah Hazaar Ladkiyaan, 1962)
  • Raahi tu mat ruk jaana (Shailendra/Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964)
  • Taqdeer kahaan le jaayegi (Shailendra/Sanjh Aur Savera, 1964)
  • Badal jaaye agar maali (Kaifi Azmi/Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi, 1966)
  • Gham ki andheri raat mein (Jan Nissar Akhtar/Susheela, 1966)
  • Kaahe ko roye (Anand Bakshi/Aradhana, 1969)
  • Nadiya chale chale re dhaara (Indeewar/Safar, 1970)
  • Jeevan se na haar (A Irshad/Door Ka Rahi, 1971)
  • Ruk jaana naheen tu kaheen haarke (Majrooh/Kishore/Imtihaan, 1974)
  • O sunke teri pukaar (Ravindra Jain/Fakira, 1976)
  • Dil hai chhota sa, chhoti si aasha (PK Mishra/Roja, 1993)

In the 1950s, a John Hopkins professor called Curt Richter conducted a fascinating experiment on rats. That study was outlined by Joseph T. Hallinan in a story called “The Remarkable Power of Hope” published in Psychology Today. The professor put a few rats in a half-filled jar of water to see how much they would swim before they gave up. He kept watch on each of them, and they died sooner or later. He then tweaked the experiment. Just before they were about to drown, he took them out, dried them, and after that interlude, put them back into the jar. The results were amazing. This time, they swam and lived much longer. The reason is they now saw that the situation was not so hopeless. That there was a helping hand around. That brief interlude made all the difference.

Human beings are no different. We too need a trigger for hope. Perhaps we need to be figuratively “pulled out of water”, a kind of interlude to rekindle our hopes. For many of us, a good song becomes such an interlude. The confluence of inspiring words, good music, and soulful singing can do more for a despairing soul than is generally recognized.


(Published in DNA Jaipur on 12 November 2013, page 13)

Featured image on top: from Kaahe ko roye

10 thoughts on “The Hope Interlude

  1. Such a lovely set of poems you have referred to. This reminded me of another:

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
    Man never is, but always to be blessed:
    The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
    Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

    – Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

    Bleak is a period when we feel hopeless and are desperate for a reprieve from attendant miseries of life. Life at that time is like an oil lamp fighting to survive in a wind storm.

    Loved your collection of related songs, quite a few I was familiar with. Among others, I love Jeene ka dhang sikhaye ja, kaanton ki nok par khada muskuraye ja. What a motivational song made immortal by the Shahjehan of singing, K L Saigal.

    Once again.. my basket overflows with thanks to you for your thoughts, your energy and your assimilation!

    1. You humble me Sneh, with your gratitude but also your own love for music! “Bleak is a period when we feel hopeless and are desperate for a reprieve from attendant miseries of life. Life at that time is like an oil lamp fighting to survive in a wind storm.” Well said _()_

    1. PS, how will I not include that song? Two great singers, and a beautiful optimism/pessimism song to help us when we are feeling low? 🙂

  2. This article of yours – titled so beautifully, sends one thinking – the Hope Interlude, a hope pause – to regain the positive momentum !

    It reminds me of a beautiful story from Mahabharat. It was a critical day in the war. Arjun had avowed to kill Jaidrath before the sunset, to avenge the death of his son Abhimanyu. But the Sun was heading for its set rather fast, the war was being fought in winter. It was already afternoon and Jaidrath was still secure at a distance. Krishna – the charioteer of Arjun – realized the gravity of the situation. He decided to cheer up Arjun, and consequently dampen the spirit of Kauravs. He told Arjun that his horses needed to be tended, given water and refreshed. Arjun obliged by unharnessing the horses and shooting three arrows that pierced the ground to enable the water to gush out. Krishna want about the task of refreshing the horses rather nonchalantly, leisurely. The impact of this pause was huge on Arjun; instilled in him confidence for the task ahead. This Hope Interlude had a tonal effect though it was not a default accrual; Krishna planned it instead.

    The three poems that you have quoted are so beautiful, so inspirational though Shailendra seems to be suggesting that extreme happiness could have the same symptom as of anguish – jab had se guzar jaati hai khushi aansoo bhi chhalakte aate hain – is he suggesting that the two – happiness and anguish – look the same in effect at their break point, or one just transcends them ?

    Your list includes songs where the expression of hope is explicit. Otherwise it will be unending. But I take the liberty if referring to a song from Bandini – Ab ke baras … where hope is implied, is inferral. I am not sure if it will be correct to call it a lament that carries hope. But it no doubt holds out emotional sustenance, even if surreal, to the convict under a jail sentence. The convict using the memory of good times – the nostalgia – to weave a world of fantasies, of hope.

    Sharmila – I think the photo is from Aradhana. But Nargis in B/W is looking better.


    1. Your comments are worth preserving forever, Vijay. _()_ to your thoughts! That story of the pause for Arjuna was wonderful, and remain amazed by your memory, and your language!

      Yes that snap is from Aradhana, and I too prefer the B/W Nargis, except for me, this is what happens when I think of Kaahe ko roye: it grips my soul. It takes me God’s feet, that song. Therefore everything becomes divine, including the visuals, in an unchallengeable way 🙂

  3. Hope rules eternal in the human breast. I doubt if anyone can lay claim that they have never felt sad or felt like giving all up. A nice list of inspiring songs, some of which I have never heard yet but will explore. Thanks for introducing me to them.

    As for times when we feel like throwing in the towel, well, we have our weaker moments. Let us pray that at that moment we don’t get carried away.

    1. Yes Balbir, we need to think of the good things…as Maria says In The Sound of Music: “…when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favourite things and then I don’t feel so sad!”

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