In 1870, France started blueprinting to commence work on the Statue of Liberty—which among other things is a symbol of freedom from oppression—as a salute through a gift to the people of USA. In the same year, a Frenchman named Jules Verne wrote a novel called Autour de la Lune, in English meaning Around the Moon. In its time, this was an audacious science-fiction book tracing the journey of three men in a huge spaceship that was headed for the moon. The idea behind space exploration is underpinned by freedom too, and since Verne’s spaceship was launched from Baltimore in the eastern United States, this tale also was in a way a salute to the Americans.
It took about one hundred years from Jules Verne’s book for the United States to finally land a man on the moon. And in nearly half a century since that landing, just a dozen men have actually set their feet on the Earth’s only natural satellite, even as a few more have seen it from up close. As for space visits in general, many animals and insects have been up there too, beginning with the Soviet dog Laika in 1957, followed by the likes of fruit flies, guinea pigs, reptiles, monkeys, rabbits and mice. Ironically, no one has as yet thought of sending up a bird we call chakor, a French partridge also known as chukar, for this is the bird that is in love with the moon, as Indian folklore tells us. What a pity.
So what’s the chakor-chanda story?
From times immemorial, the bird chakor—in both genders—has been known to be a lonely lover of the moon. As if in a trance, it keeps staring at the moon all night. Since the moon doesn’t come down to meet it, our winged friend itself flies off to meet its lover. In this flight it is bound to fail, for the moon is farther than it appears. The chakor’s infatuation and subsequent attempts to go meet its lover have been the subject of hundreds of poems and stories that have spoken about unrequited love. Our cinema is also not exempt from such metaphorical comparisons with the ground realities in the situations of actors on the screen, either to experience unrequited love, or to highlight such yawning gaps between two lovers as to render any romantic union impossible. These gaps can be financial, cultural, ethnic or cosmetic.
Consistent with that, consider what Khursheed sings in Bhakt Surdas (1942), the aiming-too-high imagery executed by DN Madhok:
Chaand se preet lagaaye
Chaand se preet lagaaye…
Saaya dekh nadi mein moorakh
Phoola naheen samaaye
Wo harjaayi taaron ke sang
Apni raas rachaaye
Chaand se preet lagaaye…
The gap is highlighted in the case of Basant (1960), where Shammi Kapoor is totally besotted by Nutan’s beauty, singing the lyrics of Qamar Jalalabadi, “Nainon mein suraj ki kirnen, chanda jaisa roop hai”. Thinking her too high for him, he speaks about his own flight in a stanza: “Chaand ko chhoone chala hai dekho, ud kar ek chakor re”. While she responds: “Kaise pahunchega tu chakore, par tere kamzor re?” Agreed, he seems to say, his flight turning into plight: “Paagal panchhi ye kya jaane chanda kitni door hai!”
Consider these songs that had a mention of the chanda-chakor imagery, sometimes deep inside the song. The songwriter needs to be part of the equation here:
- Chakori chaand hai kitni door (Pt. Indra/Singer unknown/Chand Chakori, 1945)
- Chakori chanda ke angna (Pt. Madhur/Rajkumari, Revashankar/Samrat Chandragupta, 1945)
- Ek chakori dev pe apne bhaav ke pushp chadhaati thi (Ramesh Gupta/Manna Dey/Vikramaditya, 1945)
- Tu chanda main teri chakori (Writer unknown/Dilshad Begum, Trilok Kapoor/Birhan, 1948)
- Zindagi bhale hi teri zer-e-sangeen ho (Indeewar/Mohantara/Taqdeerwale, 1948)
- Haaye chanda gaye pardes, chakori yahaan ro-ro mare (MR Bakhri/Lata/Chakori, 1949)
- Chakori ka chanda se pyaar (Raja Mehdi Ali Khan/Lata/Daaman, 1951)
- Humen chaand lage pyaara pyaara (PL Santoshi/Binapani Mukerji/Ghayal, 1951)
- Kahe chakori haaye chanda tu chitchor (Raja Mehdi Ali Khan/Geeta/Lav Kush, 1951)
- Tu hai chanda to main hoon chakor (Indeewar/Kishore, Lata/Aaghosh, 1953)
- Chori-chori chaandni mein chakori chali aaye (GS Nepali/Rafi, Asha/Mahasati Savitri, 1955)
- Ab dekh ke kya karen taaron ki baaraat ko, chanda se chakori juda hai (GS Nepali/Asha, Rafi/Veer Rajputani, 1955)
- Tumhaare sang main bhi chaloongi piya (Shakeel/Lata/Sohni Mahiwal, 1958)
- Ga rahi hai zindagi har taraf bahaar mein (Pradeep/Mahendra, Asha/Aanchal, 1960)
- Tere man mein kaun (Bharat Vyas/Meena Kapoor, Lata/Angulimal, 1960)
- Banke chakori gori jhoom jhoom naacho ri (Majrooh/Mukesh/Hum Matwale Naujawan, 1961)
- Dil gaya to gaya (Kaifi Azmi/Shamshad, Suman/Shama, 1961)
- Chaand ko kya maaloom chaahta hai use koi chakor (Indeewar/Mukesh/Lal Bangla, 1966)
- Duniya banaane waale ne (DN Madhok/Mahendra/Tasweer, 1966)
- Mor bole, chakor bole (Rajinder Krishan/Lata/Gauri, 1968)
- Hu tu tu tu…gaon ki main gori, chanda ki chakori (Anand Bakshi/Asha, Kamal Barot/Humjoli, 1970)
- Soyi raat chaandni soyi (Saraswati Kumar ‘Deepak’/Suman/Lav Kush, 1977)
- Jab bhi koi kangna bole (Yogesh/Kishore/Shaukeen, 1982)
- Gudiya chidiya chaand chakori (Bashar Nawaz/Asha, Jagjit Kaur, Pamela Chopra/Lori, 1984)
- Chanda ko chakor tarse (Mohammad Sarwar/Krishna Kalle/Khooni Darinda, 1987)
- Chanda ki chori karke chakori, apne ghar le aayi (Sameer/Kavita, Aditya Narayan/Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat, 1996)
The chakor is the national bird of Pakistan. Surely our neighbours would have loved to see some of their chakors go to the moon for a romantic tryst and come back. The Americans are alien to the folklore surrounding this hopelessly romantic love bird from our part of the world. Were Pakistan friendly with USA, who knows, the Americans may have even obliged. But all is not lost for our neighbour yet. With the technology that India has, why, we can send up these birds just as easily, on one of our own missions now. We have launched many space vehicles from French Guiana too, the last as recently as 29th June, 2017. Makes you wonder what Jules Verne would say, were he alive today, about Indian rockets going up from French territory.
Meantime, since the peacock is our national bird, it’s not a bad idea if we sent up a few chakors and peacocks together. We can name that mission “Mor bole, chakor bole”! Wonder if that will work better than Aman Ki Asha, the joint venture idea between two leading publications from there and here.
(Originally published, essentially in this form, on 9 July 2017. The author has made minor changes in the original)
http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-07-09 (page 11)