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The Paper, Ink and Pen Songs

Posted on Trivia – the Spice of Life on 11/09/2021

Image Grab Courtesy :

I had recently written a post lamenting the fact that handwriting is soon going to become extinct because of the information technology revolution. This piece draws inspiration from the same post. While blog posts have been written (by others) about songs that speak of letter writing, I do not think there has been an attempt to enlist songs that mention the paraphernalia that is required to write – ink that shall be used, the surface that shall be written upon and the stylus that shall be used to write.

It is said that writing materials have played a very prominent role in the development of cultures. They have helped not only in preserving the history and culture of mankind, but have also deeply influenced scripts, languages as well as man’s mode of thinking. It would be worthwhile to enlist the different kinds of materials that were used over the ages, for writing.

Long before we had the pens, pencils, ink and paper, the writing paraphernalia was quite different. Myriad surfaces were used to write on which included cave walls, stones, rock surfaces, palm-leaves, copper-plates, bricks, earthenware, clay tablets, shell, ivory, cloth, wood and skin. Paper came much later. Reed pens and quills were used as styluses.  Ink was made of carbon (soot) mixed with a little gum or gelatine.

After this brief journey into the past, it would be interesting to enlist the writing materials mentioned in songs. One must note here that there are bound to be flights of fancy in songs that refer to writing. Poetic license is used to the hilt. An analysis of the songs – up to the late eighties – throws up some interesting facts. The ink (दवात /स्याही / रोशनाई) sometimes is kohl (काजल ), water ( पानी ), the sea (समंदर) and tears (आंसू). The surface used to write is the heart (दिल), an ordinary piece of paper (कागज़), a branch (डाली), a grain (दाना) or even eyes (आँख). The scribe is not necessarily a human.

I have chosen ten songs that refer to writing equipment in the mukhda. The focus of this post is not letter writing. Thus, the reference to letter writing is purely incidental in some songs. The spotlight is on the ink, the surface chosen to write, the stylus/pen and in a song or two, the scribe. The songs are not arranged in any particular order.

1) Unhe Qissa-e-gham Jo Likhne Ko Baithe (Naya Kanoon, 1965) Lyricist : Hasrat Jaipuri; Music Director : Madan Mohan; Playback Singers: Asha Bhosle/ Md.Rafi. This lovely song is from a movie that did not do well at the box office. As a result, Madan Mohan’s music which was outstanding, got completely obliterated. This song has two versions – one by Rafi where Bharat Bhushan who plays a poet, recites these verses; the other is where these verses are sung by Vyjayantimala – the heroine – in a studio setting. Both the versions have their own charm. The opening lines are so much in sync with my theme.

उन्हें  क़िस्सा -ए -ग़म  जो   लिखने   को  बैठे 
तो  देखे  क़लम  की  रवानी  में  आंसू 
(When I sat to write to him/her my sorrowful story, 
I saw that the flow in the pen was of tears) 

Thus, here ink is replaced by tears thereby conveying despondency in a very poetic fashion. Hasrat Jaipuri’s lyrics are outstanding.

Both male and female versions

2) Dane Daane Pe Likha Hain (Baarish, 1957) Lyricist : Rajinder Krishan; Music Director : C.Ramchandra; Playback Singer : C.Ramchandra. In India, it is believed that the destiny of every grain of food is pre-decided or that every grain has a name (of who will eat it) written on it. It is this philosophy that is enunciated in this song. The second line of the mukhda too is steeped in philosophy – Lene wale karod, denewala ek Raam (there are innumerable people who want to receive but the giver i.e. God, is only one). This song is from a Dev Anand – Nutan starrer. Chitalkar has sung for Dev Anand. The tune carries the stamp of C.Ramchandra. Here, the surface that is being written on is a grain of food.

दाने दाने पे लिखा हैं खाने वाले का नाम
लेने वाले करोड़ देने वाला एक राम

It would not be out of context to pint out here that writing on rice is in fact considered an art. This form of art is quite popular in India too.

Writing on a grain of rice
Image Courtesy :

3) Aankho Se Kaajal Ki Lekar Siyahi (Jhoola, 1962) Lyricist : Rajinder Krishan; Music Director : Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. Starring Sunil Dutt and Vyjayantimala, Jhoola is a nurse – doctor love story. This movie has some memorable songs, including the song Ek Samay Par Do Barsaatein sung by Manna Dey. Salil Chowdhury’s music enthralls. The song at hand speaks of how kohl of the eyes is used as ink to write on the heart, treating it as a piece of paper. The visual imagery is pretty powerful.

आँखों से काजल की लेकर स्याही 
लिखा है ये खत सनम तेरे नाम... 

दिल को बनाया कागज़ का टुकड़ा 
उस पर लिखा मैंने फुरक़त का दुखड़ा 

4) Ab Chaar Dinon Ki Chutti Hain (Aas Ka Panchhi, 1961) Lyricist : Hasrat Jaipuri; Music Directors : Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singer : Md. Rafi. The song begins with a vocal prelude which is very topical as far as this post goes. Rajendra Kumar is in the army and he is thrilled that there is a four day break in which he can go and visit his beloved. Another colleague is cold to the idea and feels that writing a letter would suffice instead of going home personally, as the journey is too tedious. It is then that these lines are sung:-

ज़मीन कागज़ की बन जाए समंदर रोशनाई का
बयान फिर भी न होगा हमसे ये किस्सा जुदाई का 

These lines translate as – even if the entire land becomes a paper and the whole sea ink, I would still not be able to express my feelings of being separated from my beloved. Interestingly, the word रोशनाई (roshnai) that is used for ink is not very commonly heard in songs. The heroine once again is Vyjayantimala (!!) Wonder why she was so fond of letter writing in the movies she acted in!!

5) Kalam Dawaat Mori Saswa Ne Rakh Di (Firdaus, 1953) Lyricist : D.N.Madhok; Music Director : Robin Chatterjee; Playback Singer : Geeta Dutt. I came across this lighthearted song which is a hidden gem. Sung by Geeta Dutt, the lyrics describe very pithily the troubled relationship between the mother-in-law and the daughter – in -law. It is a pity that the video of the song is not available. The opening lines reproduced below mean that – my mother-in-law has taken away my pen and ink; I do not know what her peeve is. Thus, I am writing a letter to you using kohl. It is high time you came back.

कलम दवात मोरी ससवा ने रख दी
न जानू किस बात की चिढ़ थी
अब तो चले आओ बालम 
कि चिट्ठी कजरे से लिखी

6) Hawaaon Pe Likh Do (Do Dooni Chaar, 1968) Lyricist : Gulzar; Music Director : Hemant Kumar; Playback Singer : Kishore Kumar. This composition is sublime. It has mellifluous music, a soothing voice and to top it all, are the lyrics that Gulzar has penned. The personification of nature’s constituents is very impressive. Here, the unknown traveller is penning a message (greetings) on the winds, for the winds. Only Gulzar is capable of writing such lyrics. Thus, here the surface that is being written on is the wind. In the video, one can also see Baby Neetu Singh on the tree. Do Dooni Chaar is considered to be a precursor of Angoor (1982).

हवाओं पे लिख दो 
हवाओं के नाम 
हम अनजान परदेसियों
 का सलाम

7) Likha Hain Teri Aankhon Mein (Teen Deviyan, 1965) Lyricist : Majrooh Sultanpuri; Music Director : S.D.Burman; Playback Singers : Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar. This is a movie in which Dev Anand is spoilt for choice as he has three women falling for him. The fact that there are three heroines means more songs and wonderful ones at that! This one is very tastefully shot in a village setting with Nanda and Dev Anand enjoying some fresh corn in the fields. The lyrics also amply suggest that he is a flirt (thoda sa haseenon ka sahara leke chalna hain meri aadat rozaana). In this song, the eyes serve as the surface on which the man’s love story is written. Majrooh’s lyrics are so imaginative.

लिखा हैं तेरी आँखों में 
किसका अफ़साना
अगर इसे समझ सको
मुझे भी समझाना

8) Hum Dono Milke Kaagaz Pe Dil Ke (Tumhaari Kasam, 1978) Lyricist : Anand Bakshi; Music Director : Rajesh Roshan; Playback Singers : Asha Bhosle & Mukesh. This is a lovely melody from the late seventies. It has very creative lyrics by Anand Bakshi. It is about a married couple planning a family and writing a letter to their future offspring inviting him/her home. The letter will be written on the heart that shall serve as paper. Rajesh Roshan’s music is sweet and the variations in the music of the interludes is a strong point of this song – which is essentially to capture the mood of what is shown on screen.

हम दोनों मिलके 
कागज़ पे दिल के 
चिट्ठी लिखेंगे 
जवाब आएगा 

9) Roz Roz Daali Daali Kya Likh Jaaye (Angoor, 1982) Lyricist : Gulzar; Music Director : R.D.Burman; Playback Singer: Asha Bhosle. Do Dooni Chaar (mentioned above) was a precursor of Angoor. In Angoor, Gulzar yet again spun his magic and this time the music director was R.D.Burman. Based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, this is a rib tickling movie. This song in particular, composed in Raag Yaman is a pleasure to listen to. The lyrics of Gulzar capture such a beautiful moment that nature offers – that of the bee buzzing on branches. The use of the words बावरा and भौंरा make the song special. Gulzar writes:-

रोज़ रोज़ डाली डाली 
क्या लिख जाए भौरा बावरा 
कलियों के नाम कोई 
लिखे पैग़ाम कोई
बावरा भौंरा बावरा 
(Wonder what the crazy bee writes on the branches everyday; 
perhaps it writes a message for the tender buds)

10) Khamosh Sa Afsaana Paani Se (Libaas, 1988) Lyricist : Gulzar; Music Director : R.D.Burman; Playback Singers : Lata Mangeshkar & Suresh Wadkar. I am ending my playlist with yet another Gulzar song. This is from a movie that was not officially released though it was made in 1988, as the censor board did not clear it. It was later released in 2017 as per newspaper reports. Based on the subject of adultery, it was considered too bold. The movie’s music though has been heard very often on radio. This song fits the bill (for this post). I heard the opening words several times to confirm whether it said paani pe or paani se (i.e. on water or with water). It turns out to be paani se. So here, water is used as ink. Anything written with water will dry and not leave any trace. This perhaps was ideal for a film dealing with adultery. The video of the song is not available. The tune of another song from the same movie (Sili Hawa Chhoo Gayi) is used in the interlude.

ख़ामोश सा अफ़साना
पानी से लिखा होता
न तुमने कहा होता
न हमने सुना होता
(The silent tale {of love??} 
should have been written with water. 
If only you had never said it and 
I had never heard it!) 

This brings me to the end of my list. As you can see, a number of songs penned by Gulzar figure in this post. This is because he is best at creating imagery and capturing intangible ideas with his words effortlessly. I did not want to make this a blog about letter writing. But in a few songs there is obviously a reference to that. That is purely incidental. The focus of the post is on the paraphernalia needed for writing. If you happen to stop by and read, please do write too as to what you think about this post!!

Disclaimer claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from Daily Motion, YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audiovisual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

11 thoughts on “The Paper, Ink and Pen Songs

  1. Very interesting post. The first song I could recollect was
    प्यार के काग़ज़ पे दिल की कलम से from Jigar in the early 90s.
    I’ll back with a few more if I happen to recollect.



  2. A nice post on a new theme!!

    Would these songs fit in?
    – kora kagaz tha ye man mera likh liya naam – Aradhana (1969)
    – mera jeevan kora kagaz kora hi reh gaya – Kora kagaz (1974)
    – phoolon ke rang se dil ki kalam se – Prem Pujari (1970)
    – dil ki kalam se hum tum likhenge – Pyar Mohabbat (1988)
    – kagaz kalam dawaat la likh doon – Hum (1991)
    – kaat ke ungli kalam banaun dil ke lahu se – First Love Letter (1991)


    1. Thanks for all those songs, Dr.Deshpande! I was hoping the song from Prem Pujari would be mentioned by some one. The ink in this song is the colour of flowers (फूलों के रंग) which is rather unique. I cannot think of any other song which uses this metaphor.
      The songs from Kora Kagaz and Aaradhana – use the heart/life (मन जीवन) – as the surface to write on.
      The song from First Love letter is also quite unique as it talks of the finger(उंगली) being used as the stylus (कलम ) and blood (लहू) that too of the heart (!!) as ink. (quite gory though!!)
      Again, the song from Hum mentions the entire paraphernalia required for writing.


  3. Such an unusual and interesting theme, and I really like the songs you’ve chosen, including the ones from later films. I see Dr Deshpande has already written the song I was going to mention – Kora kaagaz thha yeh mann mera – but here’s one that might fit the theme?

    Naye-naye rangon se likhti dharti from Kavi Kalidas:

    There’s also Shaheedon ki mazaaron par… laal khoon se likhe hain from Laal Qila, but I haven’t been able to find a video for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Madhuji, thanks a lot for reading! The song from Kavi Kalidas is a beautiful Raag Maalika
    नये नये रंगों से लिखती धरती नयी कहानी is so innovatively written. You can almost imagine the earth writing. The description of the different seasons is also very creative.
    I could not find the audio link of the song from Laal Quila.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually decided I’d go and see if I could track the Laal Qila song down in the film, and realized that it’s the credits song. So if you just start watching the film, you’ll hear it from the very beginning:


  5. The movie Libaas is still not released. Just like the report in 2017, there was another news in 2019 that the movie will be finally released.But still no official release. It has been screened couple of times in film festivals.
    Looks like the producers don’t want to release it which is unfortunate.
    A Gulzar film with RDB’s music is always something to look forward to.


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