Asha Bhonsle sings a cool-as-butter-milk song on Balaajee.

“I don’t have seed-curds. Please go to the dairy-parlour at the street corner and get some.”,the missus orders.
I reluctantly leave my ‘iPad, my ‘gilakkaya’, rattle-toy, in the lexicon of the missus, and get her a big cup of Amul Yoghurt.
I bow my head in silent homage to the great man who ushered in the White Revolution in the country, Verghese Kurien, who died recently. There was a time when we used to stand in long queues to get a monthly-card for our two-bottles-a-day of milk. I still have a two half-liter bottles of that time in my attic, as relics. I retrieve these bottles every year at the time of Deepavali, fill them up with sand and give them to my grand kids, so that they can station the stems of the rocket-bomb firecrackers, and light up the wicks, and whoosh the rocket goes up threatening the heavens straight.
These bottles with their blue or red striped aluminium caps, full of chilled milk used to greet me at the beginning of the day along with a copy of the day’s, The Hindu. These bottles gave way to plastic satchets, which we can buy, any time of the day, at the street corner.
Long gone are the days of my childhood, when my mother used to chide the milk-man about the watery-thin milk he brought in a big German-silver vessel, only to get his nonchalant stock reply that his buffaloes must have imbibed a lot of water the other day.
And gone for ever are the days when young ladies used to carry baskets containing vessels holding curds and butter-milk, singing along, “perugoyamma, challaloo “, “curds-and-butter-milk-for-sale-ma’am”
I google around for , ‘challa’ on the net and land on a beautiful song of Annamacharya rendered greatly by Asha Bhonsle. You will not believe it is Asha singing. Her diction is so very perfect, and she sounds so uncannily and so very like P.Suseela rendering similar memorable songs in Telugu.
The song is set to music in Anada Bhairavi, bringing to your mind , “madhura nagarilo challalamma bodu” of Kuchpudi Bhama Kalaapam. Asha Bhonsle and Ramesh Naidu come together to delight us, quite a few dcades after the 1954 Hindi movie version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Here is the nivce lyric of Annamachaya. Annamayya identifies himself with an itinerant butter-milk seller brimming with ecuberance, going around on her beat, holding the basket of butter-milk vessels deftly on her head, loudly proclaiming, her intense-love for the Flute-of-the-cowherd-clan, her metonymy for Lord Krishna, (Gollavaree pillangrovee), and vividly gloating over how he flirts with her.
The term ‘koro chaalla’, doesn’t mean much more than the alert call of the seller advertising her merchandise. Koro may be the short pithy form of ‘konaro’,- ‘why- not-buy?’.
Challa of course is butter-milk. Annamacharya has exalted the mundane butter-milk to divine levels.
Koro-challa could also mean, “Here is a basket/vessel, of butter-milk for sale, why don’t you buy some.”. Kora means a basket or vessel in old Telugu. The term ‘challa’ occuring elsewhere in ch-2 and ch-3 of the lyric Is just used for illiteration, a metonymy to stand for ‘song’ and ‘dance’ respectively. Dande means a veena or tambura.
Kinnera is also a fancy veena. It could also mean a celestial damsel.
Here is my attempt at translation of the lyric into English. It is followed by the original lyric in Roman script.
Holding his flute, he comes near me and breathes warmly down on me. This Flute-of-the-cow-herds.
Koro challa (Buy my butter-milk)

He strums on the strings of his handy veena and insists over and over that I sing him a song,
I wonder, is he listening with rapture to some one singing amidst that distant crowd, yonder.
The voice of the girl who sells butter-milk around the neighborhood, matches with mine in the base note, (sruthi).
OK , I will ‘challa’ (sing) in tandem with her.
Koro challaa

He draws near me and demands that I dance and, pinches my cheek, this cheeky fellow,
Whom does he find there dancing yonder, that commands his attention and respect?
I am born in a bumpkin-clan, we do not flinch from returning a tit for a tat
You have asked for it, here goes my gyrating challa.(dance)
Koro challa.
He brings his fancy new veena and teases me to strum him a melody on it. Which celestial hussy has enchanted him with the notes of her fancy veena ?
I focus my fine taunting eyes firmly on Venkata Pathi and lift the veena, caressingly holding its bulbous resonators ,
Koro challa.

The Telugu lyric in Roman script.

Pillangrovi pattukuntaa bera-rayreecheenee maa
gollavaree pillangrovee
koro challaa.

(note:in her version, Asha sings ‘patta mantaa’, this seems as apt or more so than the version ‘pattukuntaa’. Like wise, she sings ‘yera vaysenay’, ‘cast a snare over me’ which is as apt as the version, ‘bera-reecheenee.’, though the meaning differs.)

Paadamantaa dande meetay-balu maaru. Mandaa
vayduka-nevvathe paataa vina vacchenoa?
Vaadalo-jallalammay vanitha-ninthay sruti-
-goodi nay-baadayti challa.
koro challa
Chayri nannu-naadumantaa-jekku nokkeeni. Taa
gaaravaana-nevvat-ata-gana vacchenoa?
Maaruku maaraadayti manda vaaramu. Maymu
koariki-naadayti challa
koro challa
Kinnera meetum-antaa-gelaseeni. Tannu-
-ginnera meetlan-aeydi giliginchenoa?
Kannula kaliki Venkata Pathi pai-vetti-
-gonna kinnera gubbala
koro challa

Here is a link to the song Pillangrovi pattumantu rendered by Asha Bhonsle


About versa kay

Agile, keen, versatile,considerate,patient
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