January 20, 2013

कहीं … न

There is an expression in India: “कहीं नज़र न लग जाए“.

नज़र” literally means something like “sight”, but it refers here to something like “the evil eye”. The expression may be translated “lest the evil eye look upon you”.

The idiom “कहीं” with a subjunctive verb is used to express a fear or apprehension. Thus, it is very similar to English expressions involving “lest” (which also uses the subjunctive mood). However, unlike expressions involving “lest”, the verb in the Hindi idiom is always negated since it involves . It is as if the speaker is expressing a wish that the dreaded thing does not happen.

Consider a few examples:

कांच के टुकड़े फ़र्श पर पड़े हुए हैं. ध्यान रखें, कहीं आपके पैर न कट जाएं – “There are fragments of glass on the floor. Watch out, I’m worried that your feet will get cut / lest your feet get cut”

बच्चे नदी के पास खेल रहे हैं. सावधानी से उनका ध्यान रखो कहीं वे नदी में न गिर जाएं – “The children are playing near the river. Pay careful attention to them, lest they fall into the river”

This idiom can be used with other indefinite words, such as कुछ, कभी, and कोई:

ध्यान से बोलो कोई न सुन पाए – “Speak carefully, lest someone manage to hear / I’m afraid that someone will hear”