Some Hindustani proverbs:
my own favorites, for pleasure and classroom use
in English alphabetical order

prepared by FWP, Nov. 2006-


He died calling out [fancy Persianized] 'water, water', at the head of his bed there remained [plain Hindustani] water. aab aab kar mar gayaa , sirhaane rahaa paanii
Having lit a fire, to run for the water. aag lagaa ke paanii ko dau;Rnaa
If you're fine, then the world is fine. aap bhalaa to jag bhalaa
What you spit at the sky would come back on your face. aasmaan kaa thuukaa mu;Nh par aave
Oh, and you're such a [great warrior] 'Thirty-killer Khan'! aise hii tum ba;Re tiis maar ;xaan ho
A solitary [one-sided, unchallenged] story is sweeter than sugar. akelii kahaanii gu;R se mii;Thii
How long would a single stick of wood burn [without companions]? akelii lak;Rii kahaa;N tak jale
A different country, different clothing/customs. alag desh , alag { bhesh / rivaaj }
Among the blind, the one-eyed man is king. andho;N me;N kaanaa raajaa
In the flowing water, wash your hands [taking advantage of the opportunity]. bahte paanii me;N haath dho le
A closed fist [for concealment] is as good as a hundred thousand. ba;Ndhii mu;T;Thii laakh baraabar
If we prosper, then a lord; if we decline, then a faqir; if we die, then a pir [thus taking advantage of every possibility]. ba;Rhe;N to amiir , gha;Te;N to faqiir , mare;N to piir
If it got pierced, then it's a pearl; if it remained unchanged, then it's a stone. bi;Ndh gayaa so motii , rah gayaa so patthar
From out of the cow-dung heap, only/emphatically cow-dung cakes will come. bi;Taure me;N se uple hii nikle;Nge
There's something black [=fishy] in the lentils.. daal me;N kuchh kaalaa hai
To live in the river, and be enemies with the crocodile! daryaa me;N rahnaa , aur magarmachchh se bair
The washerman's dog-- neither of the house, nor of the riverbank [useless, not having a proper place]. dhobii kaa kuttaa -- nah ghar kaa , nah ghaa;T kaa
Under the lamp, it's dark. diyaa tale andheraa
Neither palanquin nor bearer-- the great lady is ready! ;Dolii nah kahaar ba;Rii biibii hai;N taiyaar
The one burned by [hot] milk, blows on buttermilk before drinking it duudh kaa jalaa chhaachh phuu;Nk phuu;Nk kar piitaa hai
One pomegranate, a hundred sick people. ek anaar , sau biimaar
In a faqir's bag is everything. faqir kii jholii me;N sab kuchh
The bald man has gotten fingernails [though he doesn't need to scratch his head]. ganje ko naa;xun mil ga))e
The one who knows the secrets of the house, would burn down Lanka. ghar kaa bhedii la;Nkaa ;Dhaa))e
Chicken eaten at home is equal to lentils [being ho-hum and taken for granted]. ghar kii mur;Gii daal baraabar
If [luxurious] rice pudding at home, then rice pudding elsewhere too. ghar me;N khiir to baahar bhii khiir
The jackal fell into a pit-- 'I'll stay here today' [pretending it was on purpose]. giidar giraa jhere me;N -- aaj yahii;N rahe;Nge
Only an elephant can carry an elephant's load. haathii kaa bojh haathii hii sa;Nbhaale
'Delhi is still far away.' ['There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.'] hanuuz dillii duur ast
Let life go; let honor/faith remain. jaa))e jaan , rahe iimaan
Wealth is sacrificed for life; the throat is sacrificed for honor. jaan kaa .sadqah maal , ((izzat kaa .sadqah galaa
Neither knowledge nor acquaintance-- 'Greetings, milady!' jaan nah pahchaan , ba;Rii biibii salaam
Where food is, there everybody's abode is. jahaa;N khaanaa vahaa;N sab kaa ;Thikaanaa
As is the country, so is the attire. jaisaa desh , vaisaa bhesh
As you do, so you will experience. jaisaa karoge , vaisaa bharoge
As is the cloth, so is the sash; as is the father, so is the son. jaisaa suut vaisaa phe;Taa , jaisaa baap vaisaa be;Taa
Three roots of conflict-- women, land, gold. jhag;Re kii tiin ja;R -- zan , zamiin , zar
However many mouths, that many utterances/ideas. jitne mu;Nh , utnii baate;N
He who has the stick [to drive the animal], only/emphatically he has the water buffalo. jis kii laa;Thii usii kii bhai;Ns
Where is Raja Bhoj, where is Gangu Teli [they are wildly incommensurable]! kahaa;N raajaa bhoj , kahaa;N ga;Nguu telii
The mountain was dug up-- a rat emerged. khodaa pahaa;R , niklaa chuuhaa
One person's house would burn, someone else would get warm. kisii kaa ghar jale , aur ko))ii taape
The elephant-goad of the mind is knowledge. man kaa ankush gyaan
The female frog too has caught a cold [pretentiously, as though she doesn't live in a swamp]! me;N;Dhakii ko bhii zukaam hu))aa
The Mulla's range is as far as the mosque. mullaa kaa daur masjid tak
On his lips 'Ram Ram', in his armpit a dagger. mu;Nh me;N raam raam , ba;Gal me;N chhurii
If you don't know how to dance, the courtyard is uneven. naach nah aave , aa;Ngan ;Te;Rhaa
Having eaten nine hundred rats, the cat went on pilgrimage. nah sau chuuhe khaa ke billii ;haj ko chalii
A new physician would give opium. nayaa ;hakiim de afiim
A new Muslim [convert] calls out 'God! God' [with excessive zeal]. nayaa musalmaan all;aah all;aah pukartaa hai
New for nine days, old for a hundred days. nayaa nau din , puraanaa sau din
'You first', 'You first'-- and the train was missed [through excessive courtesy]. pahle aap , pahle aap , aur gaa;Rii chhuu;T ga))ii
If the panchayat calls it a cat, then it's a cat indeed. pa;Nch kahe;N billii to billii hii sahii
A foreigner's heart is usually [split in] half. pardesii kaa dil aadhaa hotaa hai
He can neither read nor write-- and his name is 'Scholarly' pa;Rhe nah likhe , naam vidyaadhar
The rope burned, but the twists didn't go out of it. rassii jalii par bal nah gayaa
Without ears-- and longing for earrings! ;saabit nahii;N kaan , baliyo;N kaa armaan
As soon as he got his head shaved, hailstones fell. sar mu;N;Daate hii ole pa;Re
Little by little, it becomes a lot. tho;Raa tho;Raa kar ke bahut ho jaataa hai
You are a queen, I too am a queen-- who will fetch the water? tuu bhii raanii , mai;N bhii raanii , kaun bharegaa paanii
The camel and the horse floated away-- the donkey asks 'how much water?' uu;N;T gho;Raa bhas ga))e , gadhaa puuchhe kitnaa paanii
The perverse thief would scold the police chief! ul;Taa chor kotvaal ko ;Daa;N;Te
Where are those days now [of luxurious leisure], when Khalil Khan always used to fly pigeons? vuh din ab kahaa;N jab ;xaliil ;xaa;N faa;xtah u;Raayaa karte the

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