Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister of India from 1998 to 2004 but he was a poet for much longer. Twenty-One Poems is a collection of poems marked by his disarming simplicity, passion and sincerity.
The poems highlight his concerns and convictions, both public and private. The English translations by Pavan K. Varma, retain the simplicity and immediacy of the Hindi originals, which appear alongside the translations in this bilingual edition.
Here are lines from the poems that will give you a glimpse into Vajpayee’s mind:
A New Milestone
“And so a new milestone’s been crossed.
How many more remain, no one knows,
And no one knows when the final
destination will arrive.
The sun is imperishable, the earth indestructible,
Only the body lives and dies;
Another year added is cause for celebration.
A new milestone’s been crossed.”
“The kingdom’s changed
The crown’s changed
But the social order
Never Place Me So High
Whose touch alone
Turns water to stone,
That merely to look upon it is to feel small,
May be deserving of praise,
An invitation to tireless climbers,
A good place to plant your flag.”
Who Are the Kauravas, and Who the Pandavas
“In every panchayat
Draupadi is robbed of her honour.
The Mahabharata will be fought,
No matter who claims the throne,
The poor will continue to suffer.”
Peace of Mind
“On earth, among the living,
Only a human being
Feels alone in a crowd, and
Besieged by crowds when alone.”
A Battle With Death
“A battle with death!
What a battle it will be!
I had no plans to take her on,
We had not agreed to meet at that curve,
Yet there she stood, blocking my path,
Looming larger than life.”
Twenty-One Poems provides a rare and rewarding glimpse into the mind of the leader of over a billion people.