Oonchai (Heights)

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Photo credit by : Pankaj Murmu

A poem by Atal Bihari Vajpayee translated by Anahita Mehra

“Aim higher, but not without dimensions, without depths…
So that you don’t stand aloof in rigidity,
But flow and mingle with one and all,
walk with them,
walk among them,

For to get lost in worlds unknown,
delving into dreams unexplored,
forgetting oneself for a while, just a while,
gives meaning to your being,
gives frangrance to life..

Our world does not need those who are stunted and dwarfed,
But men and women mighty, lofty and grand,
So much so that they can touch the skies,
Instilling seeds of aspirations into newer galaxies..
But then not so high that beneath your feet
grows no clover,
pricks no thorn,
Bloom no tender flowers.
No spring, no autumn,
just blinding expanse of heights to surmount
echoes of silence clashing against loneliness and desertion,

Oh lord!
Don’t push me so high,
that I am unable to embrace those who are strangers to me, unknown,
Don’t make me so brusque, so dry,
don’t push me so high.

Oonchai (Heights) is a poem written by our beloved former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The poem outlines the importance of striking a balance between soaring towards higher skies and keeping a firm foot on the ground, so that we do not end up detaching ourselves from feelings of compassion, love, whimsy and togetherness, so that we do not forget to take everyone along as we soar to greater heights. As he leaves, his words are etched in realms of immortality.

I took the humble liberty to translate a few lines from his poem.

Original Hindi version below:

जरूरी यह है कि
ऊंचाई के साथ विस्तार भी हो,
जिससे मनुष्य
ठूंठ-साखड़ा न रहे,
औरों से घुले-मिले,
किसी को साथ ले,
किसी  के संग चले।

भीड़ में खोजाना,
यादों में डूब जाना,
स्वयं को भूल जाना,
अस्तित्व को अर्थ,
जीवन को सुगंध देता है।

धरती को बौनों की नहीं,
ऊंचे कद के इंसानों की जरूरत है।
इतने ऊंचे कि आसमान को छूलें,
नए नक्षत्रों में प्रतिभा के बीज बोलें,
किंतु इतने ऊंचे भी नहीं,
कि पांव तले दूब ही न जमे,
कोई कांटा न चुभे,
कोई कली न खिले।

न वसंत हो, न पतझड़,
हो सिर्फ ऊंचाई का अंधड़,
मात्र अकेलेपन का सन्नाटा।

मुझे इतनी ऊंचाई कभी मत देना
गैरों को गले न लगा सकूं
इतनी रुखाई कभी मत दे

By  Atal Bihari Vajpayee