The Indian prime minister has disclosed his innermost musings on the prospect of nuclear war in a collection of poetry.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee waves as he leaves Manali, a northern hill resort in Himachal Pradesh, India, Tuesday, May 28, 2002, after holidaying for three days. (AP Photo)
Atal Bihari Vajpayee has written several volumes of verse, the most recent of which, 21 Poems, has been translated into English.
His collection includes a work entitled The Agony of Hiroshima, which includes the lines:
Sometimes at night,
Suddenly, sleep deserts me,
My eyes open, I begin to ponder
Those scientists who invented nuclear weapons,
On hearing the gruesome human destruction
Of Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
How did they ever sleep at night
Those whose invention,
Created the ultimate weapon. . .
Do they even for a moment,
Feel what was inflicted by them,
If they do then time will not put them in the dock,
But if they don't,
Then history will never,
Ever forgive them.
Instead of the bellicose rhetoric used in public to describe the prospect of war with Pakistan, Mr Vajpayee's poetry is devoted to existential ponderings on old age and the nature of the communal violence in Gujarat.
In We Shall Not Allow War, Mr Vajpayee offers Pakistan the assurance:
Russian bombs or American
The blood spilt is the same.
We have suffered, we will spare our children this fate
Never again will the sky rain fire
Never again will Nagasaki burn
We shall not allow war!
The collection is intended to augment his reputation as a poet and bring his self-image of the "philosopher king" to an international audience.
He reflects in the foreword: "Sometimes I am overcome by an urge to leave it all behind and lose myself in books, writing and thought."
But the idea of a reluctant philosopher called to office was highly misleading, says Aveek Sen, a literary reviewer with The Telegraph, an Indian newspaper. "I wouldn't trust his pseudo-serenity," he said."His poems are intended for the evening soirees of Delhi's political cadre. I certainly don't think Pervaiz Musharraf will have been sent a copy."
Mr Vajpayee's offerings have received raucous disdain from critics. "They are," said Mr Sen, "ponderous and obnoxious".
"On the one hand, they try to lift Mr Vajpayee out of contemporary politics. On the other, they are filled with the sort of allusions to Hindu mythology that Hindu nationalists use to suppress India's rich and diverse literary heritage. India awaits nervously his next collection."
It seems unlikely, though, that Mr Vajpayee will be put off by a little criticism."I write to make sense of my world and for strength," he said. "My poetry is, to me, not an expression of regret or defeat but of confidence and a will to win. I would have been a leading Hindi poet."
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002