The Springtime Wind —A Translation

Springtime Wind Image
Image credit Adina Voicu
Springtime Wind Image
Image credit Adina Voicu

Basanti Hawa, or the ‘Springtime Wind’, was the first Hindi poem I fell in love with, early in my childhood. It is written by Kedarnath Agarwal, a much-awarded doyen of Hindi Literature. The poem captures the freshness, fullness and the essence of the springtime wind with a rare joy and breathlessness, rendering it nearly impossible to translate into an alternate language. Ever since I have read it, I have been trying and failing to transmute this beautiful poem to English. It is not so much finding a substitute diction for a poem written with a rare felicity and simplicity as the variant phraseology of the two tongues that makes it nearly impossible to reproduce the power one feels while reading the original. Nevertheless, this is the closest I can get as I toil once more.

The Springtime Wind

The wind, I am the wind,
I am the springtime wind.

Listen to my confessions—
I am a peerless thing.

Wild in my ways I blow,
a wayward, a blithe soul,
no worries have I known,
fears I have truly none;
coached in my fancies,
I wander about as I wish,
Ever the fickle gypsy.

I come from no homestead,
no missions I have or seek,
I long not for any one,
and hope not for one atom,
not a lover, nor an enemy;
I wander about as I wish,
Ever the fickle gypsy.

The wind, I am the wind,
I am the springtime wind.

Wherever I move forth
to wherever I barge in—
towns, boroughs, hamlets,
river, sand and deserts,
green fields, the fishponds—
I set them a-swaying,
I set them a-swinging.

The wind, I am the wind,
I am the springtime wind.

Leaping into the honey tree
I tappity-tapped the boughs,
crashing with a thud whence
I scurried up the mango
and shook it out crazily,
with a shrill coo in the ear,
I ran down and scampered,
found my way to lush fields
to ripple with the wheat-sheaves
for hours and hours of the noon
right till the sun mellowed,
I whiled away in green and gold.

Finding the flax crop
crowned well with fresh tops,
I fancied a little trick
I jiggled it and quivered it
but it didn’t lose one petal;
foiled in my ventures,
I didn’t rock the mustard,
I didn’t shock the mustard.

The wind, I am the wind,
I am the springtime wind.

Blushing deep at my sight
the pigeon-pea stood tight,
It’s ever tough to sooth her:
I would not surrender—
a traveller was passing by
I shoved her on his shoulder,
I laughed with a cackle
and the cardinals crackled,
the green crops guffawed,
the farmlands heehawed,
the sweet gleaming sunlight
giggled like a socialite,
the whole world chortled,
with the gust of Spring.

The wind, I am the wind,
I am the springtime wind.

*                 *                   *                   *

                  बसंती हवा

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं
बसंती हवा हूँ।

सुनो बात मेरी –
अनोखी हवा हूँ।

बड़ी बावली हूँ
बड़ी मस्तमौला।
नहीं कुछ फ़िकर है
बड़ी ही निडर हूँ
जिधर चाहती हूँ
उधर घूमती हूँ
मुसाफिर अजब हूँ।

न घर-बार मेरा,
न उद्देश्य मेरा,
न इच्छा किसी की,
न आशा किसी की,
न प्रेमी न दुश्मन,
जिधर चाहती हूँ
उधर घूमती हूँ।

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं
बसंती हवा हूँ!

जहाँ से चली मैं
जहाँ को गई मैं –
शहर, गाँव, बस्ती,
नदी, रेत, निर्जन,
हरे खेत, पोखर,
झुलाती चली मैं।
झुमाती चली मैं!
हवा हूँ, हवा मै
बसंती हवा हूँ।
चढ़ी पेड़ महुआ,
थपाथप मचाया;
गिरी धम्म से फिर,
चढ़ी आम ऊपर,
उसे भी झकोरा,
किया कान में ‘कू’,
उतरकर भगी मैं,
हरे खेत पहुँची –
वहाँ, गेंहुँओं में
लहर खूब मारी।
पहर दो पहर क्या,
अनेकों पहर तक
इसी में रही मैं!

खड़ी देख अलसी
लिए शीश कलसी,
मुझे खूब सूझी –
गिरी पर न कलसी!
इसी हार को पा,
हिलाई न सरसों,
झुलाई न सरसों,

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं
बसंती हवा हूँ!

मुझे देखते ही
अरहरी लजाई,
न मानी, न मानी;
उसे भी न छोड़ा –
पथिक आ रहा था,
उसी पर ढकेला;
हँसी ज़ोर से मैं,
हँसी सब दिशाएँ,
हँसे लहलहाते
हरे खेत सारे,
हँसी चमचमाती
भरी धूप प्यारी;
बसंती हवा में
हँसी सृष्टि सारी!

हवा हूँ, हवा मैं
बसंती हवा हूँ!

 ~केदारनाथ अग्रवाल


  1. Reading the introduction, the poet’s name did not ring a bell. Began with the first line and the next, then the first verse…Suddenly tumbling down from a closet, the words spilled out… Hawa Hun hawa, main basanti hawa Hun…A poem I’d found in the fresh new Hindi textbook brought along with the others, waiting to be covered in brown paper. All I can say is, thank you 🙂

    1. I am happy for triggering that train of memories, Ilkashee. I too remember the new Hindi textbook where I found this beauty, and the brown paper that must jacket its cover. Thanks to you, too! 🙂

  2. Such an exquisitely beautiful poem, I can see why you love it, Umashankar! The words come alive and flow seamlessly like a feather swaying in the breeze. I can feel the spring wind in all its expressions. Thank you so much for translating this rare treasure for us!

    1. Madilyn, I swear I have botched it! Every time I read my translation, I feel like tweaking a thought here and an expression there, and it has gone on for decades. I fervently hope I have managed to convey a fair fraction of the breathless abandon with which the poem has been written by the original poet.

  3. Vaguely remember reading the Hindi poem, but a pleasure to read it again. Reads as fresh as fragrant and as soothing as ever.

  4. Basanti hawaa is one poem which we have all learnt by heart in school —-and your translation is absolutely superb it has caught the essence of the poem —thanks a lot

    1. Sandra, if you enjoyed reading the translation —and you may get to read a much better version by an abler hand someday— my job is done!

    1. It is a poem of exceptional joy and energy in Hindi. If the translation is ‘uplifting, energising’, I trust my efforts were worth the pain.

  5. Your rendition in English was beautiful. The original – I need to concentrate hard to comprehend given my proficiency in the language. But I am sure it would have been delightful.

  6. I think the translation is delightful, although I can’t exactly vouch for its accuracy! It stands on its own anyway. I guess there’s a fine line between translating a poem and “capturing it”.

    The only word I don’t like is “draught” – I associated it with something that comes in under the door or a beer that one drinks! I’m not sure if in the original there is a slightly negative inference in the phrase बसंती हवा हूँ। or not.

    Congratulations on providing us with these translations – and for making such poetry accessible to us mono-linguistic oafs!

    1. It is not that I am not aware of the slightly negative connotation that the word ‘draught’ carries. If I were to transliterate it, I would just say ‘I am the springtime wind’ (Line 2). In one of my versions I had used ‘breath’ instead of ‘draught’. I am still open to the idea of modifying the line. What do you say, Bruce?

      1. It’s difficult to explain what I mean without seeing me waving my arms in the air like the wind! To be honest I like the simple “I am the springtime wind” the best – simply because of the sound and rhythm of the refrain: “The wind, I am the wind, I am the springtime wind.” It’s building up. It’s blustery. It’s a couplet that I’d be happy to shout out in a breeze at the top of a hill!

        Breath I think personally is preferable to draught. What about “gust”? The whole poem anyway, as you already have it, reeks of a this-way-and-that reckless springtime movement.

        1. Ah, there! I will go for ‘I am the springtime wind’! When someone like you feels inclined to shout it out in a breeze at the top of a hill, I better accept it in toto.

  7. बहुत खूब उमा अच्छा अनुवाद है । सच्चे कवी के भाव से लिखा है
    अग्रवाल साहिब ने ‘बसंती हवा’ में जैसे वह हवा न हो, एक उछलती-कूदती गंवई लड़की हो । वोही उल्लास आप के अनुवाद मे आया है |

    1. सुब्रतो साहेब, कई सालों से इस कविता का अनुवाद कर रहा हूँ पर कभी पूर्ण संतोष नहीं मिल पाया। आपने सच कहा, बसंती हवा का अल्हड़पन हिंदी कविता में कूट कूट कर भरा हुआ है। शायद वो अनुभूति अंग्रेजी रूपांतरण में संभव नहीं है। कम से कम मैं तो न कर पाउँगा। मेरा उत्साह बढ़ाने के लिए धन्यवाद !

  8. I am spellbound, too good to comment. You have beautifully captured the rhyme, rhythm and essence of the original version while creating the lovely piece of work in itself. Hats off my dear friend.

  9. In the U.S.A., the wind coming under the door and the beer is spelled draft so I looked up draught and was glad to learn of this alternate spelling. The poem “I Am the Wind” written in English is absolutely delightful. I hear the movement and love the mischievous nature of the spring wind. I quite enjoyed reading and re-reading it. Thank you for bringing this to us.

    1. Ginene, I am aware of the American spelling of ‘draught’. Apart from the wind rushing in through the crevices and slivers of doorways and window panes, and the yellow froth, ‘draft’ also connotes something unfinished, half done. So the odds were stacked against ‘draught’, or draft, and when Bruce remarked against it, I was impelled to replace it with something I already had in my mind: I am the springtime wind.

      Hope you approve. 🙂

      1. Oh, I sure do. You spelled the word correctly, of course. The translator gets to choose the words. I like to learn the difference is English spellings. It is interesting. My sister is constantly correcting my spelling of blonde. She says it is blond, not blonde. Unfortunately, as time goes on, my hair color is changing and I am going to have very little reason to use the word!

        1. Now that you rake up the kerfuffle of differences in spellings! I have grown up reading, writing and internalising British English —Queen’s English, to be precise— and all my favourite writers had hailed from several centuries of England, till I met Ernest Hemingway whom I considered an aberration initially. Then came the computers with US Keyboards with that enfant terrible called Microsoft Word, hurling my spellings into a permanent state of snafu. Now if I change the default language to British for the relative peace of mind while writing, it takes me a while figuring out why my passwords are not working. And when I reset the language to US English, an avalanche of red curly lines hits me in the face.

          Now I do not intend to allege a superiority of British English over the American or vice versa. What I cannot stand is a bastardised version of the two. So I try and stick to one language, one that I have been conditioned to use since childhood.

  10. As I cannot read the original, your translation sounds beautiful to me. The springtime wind is exactly like you describe it – carefree and with its own mind.

  11. Might impressed with the translation Sir. Never imagined it be so close the original one. Whenever one reads the poem one goes into that country side and start feeling it. The translation is really commendable and it gives that surreal experience when one reads it.

  12. A beautiful memory, at a time when the world feels dark and divided. Thank you for bringing a bit of joy to the day. Your translation did justice to the simple genius of the original.

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