“If” is a poem by English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, of The Jungle Book fame in 1895. The poem, first published in Rewards and Fairies, ch. ‘Brother Square-Toes,’ is written in the form of paternal advice to his son, John.
As part of the Good Poetry Project, Vineet K Panchhi sent a call out to poetesses around the world who would like to take up the challenge of creating a version of “If” that is gender-neutral or even specifically meant for women, and more appropriate for the modern-day context. Elizabeth Lincoln Otis created a version of this poem, specifically for girls, in 1931. That version is very out of context and difficult to relate to for the modern woman.
In my opinion, much of what Sir Rudyard Kipling wrote applies to both men and women today.
Still, with due respect to the original poet, here is an attempt to create a version that might resonate particularly with women of the 21st century (and maybe men too?).
“If” for the 21st-century girl
If you can know your essence and embody it with grace
When all about you are trying on fad after fad;
If you can aspire for a fine balance in everything
Yet not make an obsession of it;
If you can revel in the extremes of life, on occasion,
Yet know your centre and live from it;
If you can love another as yourself
Yet know, that you only need yourself
To express and experience
The truest, purest, fiercest of love;
If you can remember, that only those can give joy
Who are full to the brim with it,
And yet appreciate, that sometimes
There is pleasure in quietly stepping aside
So that another parched heart may quench its thirst
At the crowded fountain of victory;
If you can rejoice in fame
Yet not make a pursuit out of it,
For there is immense freedom in anonymity;
If you can win the admiration of little girls
Yet not make your old aunt question too much,
Her life-savings of wisdom;
If you never shy away from changing mindsets
And yet be quick to admit, when you change your mid
Knowing that that is the only thing
You really must change;
If you can see every human being, animal and plant
As someone’s child
But also make an allowance for yourself,
For you too are a child of this Creation, aren’t you?
And with all that virtue,
If you can walk this Earth
As just another girl
Then yours will be the greatest gifts
This Universe can offer -
Unruffled peace of mind,
And a crystal clear soul.
~ Prajakta Kharkar Nigam