Ecce homo,” said Pontius Pilate: Behold the man. Narendra Modi also sees himself in messianic terms. To stretch the point: Modi and his apostles also see him as being crucified by those who hate him wrongly.
Let’s set aside both his incompetence at running the home ministry and his brilliance at managing Gujarat’s economy. Let’s look at him as he wants us to see him.
What sort of man is Modi to behold when he expresses himself?
V.S. Naipaul said that a writer couldn’t hide behind his fiction. His quality as a thinker would immediately become apparent when his imagination was on display. One can’t hide behind poetry either because the clichés will come tumbling out. As prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee shouldn’t have published Meri Ekyavan Kavitayen. It exposed his mediocrity as a mind to those who didn’t go weak-kneed at his delivery and were alert to the text.
Modi has written three books, including two hagiographies of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders. He only writes in Gujarati and so his writing has escaped the national media. His third book, a collection of poems, was written in the year he won his second term, 2007.
None of his work has ever been translated and this is the first time these poems are being read in English.
Omnis traductor traditor: Every translator is a traitor. But I must say here that I have translated him with empathy.
Is Modi’s work reflective of a quality mind? You decide.
And so: Ecce homo.
We are fast friends with life
And we overflow in love
Nobody stops us, or admonishes, and
We do what we wish in our kingdom
We fly off somewhere if we like or
Dive deep down into the sea’s depths
We become the sun on the mountaintop
That rises even at midnight
We have no worry, and never had want
We’re freewheeling Banjaras
The smart ones call us fools
They’re right! (but we aren’t wrong)
A vast ocean spills ahead
But we aren’t bubbles who burst
We’re no placid bank to the side
We’re the very centre of the ocean
Like a chain made of water is my love
Try but it cannot be tied
I don’t like it when promises are made
And I no longer enjoy that relationship
Like a dewdrop freezing at night is my love
Try but it cannot be held
Sunlight can never be held in fistfuls
The wind is never captured in cages
Like a many-faced cloud is this love
Try and it cannot be tied down
The fog comes, and then it goes
That doesn’t affect the sun
Like a swan in the water is my love
This cotton-pod doesn’t belong in a string of pearls
Even where men are a crowd
My own and those I love
I receive in my place.
On whose entrance is written
“Truth is welcome here
Even if it is uncomfortable and
Even if it is crooked.”
More valuable than the garden’s fragrance
Is the odour of its fertilizer to me
I possess this balance and find truth Even from within opposition.
I have the politeness to shake off rumours
(For one cannot live by rumours)
To find the truth between two extremes I have that capacity
Of course the truth can be different for different people
And it is.
I want to stay with my truth
For it is my sun.
That my life becomes the Gayatri-mantra
Is my every moment’s prayer.
The secret (Rahasya)
Wearing the burqa of night
These trees standing here
I don’t wish to see
The trees I want are those
Standing in the brilliant sun
Carrying the full afternoon light
With flowers blooming and birds dancing.
The happiness of morning trees
The wild youth of afternoon trees
The playful evening trees—all of them
I want coursing through my veins
Trees: My soul’s echo chamber.
In their sleepy shadows
The afternoon’s burning breath
My shadow wears.
I receive the wind’s gift
I hold the droplets of rain
Trees: My character’s twin.
The Hindu chant (Hindu Hindu Mantra)
Now, later, forever, one chant—Hindu Hindu
Bindu Bindu—one chant
Sindhu Sindhu—one chant
This chant is a pearl
Like light in darkness
We will unfold this light
And illuminate the world
We’ll rid it of high and low
We’ll melt our bodies down
To make one perfect man
Who sings the song masculine
And make our minds a temple
This in the light we will unfold
For we hide from no enemies
And all are our friends.
Such should be our character
That we’ll end the fragmentation
And leave only harmony about.
This in the light we will unfold:
Food and clothes and culture
All will then be found with ease
All will around us be green
In our star-packed sky
Unity, equality and love
We’ll strive to bring about
As we unfold this light.
Aakar Patel is a writer and a columnist.
Also Read | Aakar’s previous Lounge columns