Friday, October 10, 2014

Modi - The Master Communicator

Narendra Modi – the enigma surrounding the man, and the thought processes that drive his indefatigable existence, have confounded the best of political and social pundits - both in India and abroad. While Modi is fast developing into a symbol of India for the World, and a symbol of change and development for the vast majority of the Indian polity, he is still looked upon as a symbol of divisiveness and authoritarianism by his political opponents, many of whom were unabashed and crude in the expression of this view before and during the elections, but are now forced to constrain their opinions after Modi became PM. One thing that everyone will agree upon however, although some may reserve this opinion to themselves, is that there is no one in the Indian political scene today who can match Modi in terms of oratory, diligence and incorruptibility.  

Ever since Modi was unanimously chosen as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate back in September 2013, his political career has been on a steep upswing, largely due to his impeccable oratory, and his unbelievable connect with the masses. He is a natural speaker, and one who connects with his audience with effortless ease. The content of his speeches is aimed at the audience he addresses, and he knows exactly what needs to be said to strike a chord with his listeners. The fact that Modi addressed more than four hundred rallies during the epic general elections of 2014, and that each rally was a resounding success in terms of attendance and enthusiasm is sufficient testimony to this stamina and oratorical prowess. His speeches are object lessons in mass communication, insofar that they are so well organized - in spite of being extempore – and so natural and convincing in their delivery that the audience is held in a trance every time he speaks. This, combined with his convincing push for efficient and corruption-free governance, and his innovative ideas for a better India, has already established him as one of the most popular leaders the country has seen.

Modi’s critics accuse him of being a lofty speaker without substance, but he has in a space of a few months achieved what his predecessor could not achieve in 10 years. He has made huge strides in strengthening India’s relationship with her neighbors Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Relations with Japan and US have been taken to all time highs. His stoic stance towards border aggression has meant that China and Pakistan are now more wary of making indiscreet advances than ever before. The economy has started picking up, inflation has started moderating. S&P has already upgraded India’s outlook from negative to stable. Surely, one would think that all this cannot be achieved by mere lofty talk.

All through his campaign for the general elections, and the four months so far of his Prime Ministership, Modi has made it his prime agenda to maintain, and enhance his connect with the people. He is always seen to be making newer and newer efforts to raise his equity among the masses, be it through his unfettered delivery from the Red Fort without the customary bullet-proof glass enclosure; or by his fervent appeal to all people to help him make India a clean country by 2019; or by his innovative interaction with the people through Twitter, Facebook and the official government website; or, as most recently, by interacting with the people through All India Radio.

His communication skills have held him in good stead on the international front as well. What has amazed political watchers, citizens, analysts, critics and even his own party men is the ease with which Narendra Modi has adapted to an unfamiliar role of overseas diplomacy. He not only went through all his engagements without faltering even for a moment, which many of his critics expected him to do more than once, but he did it with a sense of aplomb and poise that has made every Indian proud. His engagements with various world leaders at the BRICS summit showcased India’s newfound assertiveness on the world scene. His successful visits to Bhutan, Nepal and Japan where he displayed great bargaining skills and yet maintain a friendly stance catapulted India’s image into prominence in the international scene. His deft ploy of pre-empting any hostility towards the new government from neighboring nations by inviting all heads of SAARC nations to his swearing in ceremony, including Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, who was rightly taken aback by the surprise invitation, has exhibited the astuteness of his diplomacy on the international front. The greatest coup however, has been his visit to the USA, which was touted to be the most critical, and the grand finale in this series of foreign engagements of the Prime Minister. If the expectations from this trip were high, and expectedly, they were certainly not anticipated to reach the heights they eventually did. Right from the moment Modi disembarked Air India One and set foot on American soil, to the time he waved goodbye four days later, the mood among the Indo-American community in the US was one of ecstasy, euphoria, and at times even bordering on hysteria wherever Modi made an appearance or was anywhere in the vicinity. The way vociferously chanting crowds lined up the street to have a glimpse of the Indian PM as his cavalcade passed by; the way the crowds at Madison Square Garden cheered his every sentence and his every nuance; the way people celebrated with traditional attires and cultural functions on the lawns in front of the White House even as Modi held discussions with Obama, it was Modi-fever all the way, with the charismatic Prime Minister taking America by storm. Even the uneventful meeting between Obama and Modi, which could not resolve outstanding issues such as WTO trade facilitation, nuclear trade and America’s Pakistan policy among others, the camaraderie and warmth with which Obama interacted with Modi was a sight for sore eyes, and a reflection of Modi’s ability to connect personally with Obama in spite of all the differences.

With his redoubtable communication skills, Modi has won several battles leading up to his coronation as PM, and after. Yet the war, which is still to be won, is the one that will determine whether or not his name will be taken in the same breath as of the greatest personalities that Indian history has known. The road to greatness will not be traversed without passing through tough tests, and tribulations, for sure. But that is what great history is all about, after all. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Encounter with Lucy

It’s been a while since I have had either the reason or the motivation to pick up a pen and write; write with a cause, and an enthusiasm to lend expression to my deepest feelings. Very rare has been the occasion when I felt words and sentences taking birth in the deepest corners of my heart and flowing spontaneously to the tips of my fingers.

Very seldom, if ever, does an imagined perception of goodness, beauty or virtue manifest itself in real life in the form that it was imagined or dreamt of. Even the magnificent Yarrow could not live up to Wordsworth’s imagination ("Yarrow Unvisited" & "Yarrow Visited "). When such a thing does happen, however, it happens unexpectedly, as in this case, in the unlikeliest of times and places, and it would be a sheer waste not to record the priceless sentiments of such an occasion for the sake of posterity.

My most recent encounter, a sweet tryst in a dreary environment, reminds me of Wordsworth’s Lucy. Lucy inspired Wordsworth (“She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways”) and Wordsworth’s poignant eulogisation of Lucy has always fascinated me. The great poet’s sentiments echo in my own soul today, and I cannot ever believe in them more than I do now. The striking similarity of the contrasting environments which occasioned the encounter so vividly described by the poet and the one which affected me in no different way made me wonder, at the sheer unpredictability of life and at the potential for wonderful surprises that it possesses. I have deliberated within myself as to the most apposite expression that my thoughts should take, and convinced myself that only Poetry, which is the sole medium that transcends all forms of prosaic expression, can lend the subtlety deserving of such a subject; and so it is poetry that must be the vehicle of my expression.

The scene is the watery wilderness of the Indian Ocean, and the location – a gigantic ship, which reeks of metal, metal and more metal: 

Cast away, far from shore, on this gigantic craft
Gazing into the sea, my face meets a pleasant draft
Amid sounds of steel and a deafening hum, I stare
With wandering thoughts, into the dark, misty air

Lo! What is this transformation in the haze?
Do I see a winsome face, in this God-forsaken place?
Unbelieving as I stared, my senses all in a twist,
A fairy t'was in the mist; my feet were unsteady, as if the ship was a'list

She smiled so bright, it shattered the dark,
A voice so clear, she could’ve been a lark,
Countenance so serene, like some divine art
And a manner so simple, it caressed the heart

Was I swaying between reality and sleep?
Was it but a vision, of my feelings so deep?
Can the creature of the world of dreams
Walk the hard ground of reality's realms?

Then she spoke, and enraptured I listened so
Then she sang, and enchanted I listened more
The world seemed to float up to the skies
The sights around seem’d to drown in her eyes

Time was long lost, Sleep was forgotten,
Duty and Responsibility were now step-children
Worries n Cares were banished from Earth
The air was so full of fun, so drenched in mirth

The morn approached fast, methinks just too fast
The good times were not destined to last
She wafted into the dissolving dark, leaving a trail of silver light 
The noise came back, the hum returned, reality was back in sight

Wistful we stood, my solitude and me
The playful waves were dancing in glee
The whispering breeze was saying to me
Your own dreams are still yours, so mourn not thee

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...