Afraid, nervous Modi speaks his mother tongue: Hatred

Afraid, nervous Modi speaks his mother tongue: Hatred

Narendra Modi has used the kind of language that no other prime minister of India has used for his political opponents. (PTI File Photo)

A polyglot once comes to the court of Emperor Akbar and throws him a challenge: “Jahanpanah, I can speak many languages and am a scholar in each of them. I can speak Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Odia, Punjabi, and so on, and I can speak each of these languages as if I was a native of each province. I have come from afar, but I will not tell you from where. I challenge the wise men of your court to identify where I hail from, what my mother tongue is. If they fail, your wise men should become my slaves for life. Do you accept the challenge?

The emperor accepts the challenge. One by one, the wise men of Akbar’s court, who hail from all over Hindustan, speak to the stranger. He answers them in their own languages as if he were a native speaker in each tongue. They test him on literature in many languages. He discusses them all with ease. At the end of the day, no one in Akbar’s court is able to say what the stranger’s native language is. Akbar is worried and angry at his council of wise men. Just as he is about to concede defeat, Birbal steps forward. “Jahanpanah”, he says, “it is late in the night and this great man must be tired. Let us offer him our hospitality for the night. We can continue the challenge tomorrow. I assure you, by noon tomorrow, we will know where he comes from originally.”

That night, the stranger retires to the royal guest house. After a couple of hours, when he is fast asleep, suddenly, someone throws a pot of very cold water on him through an open window. The man wakes up startled, unable to see anyone in the dark or comprehend what had happened, and therefore very afraid. He runs out of the room, shrieking in fright. Birbal is standing right at the door of the room and calms the stranger down and helps him go back to sleep.

The next morning, the polyglot stranger comes to Akbar’s court. Birbal steps forward and says, “Jahanpanah, this man is a great scholar of many languages and indeed speaks each language as if it were his native tongue. But I can tell you, he comes from Gujarat, his native language is Gujarati.”

The emperor turns to the stranger, who looks stunned. He concedes that he is indeed a Gujarati. But he says, “I am astonished. No one across Hindustan had been able to identify my native tongue so far in all these years. Your greatest scholars tested me for the entire day yesterday and could not do so, either. How did Birbal find out?”

The emperor is curious, too. Birbal explains what he had done the previous night. “Jahanpanah, no matter how scholarly you are and how many languages you can speak well, it is in one’s mother tongue that words naturally tumble out of one’s mouth when confronted suddenly with great adversity and fear. Last night, when I had cold water poured on him while he was fast asleep, this great scholar of many languages woke up shrieking, cursing and praying in the Gujarati language. That’s how I identified him.”

Narendra Modi, too, can speak in multiple languages. He rose up in politics speaking the language of ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’. I saw him for the first time in flesh-and-blood in October 2013, when his Gujarat government invited me to a conference of mayors from across the country in Gandhinagar where he laid out a vision of an India in which urban and rural India would feed into each other’s prosperity and social life. It was a romantic vision of returning to a time when city-dwellers could switch off lights on full-moon nights and play “sui-daga, sui-daga” in community spirit, and urban waste could help generate power and manure for rural folks (there was no ‘Smart City’ nonsense then. That came after American businesses and NRIs got behind him, with dollars to pour into his campaign). I was within hand-shaking distance of him for a few moments as he was leaving after the speech, but my heart wouldn’t allow me to extend my hand. I was saved the dilemma as his hordes rushed in between us, chanting “Modi, Modi”. But I came back with the idea that this man deserved a chance. In 2014, at the peak of his popularity, we heard him speak the language of ‘sab ka saath’, ‘vikas’, ‘demographic dividend’, two crore jobs a year, Make in India, Superpower India, anti-corruption crusade. He can speak all those wonderful languages so long as he is enjoying ‘achhe din’ himself.

Modi must have been blissfully asleep in his own world of make-believe while India slowly found out the truth of each false promise, waking up only when the people of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh poured cold water on him and his party. Since then, we have been hearing the shrieking and screaming of Modi and his party. It is in the language of “Congress ki vidhwa”, “Brashtachari No. 1” for a dead former PM, “Congress mujhe maarna chahta hain”, “Majority-Minority”, “Modi ji ki sena”, ‘Pragya Thakur’, etc. This is the mother tongue of Narendra Modi that comes out each time he is nervous, faced with the fear of losing – the language of hatred. In Gujarat, it used to be “Mian Musharraf, Mian Musharraf”. In UP in 2017, it was “Kabristan-Samshaan”. In Gujarat 2017, it was “Congress Pakistan ke saath mila hua hai”. It is the language of hatred, communalism, death and destruction, insinuation and innuendo. It is the language that no other prime minister of India has ever used for his political opponents. It is the language that makes him “India’s Divider in Chief”, in the words of Aatish Taseer and Time magazine.

But Taseer may be too sophisticated for Modi and his hordes. Here’s what some simple folks in a small town in the Hindi heartland said last week. I was in Vidisha (which used to be Sushma Swaraj’s constituency), Madhya Pradesh, and went to buy the morning newspaper. There were several people grouped around the stall, discussing the election. I asked what the mood was like. It was clearly anti-BJP (only one out of the dozen-odd people said the BJP would win in Vidisha. Most others also estimated that the BJP would win between 13 and 16 seats in Madhya Pradesh. Last time, it had won 27 of the 29 seats in the state). But this comment from one gentleman was telling: “Yeh jo neta ki baat kar rahe na aap (I had asked what they felt about Modi, and he had assumed I was a Modi-supporter), unko pehle theek se baat karna sikhaiye. Aisi bhasha koi bolta hai?!”

The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.