The surprising poignancy of Narendra Modi’s poetry

28 April 2014
The poems in ‘A Journey’ are imbued with a tension between two parts of a divided self.
The poems in ‘A Journey’ are imbued with a tension between two parts of a divided self.

Among the most common clichés deployed against Narendra Modi is that he is a “polarising figure.” This phrase is by now so well-worn that we have, to our great credit, learnt to leave it to foreign correspondents.

But even this characterisation requires a founding assumption: that Modi experiences his own nature as a unity, and is only “polarising” with respect to that vast audience across Gujarat, India and the diaspora who either revere the very ground he walks on, or loathe him so much that they won’t allow even a paisa’s worth of praise for him to pass from the lips of their peers.

Anyone reading Modi’s new book of poems, though, and trying to square the figure and nature of the lyric speaker of A Journey with that of the political animal, might come to a different conclusion, one that’s simultaneously more alarming and more affecting than the old consensus.

Chandrahas Choudhury CHANDRAHAS CHOUDHURY is the Fiction and Poetry editor at The Caravan.

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