By Niranjan Shah
My dear Shilpi:
Your grandpa Vinod Desai from Mumbai, India, sent me a book Aankh Aa Dhanya Chhe! (Blessed are these eyes!), a collection of poems written by Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of State of Gujarat. When singers and poets gathered at Bhaidas Hall in Mumbai and recited poetry from Aankh Aa Dhanya Chhe! Gujaratis discovered that there is another side to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, a most misunderstood person, who is only proud of India’s and Gujarat’s great heritage. Ignorance in past has destroyed great libraries and very recently has destroyed the great Buddha statue in Afghanistan. This heritage can never be restored in the new fabric of so-called secular nature of our rule.
Very modestly, Modi says: “I am no litterateur or poet, but I am Saraswati’s devotee. Sometimes, the taste of raw mangoes manage to give us a different taste.” Complete with photos taken in gardens with flowers in full bloom, a coffee table anthology of Modi’s poems, running into 130 pages, was released by Suresh Dalal, one of the most respected names in Gujarati literature, and Image Publications, the publishing house that he heads. Nothing political in Modi’s poetry though, the collection is said to be all about nature, human nature and an occasional patriotic piece, all dedicated to mother tongue Gujarati. Speaking to a daily newspaper from Mumbai, Dalal said he chanced upon Modi’s poetry some years ago in a magazine he edits. “We met at a function in Mumbai and he said something to which I said its good poetry. And then this book happened…There is no political poem. He does not deal with contemporary themes. He has a good sense of lyrics, prose, poetry.” said Dalal.
Narendra Modi has been given many titles, some pleasant, others not so flattering. From “firebrand leader,” “magnetic speaker,” “dedicated pracharak,” “great organizer” to a leader belonging to Bharatiya Janata Party, elected second largest party of India today, and addressed as communal by some ignorant leaders. Some so-called secular leaders, unknown about India’s great heritage call BJP, a communal party, which is only nationalistic. In fact, these leaders encourage a communal practice, which goes against national interest. Modi is trying to restore national pride by democratic ways, constitutionally. In Gujarat, there is only one party rule, while federal government is a collection of leaders interested in power.
Even former Vice-President of India Bhairon Singh Shekhavat, who released Modi’s book, was surprised. “When he (Modi) called me asking whether I would re-lease the book, I thought he was joking. I did not know he had written poems,” Shekha-vat was quoted as saying while launching Dhnaya Aa Aankh Chhe! All the poems in the book have been written in Gujarati and have the central theme of nature, its beauty, and creative as well as destructive powers. Press Trust quoted Modi as saying at the launch, “people ask me how I can be Chief Minister and still write poems, but I ask them, am I not human? I also have feelings. With floods in Surat, I experienced the fury of nature and that prompted me to write these poems.”
Later, speaking to reporters, Modi agreed that his image as a poet seemed contrary to his public persona as a tough- talking Chief Minister but truth is that he had always been interested in literature and poetry. “My life has always been one of struggle and that is what my poetry is about. Since childhood I was interested in the creative aspect of writing.” Poet and Chief Minister Modi has made Gujarat, a leading state in India, supporting only national progress.
— Grandpa’s blessing