I am an Indophile and now a celebrant of India becoming the fifth highest economic nation in the world. Thus naturally India is being courted by other nations, specifically of the West. Narendra Modi was damned for his inaction as Chief Minister of Gujarat, turning an official blind on the riotous massacre of Muslims in 2002, and refused entry to the US soon thereafter.
Now he is a keenly sought after ally and was recently given the most welcome state reception in Washington DC and an earnest listening to his speech in Congress. I draw your attention to Prof Amarasiri de Silva’s article titled PM Modi’s speech at US Congress – a lesson for Sri Lanka in The Island of June 29. It is perceptive and a must read.
I read Katie Roger’s detailing in the New York Times the state dinner given by Joe and Jill Biden in honour of the visiting PM of India, including 400 on the guest list. The article carried lots of pictures and described food served – mostly vegetarian; guests including Hunter Biden under a cloud, a couple of Republicans and family members, Democrats and supporters of the Party. Indians invited were Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi; Mukesh Ambani and Vimal Kapur, CEO of Honeywell.
The toast proposed by Biden to Modi and sipped by the two was non-alcoholic – ginger ale – it was said. In welcoming Modi, Biden boasted justifiably: “Two great nations, two great friends, and two great powers.” Later Modi pronounced his assessment of his host, maybe expressing the general opinion of the President of the United States: “You are soft spoken, but when it comes to action, you are very strong.”
Pictures showed true friendship between the two men; splendour of the venue; splendour of the state dinner; couture dresses of the women guests. To me the strongest impression that came across was the rise of India to such a height worldwide. With a population of 1.4 billion (one sixth of world population); poverty now being erased; and corruption greatly reduced; the commitment of Indians and loyalty to their country which they call Motherland, has elevated India so it is not very far behind the US and even China. Maybe ahead of Russia.
Narendra Modi has had an interesting, unconventional life. He may have been born and raised poor, but the story of his helping his father in a tea shop is not corroborated.
He was in an arranged marriage at age 18, but never lived with his wife Jashodaben Modi. In the early 2000s on entering the political fray, he left a blank in his first election application where civil status had to be entered. He publicly acknowledged his marriage four decades after marriage when legally required to do so. He abandoned his marriage and his home escaping to wander in the Himalayas, searching for spiritual meaning. It is well known that he was a devoted son to his aged mother.
He rose in a right wing Hindu organization and was a preacher. He became a full time worker for the RSS in Gujarat in 1971- the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, also known as the Sangh, which is an allegedly militant organization. After the state of emergency was declared by PM Indira Gandhi in 1975, he went into hiding. He entered politics and was Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Contesting the Varanasi seat he came to Parliament and became 14th PM of India in 2014.
In his speech to the American Congress recently he detailed the progress India has made and it surely is due in large measure to his vision, commitment and untiring efforts.
Singleness: a major plus in Indian politics
Along with the article in the NYT from which I got facts of the state dinner, I quote in this second part of my article Suhasini Raj in her write-up titled: Why Modi and other Indian leaders stay single.
A noticeable feature in the photographs and screen shots taken when Joe and Jill Biden, dressed in a green sequined long dress designed to resemble a worn sari waist up, was the Prime Minister of India climbing the steps of the White House very much alone. We learn that Narendra Modi wants it that way – emphasizing his singleness in photographs whether of his addressing an audience, appearing in the doorway of a plane, or at a function. The deliberately conveyed political message is: I am there for you. I will take care of things.
Modi (72, b September 17, 1950) lives by himself in the sprawling PM’s residence in New Delhi, his work seemingly the totality of his existence. He sleeps for only four hours. He has announced the fact that he lives for the nation and projects the image of him being proudly unattached, and thus proclaims that nothing comes between him, his time and the nation. “No other commitment can come in between my life and the nation. Every moment of my time, every pore of my body, is only for my countrymen” was what he said after winning elections in 2019. Also proclaimed is: “I have no familial ties.
Who would I try to benefit through corruption.” While in the West and most countries, family is important and projected, reading Suhasini Raj and observing the Indian scene, it becomes obvious that some of the most popular politicians with staying power are following Modi in not only being unmarried and unattached, but gaining political mileage from their singleness which is meant to equate to dedication and commitment to the nation. Examples are Mamata Bannerjee, Chief Minister of the State of West Bengal; Megawati of a scheduled caste, a powerful politician who holds meetings in her bedroom. Rahul Gandhi is a Congress Party example. Even Mahatma Gandhi is known to have sworn off all comforts and pleasures, even sex, as early as his 30s. The single politicians trade on the public’s assumption they sacrifice themselves for the good of the people. Gullible persons, in turn, look up to them as being spiritual and venerate them as gods and goddesses.
As happens, I cannot but compare the ‘condition’ of our own politicians and those across the Palk Strait. India too was well known for corruption but it was reduced, even by volunteer vigilante investigators. The sharpest contrast is that not only are most of our politician leaders married and familied, some are widely whispered about as having extramarital liaisons!
Randiness appears to be a quirk among many males. Another is placing self before country, more so in honesty and financial matters. Indians in the majority are very country conscious and proud of being Indian. Sri Lanka at the very bottom of the prosperity, economic stability, happiness ladders should never be where it is now with being a small country, having a manageable population, very intelligent and literate in at least a native language and English.
But we are one of the poorest of the poor, having descended to this level in just three score years. It is not only our leaders and top bureaucrats who are to blame. We people are also responsible for our downfall; being lazy, wanting goods and services given free, harbouring short memories and much foolishness.
Will we ever rise up to being half of what we were when DS took over the governing reins? Spain that was so down and out is now economically stable, BBC reported. Just look across at Bangladesh.