May the soft sound of this (poetry’s) spring’s waters,
Resonate in your ears and mind,
And touch your heart!
Late in the night, past the mid-night hour…With the long day’s work is done, and all the visitors swarming through his home in Gandhinagar would have gone, Shri Narendra Modi would sit back in his wicker chair and contemplate. Thoughts would flow into his mind, and form rivulets filled with meaning and emotion. A pen and notebook in hand, he would write, in his native Gujarati, verses on whatever came into his mind. Yes, our Prime Minister is also an excellent poet.
When I joined Modi-ji’s campaign as a full-time volunteer back in December, I knew very well about the success of the Gujarat Development Model, and his ability as an administrator and strategic thinker. I was also convinced of one simple fact: he was the most-experienced man, and by far the best candidate, to become our country’s Prime Minister. This was what motivated my devotion to the cause.
But I did not really know him as a person then.
What we often see of political figures are caricatures, whatever the press put up for their own reasons. We also form opinions of our leaders from how they speak, and Modi-ji is surely one of the finest orators our country has seen. But politicians stick to issues and rarely talk about what motivates them, so it is difficult to pierce the mask and see the person within. Luckily for us, Modi-ji has the most comprehensive website of any politician, www.narendramodi.in , which has quite a few speeches, writings, articles, about him.
Going through the website, I came across a set of poems he had written, published in Gujarati. I was intrigued. Poetry is pure emotion. Depending on what the poet chooses to write about, one can actually access the inner workings of a poet’s mind through his work in a way that you cannot with any other artist in any other art form. I am not a Gujarati, but the script was similar enough to Hindi that I could read the poems and understand 80% of what was written. I was absolutely thrilled with what I say, and decided to make his poetry accessible to the rest of the world.
With Modi-ji having no objection to my taking on this task, I spent each evening over the next three months on the translation. I was fortunate enough to have three friends who were Gujarati speakers I could call on, people who gave me meanings and context of those difficult words that I did not know, to help my translation.
It turned out to be one of the hardest assignments that I had ever undertaken. Leave alone the fact that having taken it on, it was crucial to finish the work in a timely fashion. Set aside also the fact that given the project and the subject it had to be done to the highest quality. The most difficult part was translating the emotion, because poetry is nothing if it is not emotion. Each night I would sit and begin with one poem in hand, on a printed sheet. I would get into the intonations, the rhythm’s, the very timbre of the poetry and let the words form on my lips. Then the emotions would fill my mind’s eye, and drip down the back of my throat and into my heart, like a warm spring, like life-giving blood. I lost my own sense of self. Eighty days I tried to breathe like the man I admired, and for three hundred hours I tried to feel emotions like the man must have felt. It was exhausting. No gym session or even running a marathon has ever drained me thus, but it was exhilarating too, when I finally put my pen down, sixty-seven poems and three months later.
The result is “A Journey, Poems by Narendra Modi” available here on Amazon. In a beautiful hard-bound edition, the cover shows our Prime Minister underneath a backdrop of his beloved Mount Kailash. https://www.amazon.com/Journey-Poems-By-Narendra-Modi/dp/8129132621
I am very grateful to Shri Narendra Modi for writing the foreword of the book and for his gracious support. I am also grateful for the critical acclaim the poems have received from those who are expert reviewers of poetry, and these are available online for readers to see. My simple goal was to show a different side of our Prime Minister to the world, and to enable the millions of his English speaking fans to connect with him through his poetry. I hope I have succeeded.