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WORKING ON A DREAM

Today’s world is firmly in the grip of instant cybernetics. The old world lies buried in print, bereft of voice, emotion, passion and the ambience of great orations of the past. Narendra Modi’s 40-day, 400-speech odyssey covered thousands of miles, crisscrossing the country. There is no parallel in history of Modi’s marathon effort. It is a treasure trove of flawless oratory captured in its entirety. In the end, when Modi breasted the tape, he towered like a colossus over his party and the decimated Opposition. Reins firmly in hand, with a comfortable majority, he does not need a balancing pole to walk the tightrope of running the government. Alas, the balancing pole has been replaced by the crushing load of high expectations.

I listened to most of his important speeches and interviews. Mocked as a clueless tea-boy, a rabble-rouser, and compared to Hitler after some fiery speeches, Modi stood his ground and stuck to his guns. A desperate Opposition threw everything at him, but Modi never lost his composure. Day after toiling day, Modi’s booming voice echoed through the nation. It was a wake-up call, highlighting the apathy and the weaknesses of a corrupt government. Modi went beyond the old slogan of ‘roti, kapda aur makan’. He promised water, electricity, education and ample food to the millions in our villages, equality for women and, more important, an efficient government free of corruption. At times, he recalled the past grandeur of our great culture. The crowds left his meetings with their heads in the clouds and with visions of a magical world. The Opposition retaliated by picking holes in the facts and figures flaunted by Modi. Modi defended himself masterfully. He brushed aside the Opposition figures with imperious aplomb.

Holy men twirl rosaries endlessly to help keep their focus in their search for the way to the almighty. Modi’s repetitious campaign, too, picked up a spiritual dimension. It crept into Modi’s speeches as he forcefully repeated his promises to the nation. There was a moment late in his campaign when Modi started to believe in himself. This was the turning point. His confidence billowed and a mesmerizing passion and conviction crept into his speeches. The crowds found him irresistible and invincible. In the hands of a great orator, the message from the heart is the ultimate weapon.

A little over 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, while reading a prepared speech to a crowd of 250,000 in front of the Lincoln Memorial, was exhorted by the great spiritual soul singer, Mahalia Jackson, to “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream’”. King began an extraordinary improvisation on the dream theme, which would go on to become one of the most recognizable refrains in the world. It was the birth of the ‘Great American Dream’.The big question is will ‘India’s strongman’ be able to deliver on the ‘Great Indian Dream’.

Modi has been magnanimous in victory. To the defeated, he held out his hand in friendship, sacrificing ‘the self’ for the sake of taking the nation forward. With our neighbours, he put the nagging differences aside and invited them to his oath-taking ceremony. The respect and love he showed to his mother and to family elders highlighted the hallmarks of our society and its rich traditions. The most touching moment of the Modi saga was when he knelt down and kissed the steps of the Parliament. One wonders if it was a message to those who have defiled the Parliament and reduced the proceedings to a bar-room brawl in a B-grade Western.

Modi now has to fulfil the promises he made.The travails of Hercules are a joke compared to what Modi has to deliver. The administration remains paralyzed and Modi is aware of this. But India is not Gujarat. The magnitude and complexity of the problems are truly mind-boggling. India is full of wise men and has some of the sharpest brains. Narendrabhai, talk to them, tell them about your dream.