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Narendra Modi Dons a Burqa





burqa: an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their entire bodies, including their faces, when in public. [Dictionary]

The recent move by Narendra Modi to make a combination of Hindi and its fossilized antecedent, Sanskrit, as the new national language of India and its primary mode of communication, is no doubt at the top of the Indian government’s list of priorities to address the most urgent needs of a sinking ship -- right up there, next to other super-urgent items such as the cleaning of the River Ganges (holy to the Hindus), and the restoration of the ancient glory of the city of Varanasi (yes, also holy to, yes, the Hindus).

You and I would’ve thought that these three items on the post-election agenda would have followed more urgent matters: such as, for example, feeding the starving billion souls, or teaching the same billion not to defecate in public, or eradicating the culture of rape that plagues the country.

But then, what do we know, we who can’t fathom the great values of Hindutva?

While we patiently wait and watch an already medieval country being yanked back further into the Dark Ages, let me for a moment turn the spotlight on their first item of priority: making Hindi the primary mode of communication.

At first glance, it looks like a mere unabashed attempt to placate the foam-in-the-mouth RSS and other Hindu fundamentalists.

I want to suggest that it hides quite another agenda.

Let me explain.

The entire take-over of the country by the loonies after the last election has been on the strength of a brilliant re-branding of India by imported marketers who have turned Mr Modi into their poster boy and kept the attention of the world focused on him.

Which, of course, necessitated an extensive make-over.

So, they washed him up, did his nails, brushed his teeth, groomed his hair -- I’m not making this up; see for yourself by comparing his photos from a mere two years ago (if you can find them) with today. They’ve tailored him a bunch of new outfits. Even bought him a few high-collar jackets and a couple of pairs of trousers.

And the spin-doctors are presenting him to the gullible West as a fashion icon.

It’s been done before.

When the Americans wanted to sell their stooge in Afghanistan to the world, they began by singing hosannas of how chic he looked.

In the opening days of 2002, I remember, they had fashion guru Tom Ford, the creative force at Gucci, certify Hamid Karzai publicly as the “chicest man on the planet today."    

They cultivated him a brand-new trade-mark image in his ever-present chapan robe and qaraqul lamb-wool hat.

And promptly, the media in a pliant Tony Blair’s neighbourhood declared the new Karzai the "most unlikely style icon since ... Mahatma Gandhi."

[Yeah, right!]

It worked. No one talked about how and why Karzai had been parachuted into a country by its foreign occupiers. Everyone studied the Karzai style.

Well, Modi is a tougher nut to crack, being a face and cutting a figure which only a mother could love.

They’ve done a yeoman job in covering him up in long and loose silk achkans and proclaiming him the world’s new fashion icon.

[Yeah, right!]

Who has the guts to cry “The Emperor has no clothes!” if everyone is tripping over each other in currying the favour of a mega-market which has declared itself “open for business”?

All is going as planned.

Except, Houston, we have a problem.

While Modi’s handlers have been scurrying around deftly signing him up for gigs in the world’s capitals -- he is due to visit Washington, DC in September -- they’ve actually outdone themselves. Modi has now been invited to address the Joint Session of the US Congress!


Here’s the problem.

Modi is not an educated man. He makes a good understudy, but when he opens his mouth and utters three continuous words of English, he sounds like … well, there’s only one way to describe it … not a leader!

You can wash him up, you can dress him up, you can spray cologne on him, but you can’t take him anywhere. What can you do if he mangles the world’s lingua franca even worse than Lallu Parshad and India’s current President, Pranab Mukherji?

Let’s be honest. Modi is no Manmohan Singh.

When Obama says he respects Manmohan Singh like no other leader in the world, he means it.

When he says nice things about Modi (or does he?), all he means is: “Hey, good-lookin’ … can we sell you some widgets?”

I hate to put this to the Indians in such plain terms, but it’s the truth: the world doesn’t love you, nor is it enamoured by you, fellas. It does love your new-found money, though.

But remember the adage? "A fool and his money are soon parted."

The problem doesn’t end there.

Modi isn’t the only one. He’s surrounded himself with a whole cabinet of similar iffy charcters who simply can’t communicate with the world in today’s language and culture of trade and commerce.

True, they did have the good sense to keep a few who are educated and speak decently. Jaitley and Swaraj, for example. And they are being used efficiently as the public face -- or, should I say, public voice? -- of the BJP/RSS government within India.

But that doesn’t solve the problem if it is Modi that is the much-touted poster boy. In a world of instant mass communication, you can’t have your poster boy stay mum and get by simply looking human. They’ve desperately been giving him English lessons these past few weeks, but reports say that they ain’t getting nowhere.

Hence the billion-dollar solution.

Here’s where Hindi comes in.

The Indian Government has given notice to the world that it will now  communicate in Hindi. Period.


Mr Modi can now speak to the US Congress in Hindi. The educated and more sophisticated translator will do the rest. The mumbo jumbo, written off as a Foreign Language will hide the blemishes.

Thus, Mr Modi will henceforth be paraded before the world hidden behind a Hindi burqa. The shroud of a language impregnable to the world will hide him from the western media which is already on tenterhooks when dealing with anything ‘foreign‘.

A burqa’s job is to hide. The Hindi burqa helps to hide sillinesses, goofinesses and stupidities, all of which are in no short supply in India today, given the quality of the new law-makers who have arrived in New Delhi to replace the earlier band of marauders.

Once a parade is over, each burqa and its occupant can be whisked away, before the media is able to gather its wits …     

The Chinese do it. The Russians do it. Why not the Injuns?

Great move, I say. It’ll save them from being the laughing-stocks of the world -- or, at least, any more than they already are.

This way the English-speaking bureaucrats will do all the real work, and Modi and his gang can look -- and I use the word V-E-R-Y loosely -- pretty.

*   *   *   *   *

There’s a long-term complication to this matter, however.

It is worth noting that the “best foot forward” for the Modi government today are, as I’ve already pointed out, people like Jaitley and Swaraj, who can communicate in a language the whole country understands.

But it is also worth noting that they, while doing their schooling in their youth, were secretly given an English-based education while their parents publicly and passionately fought for Hindi and Sanskrit for the rest of the country.

So what’s going to happen to the country today onwards, as it regroups under the new language laws?

Bureaucratic appointment and advancement, to take but one example, will sooner rather than later, become tied to one’s facility in negotiating one’s way through the Hindi/Sanskrit quagmire.       

Which will mean that parents will have to go through a mass regression and begin processing their children through the Hindi language mills.

Fine and dandy. Nothing new. India has always found new ways of taking one step forward, and simultaneously four steps backward.

But then, will the children of the BJP and RSS stalwarts, and the children of their children, all revert to Hindi-speaking schools, or will they continue to be whisked out of the country on the strength of illicitly gained funds (they are Indian politicians, after all!) to get a proper education?

Therein lies the rub.

June 25, 2014     

Conversation about this article

1: Kulvinder Jit kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), June 26, 2014, 7:49 AM.

It is fine if they want to use the sanskritized version of Hindi but they are also imposing it on millions of others who have a different mother tongue and state language. There is one Hindi that is spoken on the streets, homes and even in the Bollywood movies. A Hindi which has a good mix of Urdu words, what in British times was referred to as Hindustani. Then there is this sanskritized version used by the politicians and the Media that is hard to understand by the masses. Perhaps that is the motive -- that is how the Brahmins held power for millennia! Unfortunately the Punjabi Media and politicians are injecting the same sanskritized stuff into Punjabi and real language which is sweet and courtly, pleasant to the ears and rich in vocabulary. On our next visit to India we might be greeted with written signs and spoken instructions that will be completely incomprehensible. Do we need to add more confusion in an already complicated mess?

2: Jasbeer Singh (New Delhi, India), June 26, 2014, 11:13 AM.

Excellent Article, Mr. Singh! Now, corporate India will deliver work to onshore in "Hindi" medium!? I pray these fools (all Indian fools) learn something from China, at least, if not from anyone else. But I'm sure they will not learn as they don't learn the easy way.

3: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), June 26, 2014, 7:27 PM.

Modi who won ONLY 31% of the total votes in entire India, is also wearing another burqa - of the "development crusader" while aggressively pushing the RSS agenda. RSS-trained Rajnath Singh is now the home minister and de facto Deputy Prime Minister controlling all the the law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The man accused in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case, and a suspect in many other nefarious activities and a close aide of Modi, Amit Shah, is expected to be named the next president of the saffron party, the BJP - a political front for the fascist Hindu umbrella group, RSS. Amit Shah was in charge of Modi's election campaign in UP where he is said to have organized riots to polarize the Hindu votes ... resulting in the largest win for Modi in north India's Hindu/Hindi belt.

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