Trying to shake him out of his complacency, I mentioned some of the atrocities that had been uncovered by N.G.O's and Citizen Rights groups which I'd read about in respected National newspapers and, on my visits to India, also seen discussed on the highly rated N.D.T.V channel.
My friend remained skeptical, not to say cynical, about my sources. To speak plainly, he simply couldn't believe that the incidents I recounted- all too gory to be set down here- had really happened- especially as he had been visiting his ancestral town, in Saurashtra, at the time and witnessed nothing untoward. I explained that I too had been unaware of the terrible atrocities being committed against the Sikhs in 1984, though I was living in New Delhi.
Heedless of my arguments, he dismissed me as a credulous fool- duped by the Leftists in the Media.
Quite naturally, I took umbrage, and, heated words having been exchanged, our relationship cooled, so much so that I no longer felt able, in India that winter, to take advantage of his generous offer to let his own broker manage my portfolio there.
Sometime later, he contacted me in a much mollified mood- I think it was the Visa ban on Modi that finally convinced him that, perhaps, Modi had a case to answer- thus conceding that it was he rather than I who had 'swallowed the party line'. By way of reparation, he arranged an interview for me with the Chief Minister.
Since I am not a journalist but a poet (that too of a cerebral, hermetic type) it crossed my mind that the intention was to pull the wool over my eyes and get me to put my name to what would in effect be a whitewash.
For this reason, though I did conduct an interview- I made it clear that I would publish nothing in the way of exculpation, but, rather, give the Chief Minister a chance to make a clean breast of things.
Modiji, whatever else you might say about him, is an astute judge of men. I say this because, firstly, he very courteously chose to speak to me in English rather than Hindi- thus appearing to cede me the 'home court' advantage and deflect any 'anti Hindi' animosity I- self-evidently Tamil in accent and complexion- might subconsciously subscribe to.
Secondly, he harped on his humble background and the fact that far from profiting from his office, he hadn't even been able to build a house for himself.
In this way Modiji hoped to elicit my sympathy and escaped a grilling on substantive issues.
I must say Modiji appeared much younger than his age. They say the camera adds 10 kg, and this was certainly the case with him.
However, I felt he overplayed his hand somewhat.I am aware that people might make the same criticism of Mahatma Gandhi. I suppose there was an element of showmanship in the 'half naked fakir', accompanied by his milch goat and spinning wheel, mounting the stairs of Buckingham Palace for an audience with the King Emperor. However, Gandhiji's showmanship had a basis in reality. Modi, on the other hand, was simply 'milking it' by presenting himself as an illegal immigrant (because of the Visa ban) smuggled into the U.K on a refrigerated lorry and now having to work at less than minimum wage in a Bangladeshi restaurant. Most galling of all, for a member of the R.S.S, was that he was obliged to use a Muslim name- Abdul Haq- and cook meat and serve alcohol.
There was a sort of poetic Justice to his predicament and I'd have been quite justified to let the fellow rot there in that second rate Curry house- but there is a softer side to us old L.S.E alumni and so, sternly admonishing him not to repeat that Godhra thing, I did advance him the balance he needed to buy an air ticket home, in return for one trifling favor.
You see, as a Hindu poet, I have always wanted to recite my sonnet on the Somnath temple within the sacred precinct itself. Modi hummed and hawed but, prodded by my friend, finally gave in. He made one stipulation which showed the theatrical flair and genius for choreographing public spectacle he shared with Adolf Hitler. His notion was that I should costume myself as Mahmud of Ghazni- the Eleventh Century Afghan warlord- and rush upon the holy temple, declaring my intention to raze it to the ground before proceeding to deal similarly with the Narmada dam.
Modi explained that people would be incensed and a large crowd soon assemble. However, before anything untoward could occur, by a prearranged signal, the Purohits of the Temple would issue forth to plead with me to spare the Holy fane. Meanwhile, representatives of the Media would have had a chance to rush to the spot. Once the T.V cameras were properly set up and boom mikes extended, the time would be ripe to throw off my disguise and recite my sublime composition.
I agreed to Modiji's stipulation, not from any desire to bask in the limelight, but because it pointed a way to symbolically heal a thousand year old wound and restore brotherly feeling between Hindus and Muslims not just in Gujarat but throughout India.
The Chief Minister heartily endorsed my sentiment before scuttling back to his waiterly tasks of clearing tables and sweeping up poppadom pieces.
My friend, who had some private business with Modiji- returning from the toilet, I'd glimpsed the Chief Minister slipping him the greater part of the money I'd handed over for the air ticket- was firmly of the opinion that my Somnath poem had already attained that proverbial 'sublimity beyond self-sodomy' (appan ki khud gaand marne se zor intikhabiyat) and urged me to make my pilgrimage without delay.
However, I am a perfectionist. In the intervening years, my poem on Somnath has both expanded both in scope and sphincteral venturesomeness of style. I think my magnum opus is virtually complete. Soon, I shall set off for Gujarat. The one thing about Modi everybody agrees on is that he always keeps his word. There is no red tape. All I need to do is tip off my friend and then, like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky, appear suddenly at Somnath changing, not literary history merely, but also political history, nay! say rather the history of Spirituality! Man's Destiny on Earth! and, be it but in that moment only, the very destiny of Time...
The moral of this story, for my young readers, is that though you shouldn't believe everything you read in the newspapers, still where reportage is based on responsible N.G.O and Academic sources, then great benefits may flow from keeping oneself properly informed.