Happy birthday Modi ji, thanks for teaching us how to be in news

PM, Narendra Modi, birthday
Prime Minister Narendra Modi feeding a cow during his visit to 'Pashu Vigyan Evam Arogya Mela' in Mathura on September 11. Photo: PTI

As all of India and its diaspora celebrates his birthday, we should take this opportunity for expressing our gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his greatest contributions to humanity. He may or may not have succeeded in giving employment to each one of us, but he has certainly endowed each one of us with a goal in life, a raison d’etre.

Across millennia, thousands and thousands of people have agonised over a simple question: what is the purpose of life? We may now have a definitive answer to this perplexing question, courtesy our PM. We will come to the Modi-inspired answer to this question in due time, but first it is imperative to understand its context, magnitude and excruciating history.

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Our own Vedas argued that the purpose of life is to be one with the Creator after a virtuous life. At the other end of the spectrum, mavericks like Marquis de Sade argued that the purpose of life is the pursuit of pleasure (the US charter uses the synonym happiness), at any cost. In the middle were the absurdists who said there is absolutely no purpose of life except to realise its absurdity and live with it. None of these could make universal sense. The Hindus, for instance, didn’t stop the pursuit of material things just because the scriptures said atman was more important. Moreover, since most of these philosophies were mutually antagonistic—Sade and a Vedic Sage would, for instance, have called each other stupid—we could never find a one-explanation-fits-all answer. That was, until now. Till the age of Modi.

The answer, if you have been following Modi, has been blowin’ in the wind. The purpose of life is—eureka—to stay in the news. Or, even better, be the news, create the news. Except for media, everything else is just maya (illusion).

Famous wit and playwright Oscar Wilde had, of course, offered the same wisdom years ago, when he had argued that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all. But, his being-talked-about implied being the subject of London gossip. Modi has taken Wilde’s philosophy to a cosmic level, as if piloted by a personal Chandrayaan.

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Consider the PM’s philosophy in the context of the PM’s birthday. Unless you have been some sort of Vikram with all links to the outside world broken, you would not have missed the fact that today, September 17, is Modi’s birthday. A birthday is, after all, just a minor blip on the evolutionary radar of a man, even a sad reminder of the process of ageing and the inevitability of death. But, if you live by the philosophy of every moment being an opportunity to be the news, it is a godsend.

So, the newspapers are full of it, TV channels are beaming live footage of the celebrations from the banks of Narmada and twitter is busy canonising the moment. And how did this come about? Simple, because the PM decided to remind all of us of the special day by going to Gujarat, offering oblations to Maa Narmada and then, well, generally being a devout Hindu and model son. He has turned it into another occasion to pursue the purpose of life.

Think about all the recent twists and turns in India’s recent history. You will realise, like Forrest Gump, the PM has always been there. Demonetisation? That 8 PM speech. GST? Those midnight celebrations to underline what turned out to be a tragic tryst with GDP. ISRO’s strike on a satellite? That famous mid-election speech. Article 370? The climactic entry in the Lok Sabha to chants of Bharat mata ki jai. Chandrayan’s lunar landing? Yes, it didn’t go as planned but he still managed to make headlines with the simple expedient of practising the Munnabhai philosophy of dispensing hugs.

The point is: whatever be the context, whatever be the occasion, Modi has always been in the news; he has been the news. And that’s been the purpose of his life and, through example, that of his government. Growth rate has fallen below 5%? No problem, merge some banks, become the news. UP election campaign not picking up? Roll out demonetisation. Unemployment rising? Pull out Article 370.

Bear in mind, all political philosophies claim good rulers govern with an altruistic purpose assigned to them by a higher power. The Chinese, for instance, believe that Tian—the heaven—selects the most worthy person to lead. And, as many other emperors have claimed in the past, they do so for the sake of people (like the Kashmiris), for their betterment. So, our PM has practised this profound philosophy for the benefit of us Indians.

Lest you think being in the news, controlling the narrative is an ignoble pursuit, consider the argument that it is actually an improvement of the essence of several other philosophies. In a way it adds to the karma theory of Gita: keep doing your work, and you’d be rewarded with the fruits of media attention. What’s life, after all without the taste of fruits of our efforts? It is also a nice improvisation of Buddha’s philosophy: desire is the root cause of suffering. So, what if somebody were constantly diverting our attention from this suffering by creating an alternate, more pleasant reality? It may be difficult to find nirvana (or governance), but finding a distraction is easy.

Happy Birthday, Modi ji. Thank you for teaching us so many things about life.