The Rise of Narendra Modi

Zahir Janmohamed in the Boston Review:

ScreenHunter_234 Jul. 04 16.56The physician sat in the corner of his office in Ahmedabad, a map of India’s western state of Gujarat on one side, a map of the human nervous system on the other, his hip leaning against the drawer that I spent weeks trying to convince him to open.

After agreeing to a list of conditions—I could not take any photographs, I could not remove anything from his office—he agreed to show me the drawer’s contents. It was a six-inch stack of letters between two longtime pen pals, the physician and a young man named Narendra Modi, the current chief minister of Gujarat and the official candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party to contest next year’s elections for India’s prime minister. I took out my digital recorder and began reading each letter aloud. A few days before I boarded my return flight to California, the physician called me to his office.

“Zahir bhai,” he said. It was unusual for him to address me this way—he is in his 60s, twice my age, and “bhai” means brother in Hindi and is used most often with someone older.

“Zahir bhai,” he repeated. “I am very sorry. You cannot use my name in your piece.”

I was not surprised; very few in Gujarat are willing to use their real name when asked about Modi. I told him I would be happy to change his name.

“No, you cannot use my name or my letters or my story. I have three children. Modi will ruin their lives if people know my views on him.”

I pleaded with him to reconsider but he would not budge.

“You do not have children. You do not know what it is like to live in Gujarat. You will return to America eventually. Please, you must understand.”

Unfortunately, I do understand.

More here.