Few leaders are content to be mere politicians. Many have felt a compelling need to break out into verse.
Narendra Modi is one such politician-cum-poet.
Here are some lines from his excellent piece on ‘Basant — the advent of spring’: ‘Who’s getting wedded in the woods/Each tree is lit in festive moods/Bestowed with divine blessing/From the heart of autumn/Rises the cooing of spring’. He seems to have missed out winter in between, but you’ve got to admit he loves nature.
In spite of diligent googling, I’ve been unable to find any poems by Rahul Gandhi. His fans say that not writing poetry is his most endearing trait, but there’s a theory that young Rahul’s first poetic effort, at the age of eight, was: ‘Great Grandpa Nehru/Was beaten black and blue/In nineteen sixty two’. After that, he was forbidden to write anything.
But you can never know with these sentimental nature-loving chaps. The poem ‘Keep shining/Beautiful one/Among the clouds as long ago/Through the blue firmament’, was written not by Wordsworth, but by Stalin. You would have thought ‘Ode to the Gulag’ would be more his style.
And this is what Mao Zedong said about spring: ‘Wind and rain escorted Spring’s departure/Flying snow welcomes Spring’s return/On the ice-clad rock rising high and sheer/A flower blooms sweet and fair’.
This is the same guy who said “Power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. Also, he was such an extremist fitness freak that he went on a 10,000 km Long March. Any sane person would have taken a train.
Did you know that Hitler wrote a very mushy poem about his mother? Here are a few lines: ‘When her feet, grown tired/No longer want to carry her as she walks/Then lend your arm in support/Escort her with happy pleasure’. No, the next line isn’t ‘To the gas chamber’.
Churchill was another great versifier. Here’s one called ‘After Reading a Foreign Office Report’: ‘The Czechoslovaks/lie flat on their backs/Emitting loud quacks/The Yugoslovaks/All die of the pox’. It was after reading this poem that India decided that enough was enough and declared Independence.
Some poems are difficult.
For instance, President Obama wrote one called ‘Underground’ which talked of ‘Under water grottos, caverns/Filled with apes/That eat figs’.
Critics say it brings out our inner ape.
Similarly, Vajpayee wrote these obscure lines: ‘To those who try to reach/The throne of power/Over mounds of dead bodies/Of innocent children/Old women/Young men/I have a question/Did nothing bind them/To those who died/Their faiths differed/Was it not enough that they too were of this earth?’ What on earth was he talking about?
Sometimes even great poets stoop to fudging their rhymes. Mamata Banerjee ends her poem ‘Politics’ thus: ‘Until and unless we change such politics/Politics will be lost in its own whirlpool of politics’. You really can’t use politics to rhyme with politics. She could easily have used narcotics, or antibiotics, or ballistics instead.
The bard of the present government is Kapil Sibal, the well-known SMS poet. One of his gems is: ‘The Left has suffered for a lifetime now from an ailment they cannot diagnose/The symptom, however, that troubles them most is that they cannot just see beyond their nose’. Notice the clever rhyme.
I too had sent a few SMS poems for publication. Unfortunately, they sent them all back with this little verse: ‘Yr poems make us lol/Sometimes rofl/NE1 can c/Their imbeciliT.’
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
(Views expressed by the author are personal)