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Time to ditch the brown suits and annoying humility

I have to admit Mr Modi is quite a guy! Whether you admire or dislike him — and he is a polarising figure — you can’t stop watching him, writes Karan Thapar.

columns Updated: Oct 04, 2014 23:33 IST
Modi,Rajiv Gandhi,Indira Gandhi

I have to admit Mr Modi is quite a guy! Whether you admire or dislike him — and he is a polarising figure — you can’t stop watching him. When he speaks, you hang on to every word he says. And now we’ve even begun to talk about his sartorial style!

Not since Rajiv Gandhi started wearing his shawl across one shoulder and decades after Indira Gandhi caught our attention with her coiffure and elegant sarees has a prime minister captured the imagination of the chattering classes. If I’m not mistaken, it won’t be long before the legend of Narendra Modi is born. It may be an exaggeration — or for some a matter of concern — but he seems like the zeitgeist.

Of course, such men can be dangerous. They not only captivate, they can also hypnotise. We, in turn, not only admire but can go on to hero-worship. But beyond recognising this possibility it would be unfair to jump so far ahead of ourselves in Mr Modi’s case.

For now, I view him as a phenomenon. When was the last time a Prime Minister kept you riveted to your seat, glued to your television screen, attentively listening to every word he speaks? Possibly Vajpayee in 1975 but that was 40 years ago. When was the last time we were fascinated by a Prime Minister’s clothes and their striking colours? Indira Gandhi — but only on her trips abroad.

Narendra Modi is not just different but unique, even, possibly, special. I spent hours listening to him speak during his recent visit to America. His performances — and I use that word deliberately — were superb. That’s why there’s so much appreciation, if not praise. Even from the BBC!

So maybe he’ll accept with good grace the few tips I wish to offer. First, I like a PM who’s conscious of his appearance and keen to show himself off at his best. In fact, I’m a bit of a peacock myself. If I could, I too would change my clothes several times a day. Those are plus points for me. But brown is not a colour Mr Modi should wear on formal occasions.

Charcoal-grey and navy blue suits or black — though it’s a bit stark — are always preferable. If you want a touch of colour bring it out with your tie or the handkerchief in your breast pocket. Brown suits are for Sundays or lunches in the country.

There is, however, a deeper reason for avoiding brown. It doesn’t suit our complexion. Brown on brown looks dull, if not dreadful. If he thinks about this, Mr Modi will surely agree.

My other tip is to do with Mr Modi’s rhetoric. I hesitate to fault a man whose choice of words is captivating but there’s a turn of phrase he must cease using before it becomes irritating and off-putting.

Mr Modi must stop calling himself a chhota aadmi. He may have been one once but no longer. Today repetition of that phrase sounds like false humility.

Joking about chaiwallahs is a different matter. But, hereafter, let others speak of his lowly origins. The man at the top of the pole can’t claim to be small and insignificant.

The Modi-era has undoubtedly begun. It could easily stretch into a decade. Bright pastel-coloured Nehru jackets — oops, maybe that’s not what he calls them! — and enthralling speeches — are the promise we look forward to. I hope Mr Modi won’t let brown suits and misplaced humility spoil it for us.

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Oct 04, 2014 23:03 IST