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  • What ‘Zeeks’ could have taught Mr. Modi

    Posted On November 10, 2013

    By Karan Thapar

    “When the BJP said Modi would make history, did you realize he would literally make it up?” Pertie was laughing but it was a telling point. “If only someone like Zeeks had taught him he wouldn’t have made so many silly errors and embarrassed himself.”

    Zeeks was our history tutor at Doon School. The affectionate nickname is how generations of Doscos remember K. B. Sinha. His history classes were memorable both because they were enjoyable but also immensely educational. That Pertie could spot Modi’s historical errors is a tribute to Mr. Sinha.

    “Modi’s made so many bloomers I’m losing count of them. These days, it seems, each time he speaks he manages to get something wrong. I’m tempted to start a catalogue and call it ‘Thus spake Modi’!”

    The truth is history is not the only subject where Modi’s lack of accuracy has begun to haunt him. But, so far, it is the most embarrassing. Even teenagers know that after defeating Porus, Alexander sailed down the Indus and departed India. He never entered the gangetic plain leave aside face defeat in Bihar. Any admirer of Ashoka – and they run into hundreds of millions – will tell you his grandfather, Chandragupta, was a Maurya. How come Modi didn’t know that? And even if to his ears it sounds exotic, Taxila hardly sounds Bihari. Unless, of course, he thinks of Bihar as another country!

    However, the list of Modi mishaps is not only longer but delightfully undiscriminating. Speaking about China, in tones that suggested admiration, Modi claimed 20 per cent of its GDP was spent on education. The truth is about a fifth of that. So, do you suppose, he doesn’t know China as well as he thinks?

    Pontificating about the economy – which he claims to have handled with exemplary skill in Gujarat – Modi declared that in 1947 one rupee was equal to one dollar. The gullible believed him but, alas, he was, once again, wrong. At the time, the rupee was tied to the pound. This meant you needed just over three to buy a dollar. I accept it requires a bit of mathematical calculation to work this out but is that too much to expect of the man the BJP hopes will be our next prime minister?

    Even the facts of Sardar Patel’s life – a man he not only admires but seeks to emulate – are at times beyond his grasp. The Sardar did not propose reservations for women in the Ahmedabad Municipality in 1919, as Modi claimed at the inauguration of the Vallabhbhai Patel Memorial Museum, an occasion when he should have known what he was saying, but in 1926. So, could it be he doesn’t know his hero as well as he thinks?

    “You know what Zeeks would have said if Modi had been in his class?” I could sense Pertie was about to reveal his considered conclusion of Modi’s many mistakes. Consequently, I deliberately didn’t answer and waited for him to speak instead.

    “Silly boy!” Pertie roared with laughter, no doubt remembering how often that had been said of him. “If you don’t know what you’re talking about its better to keep quiet.”

    “That reminds me of something Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said.” I was desperate to have the last word! “It’s better to keep your mouth-shut and seem a fool than speak out and remove all doubt.”

    “Don’t be unkind to Mr. Modi”, said Pertie, deflating my pomposity. “He could be our next Prime Minister.”

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