Book Excerpt: Speaking the Modi Way by Virender Kapoor

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Stage Presence

After being elected and sworn in as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, Modi did not stop his motivational campaign. In fact, he stepped it up. That is what India needed, what Indians needed for their sagging morale, for their feeling of hopelessness and despair. In many of his speeches, he said, ‘Most of you feel nothing can be done. Many of you feel we were unlucky to be born in India. That is why many of you want to leave the country and settle abroad. Don’t worry, things will change. Ab acche din ayenge (Now good days will come).’

He gave hope to one and all. It was an oft-heard comment: ‘We feel proud that we have a PM who speaks like a PM and behaves like a PM.’ Many said, ‘Here is the man who will do something big, he will turn India around.’ Modi was thus undoubtedly acknowledged as an outstanding speaker, a man of a never-seen-before calibre on the Indian political arena.

Narendra Modi speaks clearly, emphatically and with full confidence. He has the ability to control his voice, his pitch and pauses, so as to deliver a resounding performance. He can alter the texture of his voice, change his facial expressions to reflect extreme seriousness or suddenly smile after delivering a pun.

He usually holds the lectern with both hands, demonstrating that he is in full control. He looks from left to right, gazing at his audience from one side to the other. His gaze is captivating and reassuring. He appears very confident and keeps his composure even if someone interrupts, especially during parliamentary debates and discourses.

Modi uses his hands, arms and fingers intelligently. To emphasize a point as gospel truth, he raises the index finger of his right hand (sometimes his left) in the air for a while, usually till he completes his point.

He also makes a gesture of sincerity and honesty by making a circle with his index finger and his thumb. This also indicates finality of a statement, its perfection and its genuineness. To show solidarity and as a display of power he sometimes raises his fist in the air. At appropriate moments, where he needs to show strength, he holds both fists in the air.

Sometimes, to convey something very serious and intriguing, he partly opens his palm and moves it around his wrist, with an expression of astonishment on his face. When he talks of inclusive development (‘sabka vikas’), he opens his arms wide with palms facing upwards, as though welcoming everyone. In a rare gesture, he thumps his chest—‘chhati thokke’—to assert his achievements or demonstrate his resolve. With these gestures, he brings himself closer to the audience and his discourse doesn’t remain a public discourse, but becomes a one-to-one connect with each person in the audience.

The most important observation here is that to his audience, it doesn’t appear rehearsed. These gestures can’t be rehearsed because every occasion, every dialogue is different and one has to master the craft of using one’s hands and gestures to connect with the context and content. There is a sense of expectation, a sense of anticipation, a sense of ‘What’s coming next?’ from his audience every time he stands up to speak.

Modi appears to speak extempore. This is definitely a gift of God. Yet, one can achieve such a spectacular performance again and again with practice. He is like a trained pilot—the more you fly, the better you become. Your take-offs and landings become smoother, flying becomes effortless and you can handle rough weather anytime during the flight with ease. And, as a Top Gun, you are great at aerobatics, manoeuvring and gliding through the skies comfortably.

Modi seldom falters, rarely fumbles and is never short of appropriate words or phraseology. His flow is perfect, delivery flawless and each of his ideas is beautifully strung to the next, as if by a craftsman assembling a necklace of pearls.

This is ultimate mastery of oratory. Modi excels at touching the hearts and souls of children, the youth, veterans, scientists, soldiers, the high and mighty and even the masses.

After assuming charge as PM, Modi has addressed millions of people at home as well as abroad. He has addressed the Indian Parliament, spoken at the Civil Services Day, 21 April 2015, addressing senior bureaucrats, addressed children across the country on Teacher’s Day and addressed the Indian diaspora in the US, Canada, China, France, Australia and several other countries with equal eloquence and ease. He has shown the same competence whether addressing the BJP MP’s workshop or the Rajya Sabha or a political rally or the US’s Council on
Foreign Relations.

His approach has uniformly been focused, his content tailormade and his style measured to suit the occasion. Speaking at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), addressing students of Delhi University or Tsinghua (a university in Beijing) or Fudan University in Shanghai, he has held audiences in awe. For the elite and the intellectual, his motivational speech at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), his vision- and mission-oriented speech at the Economics Times Summit for Indian corporate head honchos, and his address at the Indian Science Congress have all been masterpieces in themselves. Let us now analyse some of these speeches.

This excerpt from Speaking the Modi Way by Virender Kapoor is reprinted by permission of Rupa Publications. To buy Speaking the Modi Way at the best prices, click here.

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