A chat with Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’

Veteran journalist Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay’s biography, “Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times” is on a success sprint: booksellers say it’s a favourite with the readers (http://bit.ly/1tvOtHB) and news articles reach out to the author for quotes on Modi (http://bit.ly/1sA4xaI).

We’ve published e-singles from the book, which you can download online! ‘A Time of Difference’ presents a painstakingly researched, truthful account of Narendra Modi’s marriage: http://bit.ly/1mtAtdc. ‘Childhood Lessons’ unearths Modi’s childhood, that forms the core of his formative years: http://bit.ly/1i4Unuz

We also had a quick chat with the author about the book. Here’s what he had to say:

Q1: What were the challenges you faced, while writing Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times?

Nilanjan: The biggest challenge was to stay neutral and not get swayed by criticism that one heard about him every day in the press. It was also important not to be influenced by claims of his publicists and admirers. The next big challenge was to negotiate my way through interviews in such a manner so that he did not get annoyed and stop speaking to me. He eventually did so half way into the writing of the book but this was not due to any provocation from me. He is the best person to explain why he chose to speak to me in the first instance and later withdrew his pleasure. But as a writer, I suspect, he must have learnt that some of the people I was interacting with, were among his bitter critics and he did not appreciate this. Writing the book was also a challenge because of the sense of constantly being under scrutiny. I was assured that one of his brothers, Pankaj, who works for the State Information Department, would accompany me to his village, Vadnagar. At the last minute he dropped out feigning illness. Similarly, another brother Somabhai, had promised to meet at the Old Age Home he ran on the outskirts of the village. But when we went there, we were told that he was away from the place. When I called him up, he said he had an urgent chore to attend to and had to come away. This demonstrated that it was extremely difficult to meet people and get them to talk impartially about Modi. Many political leaders who I had known for years also sought to be excused. They were willing to talk about anything else but Modi.

But on the positive side, whenever I either met or spoke to him he was extremely polite. When it came to sharing official information and providing access to visit parts of the state to witness various development projects, he personally directed his officers to be of assistance.

Q2: What has this book done to you as an author?

Nilanjan: The book has brought me tremendous respect and recognition. I have been commended for having attempted to be absolutely fair in my scrutiny of my subject despite the fact that he evokes sharply polarised views. In the last one year, I have been interviewed extensively by national and international media – print, TV and Internet. Most journalists have used my book as a guide for their own work. For instance the reporter who interviewed Modi last year for the international news agency Reuters, wrote to me saying how he had used parts of my book to prepare for the meeting with Modi. Similarly, most reporters and senior journalists have read my book and are very appreciative. The book has also been received very positively in the market and this has been heart warming.

But more importantly I have been invited to academic seminars, been asked to deliver lectures and interact with students. Writing the book also gave me tremendous confidence in my writing abilities. I have also been invited regularly to literary festivals and whenever I attended them, the audience was out in full numbers. The book has considerably enhanced my professional stature.