'I met Modi'... Interpreting a Kashmiri neta's dream
“I met Narendra Modi and had a long conversation with him,” the veteran Kashmiri leader announced dramatically to anyone who would care to listen.
Now, Prime Minister Narednra Modi is not given to meeting Kashmiri leaders of any hue – unless, of course, one happens to be Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister and his party’s alliance partner in the ruling dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir. So everyone at the lunch table was taken aback with his claim.
“Maine Modi ko khwaab mein mila (I met Modi in a dream),” the Kashmiri leader explained, pouring cold water on the expectations his claim had raised.
Asked what happened in his dream, he said, “I sat with him and told him that people say that he is the most popular Prime Minister of India after Nehru and Indira Gandhi. I told him that he could be even a greater Prime Minister than them if he settled the Kashmir issue. But … but there is one factor that holds you back. The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak sangh) has put you in fetters. That’s what holds you back, I told him.”
This was the “long” conversation he had had with the Prime Minister of India?
“Yes,” he replied. What did Modi have to say after this? “Well, he listened.”
Did you tell him anything else in the dream?
“I asked him whether I could tell people that I had met him. ‘Avashya (certainly),’ he replied and added, ‘Aaap kahiye ki vistaar se baat hui (you can say that we talked in detail)’,” he said with satisfaction.
Anything else that he might remember telling Modi? “Oh yes, I told him that what explains my meeting him in my khwaab(dream) is perhaps the fact that I know someone who knows him quite well. I had also cautioned Modi that I may meet him again soon one of these days,” he replied.
Could his meeting with Modi be reported? “Only if you do not name me.” he said.
So a dialogue about Kashmir had begun after all even if in the dream of a Kashmiri leader. Only two weeks ago a separatist leader had asked me, “Why do you keep talking of a dialogue? Has there ever been a dialogue with Fascism? Could the Jewish people have had a dialogue to Hitler and prevented the holocaust? Give me one instance from world history where dialogue with Fascism led to anything productive?” Not wanting to discuss whether Fascism was the correct term to describe the government in New Delhi, I avoided any further discussion saying, “You must tell me about this in detail when you are in Delhi next.”
However to get back to the import of our Kashmiri friend’s dream:
Many cultural traditions, especially the Sufi, believe that dreams foretell the future and that only their secret code needs to be deciphered. Modern psychology tells us that dreams are replay of reality with a different cast of characters, setting and landscape. They are an attempt to clean out the memories of unpleasant residues of reality from our consciousness. Or, so experts tell us.
While dreams are based on elements of reality that disturb us, they are also untethered from reality. By play acting in the dreams by a cast of characters we imagine conflicts are resolved and we ready ourselves to face a new day.
It is clear that the Kashmiri leader is in a masochistic position in this dream – threatened by political developments, terrified by their possible denouement and impotent for not being able to do anything.
The feeling of political helplessness puts him in the humiliating position of appealing to the political machismo of the only man who he thinks has the ability to do something. He needs to appeal to his sense of exaggerated masculinity – to persuade him to show more strength, more bravery and even greater wisdom and leadership than others before him. This is the inner context at the core of the Kashmiri leader’s dream. The reality on which this dream play is based already exists outside as well as inside the consciousness of the Kashmiri leader.
The Kashmiri leader also warns of the fetters tied around Modi’s feet limiting his machismo. The fetters represent the father, an arrogant, self-involved, self-righteous male force, holding the son back lest he grow so big as to become a threat. The unresponsive disapproval of the father is what the Kashmir leader is telling the Modi figure to jettison. Otherwise, he points out, he will remain helpless, intimidated and impotent – without his machismo finding its as yet unfulfilled potential.
The Modi figure in the dream is a combination of Modi the man, the RSS and more centrally, the larger Indian citizenry. It is this compound figure that the Kashmir leader sees both as the victimiser and as the saviour.
In the later part of the dream, the Kashmiri leader attempts to overcome his own humiliation as he digests the lack of response from the Modi figure. He rises and threatens to make the meeting public. The complex Modi figure however reassures him, dissipating his humiliation by not only allowing him to talk about the meeting but also permitting him to add that they had detailed discussion, while no such discussion took place. This allows the dreamer to regain his self-respect. It reverses and dissipates his state of anxiety.
The Kashmiri leader’s dream, helps even if momentarily, to detoxify the government’s Kashmir policy. The little, anxious, politically impotent man, emerges triumphant from the dream with a sense of achievement. He thinks his problems are now set on the road to resolution. And then there is a promise of another meeting in another dream!
(With due apologies to the senior Kashmiri leader who recounted his dream, as well as to Sigmund Freud and other seasoned interpreters of dreams)