Modi 'bears' all, sniffs dung with TV adventurer Grylls

People watching Discovery Channel's Man Vs Wild show - featuring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi narrating stories about his childhood to the host Bear Grylls - on a giant screen in Bhopal, India, on Monday.
People watching Discovery Channel's Man Vs Wild show - featuring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi narrating stories about his childhood to the host Bear Grylls - on a giant screen in Bhopal, India, on Monday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW DELHI • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit television screens like never before on Monday, talking about his life and the environment - and smelling elephant dung - with British TV adventurer Bear Grylls.

The Discovery Channel programme Man Vs Wild saw Mr Modi, 68, seeking to burnish his credentials as a protector of nature, telling his story to Mr Grylls, 45, in a rainy Indian nature reserve.

"Every plant is a flower. We see God in every plant," Mr Modi said as the two men made a spear and crossed a freezing river in a makeshift boat.

"It is every human's responsibility (to protect the environment). The biggest problem is our lifestyle. We exploit nature for our enjoyment, and that is the biggest problem," he said in Hindi, with Mr Grylls appearing to understand.

Mr Modi, re-elected earlier this year, also told Mr Grylls about his humble beginnings as a tea-seller's son and his solo trips of spiritual awakening into the Himalayas.

The programme, widely advertised in Indian media, ended with a gushing Mr Grylls saying a prayer for India and for Mr Modi, whom he called an "iconic global leader".

Media-savvy Mr Modi, who has 49 million Twitter followers, has long sought to portray himself as a man of action protecting his beloved country and its people.

His macho exploits resemble those of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been photographed horse-riding in Siberia, spear-fishing in a camouflage wetsuit and practising judo.

Mr Modi has published videos of himself doing yoga and at the end of this year's election campaign, was shown on television meditating in a remote holy cave.

The Indian leader told his Twitter followers earlier on Monday his adventures with Mr Grylls would "throw light on environmental conservation and climate change".

India is home to 22 of the world's 30 most polluted cities - according to Greenpeace - and some of the planet's dirtiest waterways.

Poisonous air killed 1.24 million Indians in 2017, according to a study by The Lancet Planetary Health, which said tens of millions of people face serious health risks.

India currently generates about two-thirds of its electricity with coal and gas, making it the world's third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2019, with the headline 'Modi 'bears' all, sniffs dung with TV adventurer Grylls'. Print Edition | Subscribe