New Delhi: Abbas, a Muslim boy, spent years living with Narendra Modi and his family at their Gujarat house during his childhood after the untimely death of his father, the Prime Minister said Saturday in a blog he wrote on the occasion of his mother Heeraben’s 100th birthday.
In a touching tribute to his mother, Modi said when he was going to be made the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001, his mother pointed out that while she understood nothing about his “work in the government” but she told him “never to take a bribe”.
Pointing out how his mother would find happiness in other people’s joys, Modi narrated the story of Abbas, whose father died while he was studying. Modi’s father, Damodardas Modi, got him to stay with the family, the prime minister wrote in his blog.
“Our house may have been small but she [my mother] was extremely large-hearted. A close friend of my father used to stay in a nearby village. After his untimely death, my father brought his friend’s son, Abbas, to our home. He stayed with us and completed his studies,” Modi wrote in English.
“Mother was as affectionate and caring towards Abbas just like she did for all of us siblings. Every year on Eid, she used to prepare his favourite dishes. On festivals, it was commonplace for neighbourhood kids to come to our house and enjoy Mother’s special preparations,” he said.
Modi went down the memory lane in the blog and spoke about his childhood, especially the special moments that he spent with his mother. The PM says it is the first time that he had publicly written about his mother and the influence she had on him
Heeraben did not have an easy life, recalled her son. It was life mired in poverty and back breaking work. But she would still find happiness in other people’s joys, writes Modi.
“Mother has always inspired me to have a strong resolve and focus on garib kalyan (welfare of the poor). I remember when it was decided that I would be the Chief Minister of Gujarat, I was not present in the state. As soon as I landed there, I went straight to meet Mother. She was extremely ecstatic and inquired if I was going to again stay with her. But she knew my answer,” he wrote.
Modi also gave the reader a peek into his poverty-stricken family, explaining how his mother’s childhood was “extremely difficult” and how she was forced to “wash utensils” at a few houses to help ends meet.
“She would also take out time to spin the charkha to supplement our meagre income,” he wrote. “She would do everything from peeling cotton to spinning yarn. Even in this back-breaking work, her prime concern was ensuring that the cotton thorns don’t prick us.”
“Compared to today, Mother’s childhood was extremely difficult. Perhaps, this is what the Almighty had destined for her. Mother also believes that this was God’s will. But losing her mother early in her childhood, the fact that she couldn’t even see her mother’s face, continues to give her pain,” he wrote.
Modi described his family home as a “tiny house which did not even have a window”.
“In Vadnagar, our family used to stay in a tiny house which did not even have a window, let alone a luxury like a toilet or a bathroom. We used to call this one-room tenement with mud walls and clay tiles for a roof, our home. And all of us – my parents, my siblings and I, stayed in it,” he said.
He explained how his father had to build a machaan (a raised platform) out of bamboo sticks and wooden planks to make it easier for his mother to cook.
“This structure was our kitchen. Mother used to climb on the machaan to cook, and the entire family would sit on it and eat together,” he wrote.
His father’s tea shop
Prime Minister Modi also mentioned the tea shop his father ran.
“Like clockwork, my father used to leave for work at four in the morning. His footsteps would tell the neighbours that it is 4 AM and Damodar Kaka is leaving for work. Another daily ritual was to pray at the local temple before opening his little tea shop,” he wrote in the blog.
His mother Heeraben never asked her children to drop their studies and assist her with the household chores.
“However, looking at her work so hard, we considered helping her our foremost duty,” he wrote. “I used to really enjoy swimming in the local pond. So, I used to take all the dirty clothes from home and wash them at the pond. The washing of clothes and my play, both used to get done together.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)