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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

Last updated on: December 4, 2012 14:47 IST

Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Sonil Dedhia in Vadnagar

Rediff.com's Sonil Dedhia undertook a visit to Narendra Modi's village Vadnagar and learnt interesting facts about Gujarat chief minister's childhood. He shares his experience in this diary.

I am glad that a visit to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's village Vadnagar was my first experience at political reporting.

Located at a distance of about 110 km from Ahmedabad, Vadnagar is small village built over 2,500 years ago.

As we moved out of the city I could see a change in the landscape with farmers toiling away in their farms and kids enjoying their time, not having any worry of the world. 

As we entered from the Pithori gate after a two-hour journey, we were greeted with a quaint little town.

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Image: The road sign reading Vadnagar
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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We pass our way through some deserted lanes, which made us feel that no one had stayed here since centuries. The elderly gentlemen sitting at the portico greeted us with a big smile. The children became curious as we took out the cameras and started clicking some pictures of the town.

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Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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The houses on the way were rather unique and had their own distinct feel. The intricately carved walls on each house are worth watching, especially the big Nagar Brahman havelis, which reminded us of the ones shown in old Hindi films.

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Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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We make our first stop at the beautiful Sharmistha Lake overlooking the village. We had heard lots of stories about how Modi loved swimming in it.

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Image: Sharmistha Lake
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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We were surprised to see a huge amphitheatre just besides the lake. Curious, we meet Rameshbhai Modi, who is the caretaker of the place.

"Namaste, looks like you all are tourists," he said, uninhibitedly.

I responded with a nod. After a spell of uncomfortable silences, I mumbled in Gujarati, "Aa amphitheater ne ketla varash thya?" (How many years has this amphitheatre been?)."

"Aane char varash thai gya (Its been four years) he replied adding, "This has been built under Modi's supervision."

The ticket rates to the amphitheatre are merely Rs 5. I am also informed that every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday a movie is showcased in the evenings for which a person has to shell out Rs 10.

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Image: The amphitheatre at Vadnagar
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Our next stop was at the historical landmark Kirti Torans (Victory gates) on the western shore of Lake Sharmishtha.

The Toran's have gained heritage status.

Sathvarabhai a government employee and caretaker of these Torans told us that they were constructed by the by the 
Solanki rulers in the tenth century symbolising victory over the occupiers from the north-east.

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Image: The Kirti Toran (Victory gate) on the western shore of Lake Sharmishtha
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Adjoining the Kirit Torans is a beautiful dargah (shrine).

After the Godhra riots in 2002 Modi has never been in the good books of the Muslim community. We were curious to know what the Muslims community in his hometown thought about him.

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Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Abid Ali Mohammmed Momin, a Vadnagar resident, who runs a hotel in Surat, has come with a small group of five people to the dargah. They offer free tea to every visitor on Thursday during the holy month of Muharram.

What do you think of Modi's development in last 11 years?

"I am very happy. There are so many things that he has done for the state and especially for this village," he says.

Highlighting the developments he further adds, "The whole village is lit by solar lights. He also built the beautiful amphitheatre. A new factory (Himalaya) was started four years back, which has generated employment for more than 50 per cent of the village's population."

Modi is very popular among the Muslim population in his village.

Vadnagar houses more than 1,500 Muslim families.

"Narendrabhai Modi is our leader. He is intelligent and has always done good things for everyone. I am sure he will win the elections," says a village elder, who has come to the dargah to offer prayers.

"I studied with his younger brother Pankaj Modi (the youngest of Modi siblings)," proudly boasts Ahmedbhai Sutar, born and brought up In Vadnagar, who even tries to call Pankaj but can't get through his number.

"Narendra Modi has done so much for all of us," he says, "I hope the BJP comes back to power and also hope that Modi becomes the prime minister of our country." 

Ahmedbhai also mentions that he stayed in Modi's neigbourhood and knew the family very well. We decided to take his help and guide us through Vadnagar. He happily obliges and straight away took us to Modi's residence.

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Image: The tea stall outside the dargah
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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We make our way through the small streets dodging the cows and buffaloes, I realise that staying in Modi's village does not mean that you enjoy all the privileges.

As we walked inside a by lane searching for Modi's house, a group of women who were washing clothes fumed over the issue of water cuts.

Not hiding their anger and disappointment an elderly lady looks at me and says, "We hardly receive water for half an hour. It is a big problem. People from the media come and just write about the development but you should write about our misery. If nothing else we should at least get water."

Her stress on the words 'at least' clearly shows their frustration.

We ask them whether it was Modi's fault and they immediately deny it.

"This is not Modi's fault. What can he do in this? It is all because of the Mahanagar Palika. Since the last one year they say that an old water tank has to be rebuilt."

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Image: A group of women venting their frustration on the water cuts
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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We try to probe the water cut issue and meet Vipinbhai Modi, Vadnagar Nagar Palika member for the last four years.

"I agree there is a little issue of water cut, but that is because the old water tank has to be rebuilt. The tender is passed and the new tank should be installed in three months."

Vipinbhai who also runs a provision store also explained that the delay is due the installation of the new tank which is bigger in size.

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Image: Vadnagar Nagar Palika member Vipinbhai Modi
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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After meeting Vipinbhai we proceed to Modi's house.

Amongst all the houses Ahmedbhai points out to a house which looks rather new and recently constructed.

I am informed that Modi's house had been sold almost 10 years back. The new owners reconstructed the entire structure.

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Image: Modi's house used to be here once
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Maniben Modi, the neighbour, comes out of her house and greets us with a big smile.

"Narendra Modi was like a son to me. He has played in my lap. The bungalow that you see is now reconstructed and belongs to a Thakur family." says Maniben.

Reminiscing the past she describes Modi as a mischievous boy, "Narendra (Modi) was very stubborn and naughty. He always did what he wanted to do. Till today his habit hasn't changed. I am sure he will become the prime minister of India."

The news of media persons in the village spread like wild fire.

People started circling around us giving directions to meet someone or the other who all turned out to be a friend or a relative of Modi.

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Image: Maniben Modi
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Ahmedbhai Sutar then takes us to Modi's school teacher who lives diagonally opposite to Modi's old house.

Clad in a neatly-fitted blouse and a mod­est printed sari with a muffler on her head to save her from cold, Heeraben Mulchandas Modi welcomes us inside her house.

"Narendra was my student in fourth grade. I taught him all the subjects. He was a bright student who was also interested in extra curricular activities," says the 79-year-old.

Although Heeraben doesn't remember much she tells us that Modi loved swimming and would always do his homework.

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Image: Narendra Modi's teacher Heeraben Mulchandas Modi
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Our next stop was at Modi's best friend, Dr Sudhir Joshi's home.

A schoolmate of Modi, Dr Joshi practices Ayurvedic medicine and runs a clinic in Vadnagar. He studied together with Modi from junior KG till the first year of college.

He invites us inside his house, which smelt of fresh paint. Dr Joshi informs us that he has invited his childhood friend Narendra Modi for his son's wedding.

"I am sure he is going to be busy due to the elections, but he has assured me that if possible he would definitely come for the wedding," he says happily.

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Image: Modi's best friend Dr Sudhir Joshi
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Modi attended Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya (also known as BN) High School, a co-ed Gujarati-medium school right next to the Vadnagar railway station.

Dr Joshi remembers Modi as a bright student, who would always come in the top five during the exams.

He also mentions that Modi was very stubborn and once he decided on something he would do it. He recalls an incident when Modi had contested and won the class representative elections in Class IX against heavy odds.

"I feared he would lose. But he won over four other strong candidates, and impressed all our teachers."

A trustee at BN School, Dr Joshi says that Modi was actively involved in debates and drama.

"He would take part in all kinds of debates and would always win. He was also a part of our drama group and loved acting. He also loved swimming. We would go to swim everyday in the morning. I remember once he caught a small crocodile and got it to his house," he said, laughing aloud.

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Image: Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya High School, the co-ed Gujarati-medium school that Modi attended
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Modi was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and National Cadet Corps during his school days.

"In the evening, after the classes, we would leave our bags at home and would run straight to the Shakha where we would do some physical exercises," Dr Joshi tells us.

Dr Joshi mentions that Modi was bound to become a leader.

Interestingly Modi's family had consulted an astrologer when he was young and the verdict was that either he will become a saint or a leader.

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Image: Childhood photo of Modi in his NCC uniform
Photographs: Courtesy: Dr Sudhir Joshi

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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The doctor told us to visit the Hatkeshwar temple, which is at the village entrance.

Modi, who is known to be a religious person, is said to have a lot of belief in this temple.

The temple priest gives us a little history of the temple. He also informs that Modi had last visited the temple two months back.

"He came here and asked me to bless him so that he can win the election," the priest said adding, "I am sure he is going to win. I also pray to God that he becomes the prime minister of India."

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Image: The Hatkeshwar temple
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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Modi's father Damodardas Mulchand Modi ran a teashop at the Vadnagar railway station. This was our last stop before heading back to Ahmedabad.

"Narendra used to help his father. When the school bell rang he would go and attend school and would come back to assist his father during the interval time," recalled an elderly gentlemen sitting on a portico at the station.

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Image: The teashop at the Vadnagar railway station that was once run by Modi's father Damodardas Mulchand
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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Narendra Modi, the young boy and his quaint little village

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We had just about started heading back for Ahmedabad when I remembered that we still had to visit the TanaRiri garden. Located just a few kilometers away from the garden is another historic place. The story of how it was named was quite interesting.

Tana & Riri were two Brahmin sisters, who won Akbar's heart with their voice, and this monument was built by Akbar as a tribute to them.

Every year on Gujarat Day (celebrated on May 1) a cultural programme is organised, which is attended by Modi.

As we resumed on our journey to Ahmedabad, the sun was setting over the village of Vadnagar. I realised that most often we miss out on the traditional beauty and simplicity because we have been used to living a fast paced life in the concrete jungle.

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Image: The TanaRiri garden
Photographs: Reuben N V/Rediff.com

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