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Remembering Heeraben Modi: The pillar in the life of PM Narendra Modi

PM Modi said that he always felt the trinity in his mother, which included the journey of an ascetic, the symbol of a selfless Karmayogi and a life committed to values. 'A glorious century rests at the feet of God,' he said.

Heeraben Modi, the mother of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breathed her last on Friday (December 30) at the U N Mehta Institute of Cardiology & Research Centre in Ahmedabad. She was 100 years old. She was hospitalised on December 28 after her health situation deteriorated, and while she had started to recover yesterday, she passed away at 3.30 AM.

PM Modi rushed to Ahmedabad this morning and performed the last rites of his mother along with his brothers and other family members. Modi was seen carrying the mortal remains of his mother to the crematorium for the last rites. Before that, he paid floral tributes to his mother at her residence.

After performing the last rites, PM Narendra Modi returned to work, and remotely launched several development projects in West Bengal. While he was scheduled to visit Kolkata for the same, he joined the events through video conferencing due to the death of his mother, for which he apologised to the people of West Bengal.

PM Modi paid tributes to his mother on Twitter, saying that he always felt the trinity in his mother, which included the journey of an ascetic, the symbol of a selfless Karmayogi and a life committed to values. ‘A glorious century rests at the feet of God,’ he said.

Heeraben Modi was born on June 18, 1922, in Visnagar city in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. She was married to a tea vendor named Damodardas Mulchand Modi when she was a teenager, and the couple moved to Vadnagar town a few kilometres away from their village. According to Narendra Modi, his mother’s childhood was ‘extremely difficult’ due to poverty, and the poor financial condition continued after her marriage also.

Narendra Modi is the third child in the family that has a total of 5 brothers and a sister. Sombhai Modi is the eldest son of Heeraben Modi and Damodardas Modi, while Amrit Bhai Modi is the second child. The fourth brother after PM Modi is Prahlad Modi, while the fifth sibling Basntiben Hashmukhlal Modi is the lone sister, and Pankaj Modi is the youngest in the family.

Heeraben Modi lived with her youngest son Pankaj Modi and his family at Raysan village near the Gandhinagar city of Gujarat. Pankaj Modi is a retired government employee.

Heeraben played a pivotal role in the life of young Narendra Modi. This becomes evident from the heartfelt note that the Prime Minister penned on his mother’s centennial birthday.

“Maa…this isn’t a mere word but it captures a range of emotions. Today, 18th June is the day my Mother Heeraba enters her 100th year. On this special day, I have penned a few thoughts expressing joy and gratitude,” PM Modi had tweeted.

The Prime Minister began his note by paying tribute to all mothers. He spoke about the importance of a mother in a child’s life. He wrote that it is a mother’s penance that shapes a good human being. Her love instils human qualities and empathy in a child, opined the Prime Minister.

Talking about the qualities of his mother, PM Modi said that she was hardworking and meticulous in her younger days, and continues to be the same. “In my Mother’s life story, I see the penance, sacrifice, and contribution of India’s matrushakti. Whenever I look at Mother and crores of women like her, I find there is nothing that is unachievable for Indian women. Far beyond every tale of deprivation, is the glorious story of a mother, far above every struggle, is the strong resolve of a mother… I have never been able to muster the courage to write at length publicly about your life until now… I bow at your feet,” the PM had written.

“Mother – is not just any other word in the dictionary. It encompasses a whole range of emotions – love, patience, trust, and a lot more. Across the world, irrespective of country or region, children have a special affection for their mothers. A mother not only gives birth to her children, but also shapes their mind, their personality, and their self-confidence. And while doing so, mothers selflessly sacrifice their own personal needs and aspirations,” wrote the PM.

He wrote that it is a mother’s penance that shapes a good human being. Her love instils human qualities and empathy in a child, opined the Prime Minister, adding, “A mother is not an individual or a personality, motherhood is a quality. It is often said that the Gods are made according to the nature of their devotees. Similarly, we experience our mothers and their motherhood according to our own nature and mindset.”

“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. My father made a machaan from bamboo sticks and wooden planks to make it easier for Mother to cook food. 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,” PM Modi had recalled.

PM Modi then went on to pen down his mother Heeraben’s qualities, stressing how hardworking and meticulous she was in her younger days and continues to be the same. “I can fill many reams of paper recalling anecdotes about Mother’s focus on cleanliness,” wrote the Prime Minister, sharing how her focus on cleanliness.

The PM’s blog also had a special mention of how his mother had a deep respect for those involved in cleaning and sanitation. “I remember, whenever someone would come to clean the drain adjacent to our house in Vadnagar, Mother wouldn’t let them go without giving them tea. Our house became famous amongst safai karamcharis for tea after work.”

Recounting PM Modi’s meetings with his mother

In September 2014, Prime Minister Modi visited his mother’s home in Gandhinagar on the occasion of his 64th birthday. On that day, he also travelled 23 kilometres from Ahmedabad in a single vehicle and forwent security. It was also his first visit to Gujarat’s capital city after becoming the Prime Minister.

When Narendra Modi touched Heeraben’s feet and sought her blessing before leaving, she gave Modi Rs. 5001 as a birthday gift to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for Jammu and Kashmir.

In May 2016, PM Modi was able to spend quality time with his mother, Heeraben at the 7Race Course Road in New Delhi. He was ecstatic to be able to show his mother his home’s gardens and also lent an ear to all her stories about Gujarat.

In January 2017, he skipped his morning yoga session to meet his mother at her Gandhinagar residence.

Earlier in May this year, the duo was seen having lunch together. PM Modi also sought blessings from his mother. He had also expressed regret that he could not spend his 72nd birthday with his mother in Gandhinagar this year.

According to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there have only been two occasions when Heeraben Modi accompanied him publicly i.e. once during Ekta Yatra (1991) and another during the oath-taking ceremony as Gujarat CM in 2001.

Only a handful of people know that Heeraben Modi donated ₹25,000 from her savings to the PM Cares Fund (also called Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund or PM-CARES Fund) or that she was the inspiration behind the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

It took many by surprise when she went to the bank herself to exchange the demonetised notes or dispel rumours surrounding Covid-19 vaccination to the elderly. Heeraben Modi lived a simple life, an attribute that became the guiding principle in PM Modi’s life as well.

She was also a fortunate mother, who had the opportunity to witness the progress of his son from a BJP Karyakarta to Gujarat Chief Minister and then to India’s Prime Minister.

Despite renunciation of societal family roles at a young age, PM Modi never lost touch with his mother. When her health deteriorated, he rushed to Ahmedabad to meet her at the hospital.

Within hours of completing the last rites of his mother, the Karmayogi in Narendra Modi did not allow him to take the day off. He virtually inaugurated several developmental projects in West Bengal, totalling ₹7,800 crore. For someone whose ‘work is worship’, the pillar of a strong mother has been lost forever.

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