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Narendra was a self-willed boy: Teachers Friday, October 12, 2001

MEHSANA: Life in the time-ravaged structures in the dirty, narrow and undulating streets of the ancient village of North Gujarat moves on as usual.

The vegetable or fruit vendors or the ordinary men and women buying things in the congested market do not seem particularly enthusiastic about one of their own folk becoming Gujarat no naath (the ruler of Gujarat).

Most of the small shopkeepers and commoners whom the TNN spoke to in the streets of Vadnagar though felt happy about Narendra Modi becoming chief minister, but were not sure if this would improve their lot or change the land-scope of Vadnagar.

"Anand ni vat to chhej pan Vadnagar ke amne sheon pher padvano" (Of course, we are happy, but what difference it will make for us or Vadnagar!) was the refrain.

But 77-year-old Rasikbhai Dave -- a veteran political and social activist -- living in Kuniya no madh explained that since Narendra did not come to Vadnagar for 32 years after he left this place in 1967 for further studies, people did not know much about him to be excited about his ascendancy to chief ministership and the pride he had brought to the place.

After being away from Vadnagar, Narendra came here in 1999 to attend the Golden Jubilee celebration of his school, Rasikbhai said.

The septuagenarian recalled that on that occasion, he was surprised that Narendra remembered the names of all his four sons and daughters who had by then become parents themselves. And Narendra had never met them before in his 32-year-long absence from his village.

His wife Saralaben -- an eminent scholar herself -- said that she was very touched by the gesture when Narendra touched their feet during his last visit and asked about the welfare of their children by remembering their names.

Rasikbhai said that this great power of retention had helped Narendra a great deal as an organiser.

That Narendra has had an elephant's memory was corroborated by his past teachers and schoolmates. Recalling his sudden meeting in a train a few years ago, Modi's Sanskrit teacher at B N High School, Dr Prahladbhai Patel -- now a retired college teacher, said that he was surprised when he touched his feet and asked him if he remembered him and went on asking about his friends and others recalling each one by names.

In fact, the teacher could not immediately recognise him. Rewinding further, Patel said that during his three years of schooling (1963-66), he found Narendra a determined, self-willed boy with great power of persuasiveness.

Patel recalled that whenever he asked Narendra to get his lessons checked by the class monitor, he insisted that he would show his lessons only to the teacher. He argued with his teacher and was satisfied only when the teacher himself had gone through his lessons.

Dr Sudhir Joshi, one of Modi's classmates, recalled Narendra showed qualities of leadership from his schooldays. He fought election for CR (class representative) and refused to budge when cajoled or threatened by rivals.

His argumentative skills and power of persuasion showed themselves when he was in the school on many occasions. Another schoolmate Narendra Shastri -- now a principal of the same school -- agreed with Joshi and added that besides being frank and fearless, Narendra was a self-disciplined student.

Though short and thin, he commanded respect. Shastri also recalled that he and Modi were together as NCC cadets. Recollecting Modi's schooldays further, Patel said though he was not an extraordinary student, he was interested in other activities like drama.

He recalled that in 1965 Narendra acted in a play 'Jogidass Khuman' directed by him. Though he was originally given the lead role of the outlaw, he was shifted to a minor role later due to his weak built up.

Narendra accepted the change sportingly and acted well in the role of Vajesinh Maharaj. Vinod Nayak "Raagi" who was given the lead role remembered that Narendra was keen on learning the nuances of acting from him saying that he was doing this for the first time and Vinod had in his blood.

He also played as a soldier in another play 'Hariyali no Hatyaro' in 1966. The play was based on the Chinese aggression and Narendra charged with political fervour acted convincingly, Patel said.

Rasikbhai Dave, a close friend of the Modi family, recalled that Narendra's father ran a very small canteen at the railway station here and had a big family to support. Narendra had a very humble bringing up.

In Ahmedabad also, he stayed in the canteen at the central ST office and studied. He was a man of conviction and commitment even in those days. His commitment to the RSS kept him away for more than 30 years.

But, when he had accepted to come here at the school function in 1999, he rushed here from Wagah border where he had to leave an important national programme.

Dave was sure that Modi's voice would be heard at the Centre and many long pending matters would be resolved in favour of Gujarat.

He said that Narendra's attachment to his school and respect for his 'gurus' was evident at the function.

Some eight teachers of his time were specially invited from different places at the function and he met them later separately to pay his respects to them. He had also roped in a donor who announced a donation of Rs 7 lakh for the school.

Jayantibhai Modi, president of Milkat Trust, Ambaji and Vadnagar Modi Samaj, told TNN that his community was proud of Narendrabhai and planned to felicitate him.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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