Mother of noble thoughts
By Ram Suresh
An ascetic who shunned the limelight and materialistic yearning that overwhelms contemporary India, Heeraba Modi was an embodiment of Vedic thoughts and deep-rooted values of Bharat. For her, faith, integrity and hard work were paramount. She not only pursued these traits vigorously but, more importantly, imparted these qualities to her progeny.
Her steadfast beliefs were built on solid rock and she would not be swayed from her monk-like existence even when her son became the chief minister of Gujarat for three successive terms and won landslide victories in national elections to reach the pinnacle of power and glory. While she was proud of her son and the positions he held, she was not enamored by the pomp and glitter. True to her character, it took a good two years for her to visit her son’s mansion in New Delhi after he became the prime minister in 2014.
“My mother is as simple as she is extraordinary,” Narendra Modi wrote in a blog on June 18, 2022, the day she completed 99 years.
A week earlier, on the 100th birthday of her late husband Damodardas Mulchand Modi, she was full of beans singing bhajans while playing the manjeera. This was par for the course for the nonagenarian clad in a white sari and blouse, as the frail lady did most of her daily chores by herself and was mentally alert.
Heeraba, who was called into the arms of the Almighty on December 30, lived in the modest house of the Prime Minister’s younger brother on a nondescript lane in Rayson village in Gandhinagar district of Gujarat, about 70 km south of Modi’s hometown of Vadnagar. She had no worldly possessions.
“A glorious century rests at the feet of God,” a grief-stricken Modi tweeted. “In Maa, I have always felt that trinity, which contains the journey of an ascetic, the symbol of a selfless Karmayogi and a life committed to values.
She was a beacon of light and wisdom from years of hard toil and bitter-sweet experiences. She lost her mother when she was too young to remember her face. As the eldest child in the lower middle-class family, responsibility was thrust on her tiny shoulders at a tender age. She was still in her teens when she was married to a person who was just a year older than her.
Life was a constant struggle to get food on the table. She washed dishes and swept floors in the neighborhood to supplement her husband’s meagre income from his tea shop. With five sons and one daughter it was tough going for the family in their makeshift tenement they called home in the north Gujarat district of Mehsana.
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,” Modi reminisced of those early years. “Far beyond every tale of deprivation is the glorious story of a mother; far above every struggle is the strong resolve of a mother.”
Doubtlessly, Heeraba’s work ethics and integrity against heavy odds played a decisive role in shaping the personality of the future prime minister. As she toiled tirelessly humming her favorite bhajans and hymns, there was never a glimpse of regret or sorrow on her face. Behind her pleasant demeanor, however, she possessed a steely resolve to do the right things – always.
“In my mother’s life story, I see the penance, sacrifice and contribution of India’s matrushakti,” Modi wrote. “Despite struggling with poverty and its accompanying challenges, my parents never left the path of honesty or compromised on their self-respect. They had only one mantra to overcome any challenge – hard work, constant hard work.
In many respects, Modi’s dedication to his job – he hasn’t taken a holiday break since taking over as prime minister in 2014 – his uprightness, firm belief in God and strong resolve can be traced to the deep influence of his mother.
Heeraba passed away after a brief illness. Only three weeks earlier she appeared in fine fettle when Modi visited her. Perhaps the best epitaph would be her advice to Modi on her last birthday: “Work with intelligence and live life with purity.