“Mother inspired me to focus on garib kalyan”
   Date :19-Jun-2022

By Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India :
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. Today, I feel extremely happy and fortunate to share that my mother Smt. Heeraba is entering her hundredth year. This is going to be her birth centenary year. If my father had been alive, he too would have celebrated his 100th birthday last week. 2022 is a special year as my mother’s centenary year is starting, and my father would have completed his. Just last week, my nephew shared a few videos of Mother from Gandhinagar.
A few youngsters from the society had come home, my father’s photograph was kept on a chair, there was a kirtan, and Mother was immersed in singing bhajans while playing the manjeera. She is still the same - age may have taken a toll physically, but she is as mentally alert as ever. Earlier, there was no custom of celebrating birthdays in our family. However, children from the younger generations planted 100 trees to remember my father on his birthday. I have no doubt that everything good in my life, and all that is good in my character, can be attributed to my parents. Today, as I sit in Delhi, I am filled with memories from the past. My Mother is as simple as she is extraordinary. Just like all mothers! As I write about my Mother, I am sure that many of you would relate to my description of her. While reading, you may even see your own mother’s image.
A mother’s penance creates a good human being. Her affection fills a child with human values and empathy. 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. My Mother was born in Visnagar in Mehsana in Gujarat, which is quite close to my hometown Vadnagar. She did not get her own mother’s affection. At a tender age, she lost my grandmother to the Spanish Flu pandemic. She does not even remember my grandmother’s face or the comfort of her lap. She spent her entire childhood without her mother. She could not throw tantrums at her mother, as we all do. She could not rest in her mother’s lap like we all do. She could not even go to school and learn to read and write. Her childhood was one of poverty and deprivation. 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.
Mother did not have much of a childhood due to these struggles – she was forced to grow beyond her age. She was the eldest child in her family and became the eldest daughter-in-law after marriage. In her childhood, she used to take care of the entire family and manage all the chores. After marriage too, she picked up all these responsibilities. Despite the onerous responsibilities and everyday struggles, Mother held the entire family together with calm and fortitude. 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. Usually, scarcity leads to stress. However, my parents never let the anxiety from the daily struggles overwhelm the family atmosphere. Both my parents carefully divided their responsibilities and fulfilled them.
Like clockwork, my father used to leave for work at (Contd on last page) 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.Mother was equally punctual. She would also wake up with my father, and finish many chores in the morning itself. From grinding grains to sifting rice and daal, Mother had no help. While working she would hum her favourite bhajans and hymns. She loved a popular bhajan by Narsi Mehta Ji - ‘Jalkamal chhadi jane bala, swami amaro jagse’. She also liked the lullaby, ‘Shivaji nu halardu’. Mother never expected us, children, to leave our studies and assist her with the household chores. She never even asked us for help. However, looking at her work so hard, we considered helping her our foremost duty. 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. Mother used to wash utensils at a few houses to help meet the household expenses. She would also take out time to spin the charkha to supplement our meagre income. 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. Monsoons would bring their own troubles for our mud house. However, Mother ensured that we faced minimum discomfort. In the searing heat of June, she would clamber over the roof of our mud house and repair the tiles.
However, despite her valiant efforts, our house was too old to withstand the onslaught of the rains. During the rains, our roof would leak, and the house would flood. Mother would place buckets and utensils below the leaks to collect the rainwater. Even in this adverse situation, Mother would be a symbol of resilience. You will be surprised to know that she’d use this water for the next few days. What better example than this of water conservation! Mother was fond of decorating the house and would devote considerable time towards cleaning and beautifying it. She would smear the floor with cow dung. Cow dung cakes emit a lot of smoke when burnt. And Mother would cook with them in our windowless house! The walls would get blackened by soot and require fresh whitewashing. This too Mother would do herself every few months. She was a champion in the famous Indian habit of recycling old household items. I can recall another unique habit of Mother. She would make a glue-like paste with old paper dipped in water and tamarind seeds. She would make beautiful paintings by sticking mirror pieces on the walls with this paste. I can fill many reams of paper recalling anecdotes about Mother’s focus on cleanliness. Another habit of Mother that I always remember is her special affection for other living beings. Every summer, she would put out water vessels for the birds. She ensured that stray dogs around our house never went hungry. Mother would make delicious ghee from the cream that my father would bring back from his tea shop. And this ghee was not just for our consumption. The cows in our neighbourhood too were entitled to their share.
Mother insisted on not wasting a single grain of food. Even today, Mother takes only as much food in the thali as she can eat and doesn’t waste even a morsel. Mother would find happiness in other people’s joys. Our house may have been small, but she 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. Whenever a Sadhu visited our neighbourhood, Mother would invite them to our humble home for a meal. Mother has always had immense confidence in me and the samskaras she imparted. I recall a decades-old incident when I worked in the organisation side. I was extremely busy with organisational activities and could hardly get in touch with my family. During that period, my elder brother took Mother to Badrinath Ji and Kedarnath Ji. Today, many years later, whenever people ask her if she is proud that her son has become the country’s Prime Minister, Mother gives an extremely deep response. She says, “I am as proud as you are.
Nothing is mine. I am a mere instrument in the plans of God.” Mother made me realise that it is possible to be learned without being formally educated. Her thought process and farsighted thinking have always surprised me. Even today, there are no assets in Mother’s name. I have never seen her wear any gold ornaments, and she has no interest either. Mother has immense faith in the Divine, but at the same time, she remained afar from superstitions. Despite her advanced age, Mother has a good memory. Since childhood, I have noted that Mother not only respects others’ choices but also refrains from imposing her preferences. In my own case especially, she respected my decisions, never created any hurdles, and encouraged me. When I decided to leave home, Mother already sensed my decision even before I told her. I would often tell my parents that I wanted to go out and understand the world. I would tell them about Swami Vivekananda and mention that I wished to visit the Ramakrishna Mission Mutt. This went on for days. Finally, I revealed my desire to leave home and asked them for their blessings. My father was extremely disheartened, and in irritation, he told me, “As you wish”.
I told them that I would not leave home without their blessings. However, Mother understood my desires, and blessed me. Mother has always inspired me to have a strong resolve and focus on garib kalyan. 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 stay with her again. But she knew my answer! She then told me, “I don’t understand your work in the government, but I just want you never to take a bribe.” Whenever I speak to her on the phone, she says, “Never do anything wrong or anything bad with anyone and keep working for the poor.” If I look back at my parents’ lives, their honesty and self-respect have been their biggest qualities. Despite struggling with poverty, ... my parents never left the path of honesty or compromised on their self-respect. They had only one mantra ... constant hard work! In his life, my father never became a burden on anyone. Mother too tries to ensure that ... Today, whenever I meet Mother, she tells me “I don’t want to be served by anyone, I want to go with all my limbs working.” 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. Ma, a very happy birthday to you. Best wishes as you start your birth centenary year. I have never been able to muster the courage to write at length publicly about your life until now. I pray to the Almighty for your health and wellbeing, and your blessings on all of us. I bow at your feet.