Over three years ago in Gandhinagar, 95-year-old Heeraben watched, teary-eyed, as Narendra Modi vowed to bear true faith and allegiance to India’s Constitution at a ceremony in New Delhi. Her age and health had prevented her from travelling to the Capital to watch her son become India’s fourteenth Prime Minister. But less than four months later, he would come to seek her blessings in person – on his 64th birthday.
That day, she gave him Rs 5,001 – a sum he promptly donated to a Jammu and Kashmir flood relief fund.
Narendra Modi is close to his mother, whom he visits whenever he’s in Gujarat. She lives with his brother Pankaj on the outskirts of Gandhinagar.
He met her on his birthdays in 2014 and 2016, and today – his 67th birthday – was no different.
It wasn’t until earlier that year that Modi had been able to host Heeraben at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg (then called Race Course Road), the Prime Minister’s official residence. He tweeted photographs of him showing her around his garden, and said he’d been able to spend quality time with her after a while.
More than a year later, in November 2016, Heeraben was in the news for an entirely different reason. Days after her son told his compatriots that their Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bills would cease to be legal tender in a matter of hours, she was seen exchanging defunct bills at a bank in Gandhinagar.
Demonetisation has been both hailed as a game-changing assault on tax evaders and terrorist financiers, and denounced as a poorly thought-out move that has stymied economic growth.
But no matter which side of the debate one is on, one can be sure that the sight of 97-year-old Heerabaen queueing up with her fellow countrymen, would have made Narendra Modi proud.