Humble Beginnings: The Early Years

Published By : Admin | May 24, 2014 | 17:39 IST

Narendra Modi’s journey began in the by-lanes of Vadnagar, a small and nondescript town in North Gujarat’s Mehsana district. Born on 17th September 1950, 3 years after India attained freedom and within months of India becoming a Republic, Narendra Modi was the third of the sixth children of Damodardas Modi and Hiraba Modi. Vadnagar is a town that is steeped in history. Archeological excavations suggest this was a vibrant centre of learning and spirituality. The Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang visited Vadnagar. Vadnagar also has a rich Buddhist history with as many as 10,000 Buddhist monks inhabiting the town centuries ago.

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Vadnagar station, where Narendra Modi's father owned a tea stall and where Narendra Modi also sold tea

Narendra Modi’s early years were far from what a fairy tale upbringing is like. The family belonged to the marginalized sections of society and had to struggle to make ends meet. The entire family lived in a small single storey house (approximately 40 feet by 12 feet). His father sold tea at the tea stall he set up in the local railway station. In his early years, Narendra Modi too lent a hand to his father at the tea stall.

These formative years left a strong imprint on Narendra Modi. As a child, Narendra Modi balanced his studies, non-academic life and his contribution at the family tea stall. His schoolmates recall Narendra as a diligent student with a penchant for debating and reading. He would spend hours and hours reading in the school library. Among the sports, he was very fond of swimming. Narendra Modi had a wide range of friends from all the communities. As a child he often celebrated both Hindu and Muslim festivals considering the large number of Muslim friends he had in the neighbourhood.

Humble Beginnings: The Early Years
As a child Narendra Modi dreamt of serving in the Army but destiny had other plans…

Yet, his thoughts, and dreams went way beyond a conventional life that began in the classroom and ended in the environs of an office. He wanted to go out there and make a difference to society…to wipe tears and suffering among people. At a young age he developed an inclination towards renunciation and asceticism. He gave up eating salt, chilies, oil and jaggery. Reading the works of Swami Vivekananda cover to cover took Narendra Modi to a journey of spiritualism and laid the foundation for his own mission to fulfill Swami Vivekananda’s dream of a Jagad Guru Bharat.

If there is one word that characterized Narendra Modi’s childhood and stayed with him for the rest of his life, it is service. When floods wrecked havoc in the Tapi River, 9 year old he and his friends started a food stall and donated the proceeds for relief work. When the war with Pakistan was at its peak he set out on the railway station and served tea to the Jawans who were going and coming from the border. This was a small step but it displayed his firm resolve to answer the call of Mother India, even at a remarkably young age.

As a child Narendra Modi had one dream- to serve in the Indian Army. For many youngsters of his time, the Army was seen as the ultimate means of serving Mother India. As luck would have it, his family was dead opposed to the idea. Narendra Modi was very keen to study in Sainik School located in nearby Jamnagar but when the time came to pay the fees, there was no money at home. Surely, Narendra was disappointed. But, fate had different plans for this young boy who was disappointed on not being able to wear the uniform of a Jawan. Over the years he embarked on a unique path that took him across India in pursuit of the larger mission to serve humanity.

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Seeking the blessings of his Mother

Disclaimer:

It is part of an endeavour to collect stories which narrate or recount people’s anecdotes/opinion/analysis on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi & his impact on lives of people.

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Narendra Modi: The Underground Warrior Against the Emergency
June 25, 2024

During the infamous Emergency period in India (1975-1977), when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a dictatorial regime, Shri Narendra Modi emerged as a critical figure in the resistance movement. Shri Modi's activism during this period, marked by his innovative and fearless approach, significantly contributed to the underground communications network and sustained the fight against the oppressive regime.

The Beginnings of Resistance

Shri Narendra Modi's journey into the heart of the resistance began before the official declaration of the Emergency on June 25, 1975. The student-led agitations against the corruption of the Congress Party were already sweeping the nation, and Gujarat was a significant epicentre of this movement. During the Navnirman Andolan in 1974, Shri Modi, then a Yuva Pracharak of the RSS, was deeply influenced by the power of student voices in driving change. He actively participated in these agitations, leveraging his Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad role to deliver fiery speeches that galvanized the youth.

Role in the Underground Movement

Once the Emergency was imposed, censorship and repression became the norm. Shri Modi and other volunteers organized secret meetings and took on the dangerous task of disseminating underground literature. Collaborating closely with senior RSS leaders like Nath Zagda and Vasant Gajendragadkar, he developed ingenious methods to bypass tight security measures.
One of Shri Modi's remarkable strategies involved using the railway network to spread information. He would load materials related to the Constitution, laws, and the Congress government's excesses onto trains departing from Gujarat, ensuring the messages reached remote areas with minimal risk of detection. This innovative approach was pivotal in maintaining the flow of information across the country.

Leadership and International Outreach

With the RSS forced to go underground, the Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti was established, and Shri Modi, at the young age of 25, quickly rose to the position of General Secretary. His leadership was instrumental in sustaining the revolt against the Congress government, especially during the challenging periods when key movement leaders were imprisoned under the MISA Act.

Shri Narendra Modi also extended his efforts internationally, reaching out to individuals abroad and urging them to publish underground publications to amplify global resistance. He coordinated the collection of articles from the Gujarat Newsletter and Sadhana Patrika, which were then disseminated through platforms like the BBC. Shri Modi ensured that international publications critical of the Emergency, such as 'Satyavani,' were circulated back to India, including inside jails.

Covert Operations and Disguises

Shri Modi frequently adopted various disguises to evade detection. His ability to blend in was so effective that even his acquaintances often failed to recognize him. He dressed as a Swamiji in saffron attire and even as a Sikh with a turban. On one occasion, he successfully deceived jail authorities to deliver an important document, highlighting his resourcefulness and bravery.

Post-Emergency Recognition

After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, Shri Modi's activism and leadership during this tumultuous period began to gain recognition. He was invited to Mumbai to discuss the youth's resistance efforts, and his contributions were acknowledged with a modest monetary reward. His relentless efforts during the Emergency led to his appointment as the 'Sambhag Pracharak' of South and Central Gujarat, and he was tasked with preparing official RSS articles documenting the period.

Authoring 'Sangharsh Ma Gujarat'

In 1978, Shri Modi authored his first book, 'Sangharsh Ma Gujarat,' a memoir of his experiences during the Emergency. Remarkably, he completed the book in just 23 days, subsisting solely on lemon water and no solid food. The book, launched by then Chief Minister of Gujarat Babubhai Jasbhai Patel, received widespread acclaim for its objective coverage of the Emergency and was reviewed on national public radio and in prominent newspapers.

The memoir not only chronicled the events of the Emergency but also served as a testament to the collective resistance. It was praised for its wealth of information and objective approach, earning personal accolades from numerous leaders.

Legacy, Continued Vigilance and Solemn Vow

Fifty years later, as Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi continues to remind the nation of the dark days of the Emergency. He emphasizes the importance of preserving democracy and vows never to let the recurrence of such authoritarianism again. His legacy as a fearless warrior against the dictatorial regime of Indira Gandhi during the Emergency remains a significant chapter in India's history, inspiring current and future generations to uphold the values of democracy and freedom.