New Delhi: When he was a Class 8 student, BJP leader Narendra Modi was attacked by a crocodile while swimming in a crocodile-infested lake in Gujarat, necessitating nine stitches on one foot.
So says yet another biography on Modi, “Narendra Modi: The Game Changer” (Vitasta), authored by journalist Sudesh K. Verma.
As a young boy, after working in a family tea shop in the morning, Modi would daily reach the Sharmishtha lake near his home in Vadnagar.
According to the book, he would swim all the way to a temple in the middle of the lake, touch the flag on its top and return to the shore. He did this thrice daily. “Once, Narendra was badly injured when a crocodile hit his left foot with its tail,” the book says.
“A crocodile tail is strong; a hit by it can be fatal. It is like you are struck with a sword. Villagers say there used to be 29 crocodiles in the lake.
“Narendra was an eighth grade student then. He got nine stitches on his left foot near the ankle and was bed-ridden for more than a week. The cut marks are still there on his left foot.”
But Modi was back at the lake within a month, the book says.
The 429-page book is replete with interesting aspects about Modi, some known and some not so well known:
* When Modi was 14, an astrologer predicted that he would do very well in life. According to Mahendrabhai Darji, a Modi friend, the astrologer said: “This boy will either become a big saint or a big political leader. The whole world will know him.”
* Modi paid Rs.2 as examination fee for the Sainik School in Balachadi in Jamnagar district. But poverty spiked his dreams. “His father told him the family had no money to send him to Jamnagar and asked him to complete his studies at the local school.”
* Modi sold tea made by his father at the Vadnagar railway station in ‘kulhads’. A ‘special tea’ cost 2 annas and a ‘normal tea’ one anna.
* During Modi’s childhood, eight passenger trains passed through Vadnagar. Their timing was important since he would have to leave the class and run to the tea shop. “After the train left, he would rejoin his classroom.”
* Modi’s father, Damodardas, provided shelter and home to a Muslim boy, Abbas Mohammad Ramsada (Momin), who recalled his stay at Modi’s home for one full year and how well he was treated by the family.
* Modi’s family house was like a train compartment with 12 by 40 square feet dimensions. “The floor was not cemented and would be plastered with cow dung paste on a regular basis.”
* Modi has kept minimal contact with the family. No family member has gone to the chief minister’s house for any work.
* The Modi family was so poor that they could not arrange for photography at any of their weddings.
* When he became the Gujarat chief minister in 2001, his mother told him: “Beta, kadi lanch na leis.” (Son, never take bribe.)
* When Modi was young, his mother worked at houses of others to earn extra money… She would also clean utensils.
* Modi left his Vadnagar home for good in 1970. When he returned in 1975, he was dressed like a Sikh for fear of getting caught during the Emergency.
* Modi left college midway in 1968 (before completing graduation) and wandered for about two years. “He had become too contemplative and turned a recluse.”
* It was after a visit to the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram at Belur Math near Kolkata that Modi went to the Himalayas. “Nothing much is known about what he did and whom he met during those wandering days.”
* A swami at the Ramakrishna Mission at Rajkot advised him to keep a beard – something that has stayed with him ever since.
* “For years Modi used to burn his belongings or anything associated with him. This was his way to disconnect with the past.”
* Once Modi saw a baby crocodile at the bank of a lake. It was more than a foot long. He took it home to nurse it but his mother told him to drop it in the lake.
* When Modi could not afford to pay for ironing his clothes, he would keep them under the pillow or mattress at night. In the morning, they looked fresh and ironed.
* Modi acted in plays. He used his acting skills to promote his social commitment.
* Modi’s first street protest was a demonstration of Jana Sangh workers outside the US embassy against Washington’s arms aid to Pakistan in 1971.
* When Modi shifted to Ahmedabad, he made the canteen of the State Road Transport, run by a maternal uncle, his temporary home.