What happened after a reporter met Narendra Modi’s wife

By VINOD K JOSE | 11 April 2014

For a young man in search of “something more”, as his oldest brother Sombhai put it, the RSS gave Narendra Modi a sense of purpose and direction. But he remained unsure of his calling: whether to pursue the priestly life or volunteer himself towards the advancement of Hindutva. His parents had arranged him a marriage in keeping with the traditions of the Ghanchi caste in Vadnagar, which involved a three-step process that began with an engagement at age three or four, a religious ceremony (shaadi) by the age of 13, and cohabitation (gauna) around the age of 18 or 20, when the parents felt the time had come.

Modi was engaged to a girl three years younger than him, Jashodaben Chimanlal, from the neighbouring town of Brahamanwada. They had completed shaadi when Modi was only 13, Sombhai told me. But at age 18, with a higher call beckoning him, Modi decided to set off and wander in the Himalayas, leaving his wife and two uncertain families behind.

The only source of information for Modi’s travels during this time is Modi himself: even his family had no idea of his whereabouts. “Mother and all of us were very worried for him,” Sombhai recalled. “We had no idea where he had disappeared to. Then, two years later, he just turned up one day. He told us he had decided to end his sanyas and would go to Ahmedabad and work at our uncle Babubhai’s canteen.”

“I remember,” one of the Modi family’s neighbours in Vadnagar told me, “before Narendra left again, his mother wanted to set him up with his wife, so they asked Jashodaben’s parents to send her here for gauna. On the day Jashodaben came for gauna, Modi fought with the family and left home again.”

After his rise to prominence, Modi kept an unsettlingly close watch on anyone who tried to learn about this past life. In May 2002, when word first began to spread among local reporters that Modi was not actually unmarried, an Indian Express journalist in Gandhinagar, Darshan Desai, managed to locate the chief minister’s wife in her village near Vadnagar. He set out early one morning for the village, Brahamanwada, and met Jashodaben, her brother and the headmaster of a primary school where she was teaching. None of them would agree to an interview, fearing retribution, and several local BJP men made it clear his questions were unwelcome and insisted he leave.

“I remember I had just reached home and removed my shoes when I got a call on my cell phone,” Desai told me. “The voice on the phone said in Gujarati, ‘The chief minister wants to speak with you.’ Soon, Modi came on the line. He said ‘Namaskar’, and then he asked: ‘So what is the agenda?’

“I said, ‘I didn’t quite get you.’ And he said, ‘You have written against me. Your newspaper even started Modi Meter,’ referring to a column my paper ran during the riots. I just kept quiet, and he said, ‘I’m aware what you’ve been up to today. What you’ve done today goes much beyond. That’s why I want to know what your agenda is.’ I wasn’t scared, but I remember being a little nervous, and I said, ‘I have no agenda. You can contact my editor.’ He just said, ‘Okay. Think it over,’ and hung up the phone.”

 

An extract from ‘The Emperor Uncrowned,’ published in The Caravan’s March 2012 issue. Read the story in full here.

Vinod K. Jose is the Executive Editor of The Caravan and an award-winning journalist. He has previously worked as a producer from South Asia for public radio stations in the US and Europe. Jose has an MA in Journalism from Columbia Journalism School, where he was a Bollinger Presidential Fellow. He also has graduate degrees in Communication and English, and a PhD in Sociology.

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READER'S COMMENTS

27 thoughts on “What happened after a reporter met Narendra Modi’s wife”

I don’t think this has anything to do with someone’s leadership capacities and national views. Not that I am putting him in line with them, but a lot of great men like Buddha did leave marital life for a higher calling. And for Modi, he seems more like a victim of child marriage here. If he found a higher calling at the age of 18, I think its commendable as there’s a bigger chance for a regular teenager to succumb to pleasure at that point in age. The fact that there’s a journalist interested in knowing of a marriage that actually never happened and is illegal if it did, certainly has goss if nothin more as its root agenda and it is reasonable and respectable for the Chief minister to personally speak to him and ask him a point blank question where he could easily retort to eccentric and unethical ways if he had to and wanted to. What we need now as a nation is to look for strong leadership and respect someone who brings it to the table instead of glorifying or demonzing someone in the name of research and point of views. This article is just that.

If he was such an honest he should have acknowledged this fact long time back when he stepped into public life. Once in public you cannot stop people from trying to research your past. Why the secrecy if he was the victim? He could have always divorced and gone ahead with his life. Why leave a woman in mid air, not knowing if she was married or not?
If he cannot be honest and open about his relationship to his own wife , How could we the people entrust him with our country which is already undergoing such strife? Is Goondaism ( threatening a reporter is Goondaism, dont tell he did not threaten. Why did he need to call a simple reporter otherwise?) strong leadership?

If the woman was left mid air or not is for the lady to answer. If they have separated their ways with mutual understanding who are anybody to question. We the people of India should come out of this conservative and feudal mindsets and respect the mutual consents of people. As long our mindsets are medieval the social reforms cannot happen

this is only the verson of the reporter. Who knows it really happened or not. The reporter could have made a mountain of it. Was he afraid? If yes, he has no moral right to bring the matter in the open now. Modi’s wife is not complaining, her brothers are not complaining. villages are not complaining. rather she is fasting for him. Gautam Budha, Swami Mahavir and lots of other respected persons have left their families for greater benefit of humankind. I will suggest Modi to bring his wife in the mainstream after the elections and set an example.

He cannot even make a classy reliable story. If the situation was so dire, did he stop or continue to snoop around Modi. From his story it looks as if he stopped, but he is not confirming. Now if he has not stopped, it is surprising that, given he is honest, that no encounter happened with him. The Moron is third rate lier.

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