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'I Want to Go With All My Limbs Working': The Life and Sacrifices of Heeraben Modi

By: News Desk

Edited By: Vidushi Sagar


Last Updated: December 30, 2022, 08:42 IST

New Delhi, India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his mother Heeraben (Image: Reuters)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his mother Heeraben (Image: Reuters)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mother Heeraben has passed away. A look at the immense sacrifices she made during her life of resilience

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother Heeraben Modi passed away today aged 99. She was on Wednesday admitted at an Ahmedabad hospital after her health had deteriorated. LIVE UPDATES

PM Modi had reached Ahmedabad from Delhi on Wednesday afternoon and visited the hospital to meet his mother. He had remained at the hospital for more than an hour and had also spoken to doctors at the hospital, a government-funded autonomous medical facility.

Hiraben, also called Hiraba, lived at Raysan village near Gandhinagar city with PM Modi’s younger brother Pankaj Modi. The prime minister regularly visited Raysan and spent time with his mother during most of his Gujarat visits.

A look at the immense sacrifices she made during her life of resilience:

A Life of Sacrifice and Resilience

In an article published in India Today, Prime Minister wrote about the difficult life his mother had lived, and emerged resilient nonetheless.

“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," Modi said.

He narrated how his mother had lost her mother in her early childhood, and was the eldest child in her family, to become the eldest daughter-in-law after her marriage. Having taken care of her home all through childhood, she assumed the same role after marriage, as well.

“Mother did not have much of a childhood due to these struggles she was forced to grow beyond her age," Modi recalled.

“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," he said.

He recalled how his father used to leave for work at four in the morning ‘like clockwork’, and how his 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’" he said.

Recalling the sacrifices she had made, Modi said, “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."

When the Monsoons Came

He also said his mother avoided depending on others or requesting others to do her work. As monsoons would bring their own troubles for our mud house, she ensured that “we faced minimum discomfort," Modi said.

“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!" he recalled.

An Austere Life

PM Modi also recalled how his mother was fond of decorating the house and would devote considerable time towards cleaning and beautifying it.

He also said he had never heard his mother complain about anything in life.

“Neither does she complain about anyone, nor does she keep any expectations from anyone. 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. Like earlier, she continues to lead an extremely simple lifestyle in her small room," he said.

When It Was Time to Let Her Son Leave…

The Prime Minister said when he decided to leave home, his mother had already sensed my decision even before he 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, “Do as your mind says” Modi said.

‘I Want to Go With All My Limbs Working’

Narrating how his mother always tried to ensure that she never became a burden on anyone. “She does her own chores as much as possible. Today, whenever I meet Mother, she always 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," PM Modi said.

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first published:December 30, 2022, 08:40 IST
last updated:December 30, 2022, 08:42 IST