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From Journalists to Critics and Kids — How Modi Silently Helped People in Distress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi has proved to be helpful for millions of people, both officially, and personally.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s political adversaries have always attempted to create a deceitful image of him, but the PM’s actual persona is far from what is projected by his critics, who see ‘politics’ even in his tears.

Modi has proved to be helpful to millions of people, both officially and personally. He has stood by the people in their hour of grief, and a thousand tales proving this exist, but seldom have they appeared in the public domain.

The leader too does not wish to give publicity to this reality. Those who have been beneficiaries of his love and help do not talk about it in the open, for they do not know the world, or the PM himself, would react to it.

Recently, TV anchor and journalist Rubika Liyaqat had tweeted a personal letter by Modi to her, condoling her mother, Dr Fatma Liyaqat’s death.

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Dr Fatma Liyaqat died on May 28 and the condolence message that PM had sent to her was not a formality, it was full of empathy. He had admiringly mentioned Dr Fatima’s personality traits. A PhD in Biological Science, she has been researching the effect of harmful metals on aquatic animals.

Rubika is not somebody I have known for a long time. We were working for different channels of the same media organisation, and I often bumped into her in the lift. When her mother died, I thought I should call Rubika as it was a huge personal loss for her.

PM’s Aide to Rubika

When I called Rubika, I came to know the story behind the letter PM Modi had written to her. On May 2, Rubika’s mother took seriously, suddenly. When Rubika came to know about it, she reached Udaipur where her family lived.

In the beginning, Rubika thought that her mother was suffering from gastroenteritis due to the fast she had taken up during Ramadaan. Her main symptom was vomiting. However, her her condition kept deteriorating and her kidney, liver and heart was soon affected badly, a case of multiple organ failure.

As it happening amid the pandemic, the possibility of a Covid-19 infection was also not ruled out. She was admitted to a hospital and the doctors said that she was suffering from pancreatitis; which affects the pancreas in a critical way.

Rubika, her younger sister Anjum, and her mother, knew what the disease’s complications entailed. Both sisters had asked their father Liyaqat Amar to stay at home, while they stayed with their mother at the Paras JK Hospital’s ICU in Udaipur.

Eid fell on 14 May, but the joy of the festival was lost to the sisters. Rubika received a call on her mobile, and the screen mentioned no caller ID. In two minds about whether she should pick up the call or not, she finally did. She was told that the PM wanted to talk to her.

Rubika had not imagined that PM Modi would call her directly.

She was taken aback because even her relatives had not called her in this hour of distress. But before she could say anything, the voice on the other side said – “Rubika Ji, lots of good wishes on Eid."

Rubika told him about her mother’s sickness and PM Modi asked about her condition in detail and later said he wished to talk to her mother in the ICU. Rubika gave the phone to her mother, who was also taken aback upon knowing that PM Modi was on the line.

The leader told Dr Fatima that he had full faith in her; she would fight the disease with full courage and emerge victorious.

Unable to say anything due to her condition, Rubika’s mother gestured to her daughter that ‘yes, she would fight the disease.’ PM Modi was on the call with her for 5 to 7 minutes.

PM assured Rubika not to worry about anything, and that she would get all possible help, before he disconnected.

After that day, PM Modi did not call her again but she kept on receiving calls from the Prime Minister’s Office to know how her mother was doing. All necessary medicines and best doctor’s advice were made available for her mother.

AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria and Dr SK Sarin of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences were constantly in touch with the doctors of the hospital. Even they were surprised to know that such renowned doctors were available for help, and that the Drugs Controller General of India was ready to supply any medicine they needed.

Dr Fatima Liyaqat remained alive for 26 days. But finally she succumbed to her illness on May 28, even while preparation was almost completed to escort her to Delhi by an air ambulance.

Dr Fatima Liyaqat’s death was a great blow to the family. However, not only Rubika, but her father was kept in solace by the fact that PM Modi had stood by them through these trying times.

What Rubika’s Experience Says About Modi’s Inclusiveness

Rubika’s experience shows another facet of Modi’s personality. The anchor had not known the PM for long, she had met him on February 20, 2019, in person for the first time during a luncheon given in the honour of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Suleiman.

Called a ‘villain’ for the Muslim community by his critics, PM Modi has come forward to help many families in their hour of need.

His Heartfelt Letter

Rubika and her family members had not previously imagined this side of Modi’s big personality. After learning about her mother’s demise, he penned a letter to Rubika, expressing his condolences.

He had not just recounted Dr Fatma’s glorious life through his gesture, but also but a balm on their aching hearts. Rubika and her father said they would never forget this gesture by the PM.

They would not have even imagined that the Prime Minister, despite his extremely busy schedule, would write to them and offer such help, sitting thousands of miles away from Udaipur.

During this emotionally surcharged time, Rubika also penned a letter to PM Modi – “My mother was the head of the family and when the PM of the country asked about her wellbeing, this was a very soulful moment for the family. Despite being so busy, you found time to know about my ailing mother’s condition, and only an elder can do so for his family."

He Helps People Without Making Any Noise

This is not the only story proving Modi’s helpful demeanor. There are hundreds of such incidents but most people refrain of talking about them in public, in fear of being looked at as wanting to attain attention by showing their closeness to the PM.

And Modi himself does not talk about it. But in the public forum or not, the experiences of those who have received his help, have not been forgotten.

Presently working as the Information Commissioner of the country, Uday Mahurkar too has experienced something similar. Mahurkar has known Modi for over three decades.

Smita Mahurkar, Uday’s wife contracted Covid-19 in April when the second wave was raging in the country. Her oxygen saturation level started dipping fast and came down to 55 (the normal level is 95).

A dangerous situation, even the conditions in Delhi’s hospital at the time were bad. Distressed, he informed PM Modi’s personal assistant about the situation. PM Modi was informed about this immediately.

How Modi Came Forward to Save a Life

In the next five minutes, Uday Mahurkar received a call from Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and the Superintendent of the Ram Manohar Lohiya Hospital AK Singh Rana.

On April 7, Smita Mahurkar was admitted to the hospital and she later got discharged on April 26 after receiving the appropriate treatment for Covid-19. She remained in the hospital for 19 days, and PM Modi called twice to know her condition, and even the PMO was regularly in touch with him.

Mahurkar has not forgotten this gesture, among many others. His father died last year, and within an hour of his death, the PM called him directly, and also sent him a condolence message.

The PM talked about the great character of his father JG Mahurkar.

Mahurkar has already written two books on the administrative works of Modi. He is aware of many stories of how Modi has helped people when they were in dire need of it. He also knows how Modi has helped thousands of animals who have been suffering from glaucoma.

Modi Called Hundreds of People During the Covid Pandemic

In the stretch of more than a year amid the pandemic, thousands of people received calls from PM Modi. Most of them are those who Modi cannot possibly gain from, politically.

But a decade-old relationship has its own warmth and PM Modi helped many people experience this.

He helped a Sangh functionary in Jamshedpur who was in the last stage of his life, and Pracharakas who suffered from Covid-19.

In Gujarat alone, there are many names among the functionaries and Pracharakas of Sangh - Paveenbhai Otiya, Mukundrao Deobhankar, Bhagirathbhai Desai and Harishbhai Rawal - who Modi kept in touch wih to know about their condition.

But is not that only those who share the same ideology as the PM who receive help from him. There are many who are not on the same page as Modi, ideologically. But when the PM came to know about them, he called them directly too and assured all help.

Modi Takes Care of His Critics’ Health Too

A senior journalist from Delhi shares the same experience. The journalist, a Resident Editor of an English Daily known for its anti-establishment stand, became seriously ill. PM Modi came to know about his condition through a fellow journalist.

Then, the ailing journalist was going for a test, when he received a phone call from no caller ID, which he did not pick up. But as he got admitted to the hospital, the phone rang again and he picked it up. The voice on the other side said: “The PM wants to talk to you".

This was a novel experience for the journalist, as well. He had the opportunity of meeting the PM in certain programmes from 2014, but had never received a phone call from him. Both of them did not share the same ideology and he had penned many stories criticising Modi.

The journalist was taken aback and did not know how to react. PM Modi asked about his well-being and assured him all possible help.

The Sensitivity of Tough Modi Surprises People

PM Modi called the journalist a few more times. A critic of PM Modi, he was unable to understand how, despite being so busy, PM Modi found the time to call him.

It is not every day that the Prime Minister of India would call a journalist, and that too without any axe to grind. The call gave him strength to fight his illness more vigorously.

The call made him happy, but he is still not able to come to terms with the fact that Modi called him so swiftly when he was distressed. He knew well that Modi did not need the help of a journalist like him, as he has carved a niche for himself in the world.

PM Worried About the Health of Poor Children

Another senior journalist working too has many such stories to narrate. He does not want to be named due to the dignity of the post he holds.

He used to be very upset about his wife’s illness, but PM Modi asked him to get her treated at the Swami Vivekanand Yoga Research Institute (Vyasa) in Bengaluru.

The institute is famous all over the world for its natural cures. The senior Pracharak of the Sangh, late Eknath Ranade, is the founder of the institute. When the journalist reached the institute, he found that all arrangements had already been made for him on PM Modi’s instructions.

This surprised the journalist, and he also came to know that Modi had recommended many people to the institute, who had gone back home after getting rid of their illness.

This includes a child from Gujarat also whose family was very poor. But Modi bore the expenses of his entire treatment. The incident gives a glimpse into the softer and kinder side of PM Modi.

When a Media Bigshot Was Taken Aback by Modi’s Call

Modi has the habit of surprising people by his softer side. He did so for an editor-journalist who has been a diehard critic of Modi. Educated in JNU and ideologically a left-leaning editor, he was heading the Asia operation of a big entertainment group, when the PM gave him his support.

In August 2019, the journalist lost his father and those earlier few who had condoled his death included PM Modi. Even he had not imagined that Modi would call him.

It is not that this softer side of PM Modi has developed only after he became the PM. Even when he was a functionary of BJP, or the CM of Gujarat for over 12 years, Modi had helped thousands of people and never said a word about it.

He stood with those people like their guardian.

He Sent a Plane to Save a Journalist’s Life in Gujarat

Nirnay Kapoor, a journalist from Ahmedabad, cannot forget how in 2004, Narendra Modi played an important role in saving his life. Modi was the CM of Gujarat then. It was January 20, 2004 and Nirnay was in Bhuj, the district headquarter of Kutch.

With him on this reporting assignment was his cameraman Umesh Chauhan. Kutch had been rocked by a terrible earthquake on January 26, three years back in 2001. He was there to take stock of the situation in the post-earthquake Bhuj.

Before he could prepare a special report, he started to experience an acute pain in his chest.

Nirnay sensed that all was not well with him, and that his pain kept increasing. He called his doctor in Ahmedabad who advised him to contact a doctor in Bhuj. By the time Nirnay could reach this doctor, his situation got worse. His doctor in Bhuj had no doubt that he had suffered a heart attack and he started giving him anticoagulant medicine.

But it was not possible to give him the desired treatment in Bhuj. Nirnay’s News headquarters called him on his mobile and Umesh narrated the situation. From the assignment desk at the Delhi office of the channel, the head of the channel and senior journalist Rajat Sharma was informed about this.

Rajat Sharma knew Modi well. Rajat Sharma called Modi and told him about the worsening situation of Nirnay and Modi promised to help without any delay.

Modi directed his officers to rush a team of specialist doctors from Sterling Hospital in Ahmedabad with all the life support equipment to the airport, and asked the state government plane to fly to Bhuj.

Nirnay was picked from Bhuj and was brought to Ahmedabad airport and from there he was brought to the Sterling Hospital where he was immediately operated on, and his life was saved.

After he recovered, Nirnay received a call from Modi, and the leader asked him the full details of what had happened.

When Nirnay narrated the incident, Modi cut him short, asking him to take good care of himself. Even after 17 years of the incident, Nianay has not been able to forget it. He firmly believes that had Modi not shown all urgency, he might have died.

Despite the criticism Modi received from the media in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots, nobody would expect the leader to save the life of a journalist by sending a plane to take him to the hospital.

Modi’s Priority is to Help Those Who are Distressed

I, too, came to know about this aspect of Modi’s personality in the end of March 2004. On March 30, the then Deputy Prime Minister Lalkrishna Advani’s Bharat Uday Yatra started from Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.

On the second day of Yatra, Advani’s last programme was in Sabarkantha district’s Himmatnagar. It was a very hot day and I did realise that I had suffered a heatstroke while covering the event. Before the Yatra Advani could reach Himmatnagar, I was already there.

I had thought that after covering the programme here, I would proceed to Ahmedabad. But before Advani could start his meeting in Himmatnagar, my condition worsened.

I experienced high fever and vomiting. My cameraman Rammani Pande was with me when the lodge opened and I slumped on the bed.

At the time, I received a call from Modi’s PA Omprakash. During the time, the world of TV News was very small and only a handful of journalists were in the business. Omprakash had not seen me in Himmatnagar, and thus enquired to know where I was.

I could barely speak and told him that I had a fever and was vomiting. Omprakash immediately informed Modi who was with Advani in Himmatnagar. Modi asked about my condition and told me not to worry, and that he would come my aid.

I did not know what was happening to me. I only remember that some people got hold of me and took me on their shoulders, while I opposed the action. I opened my eyes at 3 am in the night and I found myself in a hospital. The nurse told me that I had been brought here at 10 pm and was in a very bad situation due to dehydration.

The doctor came in the morning and told me that I will have to stay there for a few more days. I was adamant to leave and got myself discharged. When I was leaving Ahmedabad, the doctor told me that if I get heat stroke again, it would be difficult for me to survive, and advised me to stay indoors.

By 2010, I had almost forgotten this incident. Praful Patel became MoS Home in Gujarat, when Amit Shah resigned from the same post in the aftermath of the CBI chargesheet against him in the Ishrat Jahan case.

Presently, he is the administrator of three Union Territories. In 2010, I met Praful Patel during the winter session of the Assembly. I told him out of courtesy that I have not met him before.

As I entered the lift, he told me that he had met me six years back, and that he knew me well. I was surprised. I could not blame myself for being forgetful, so I protested. Then, Praful Patel told me what had happened on the night of 31st March, 2004, when he was directed by Modi to get me admitted to the hospital immediately.

Praful Patel had managed to locate me in a lodge in Himmatnagar and got me forcefully out of the room to bring me to a hospital. He was there in the hospital with me till 2 am and he left the hospital only when he was assured that I was out of danger. He informed Modi about my condition and then returned home.

I had not talked about this aspect of Modi publicly. Had I done this earlier, it would have been assumed as ‘propaganda’. Now, Modi has reached such a high position that even if these stories appear in the public domain, they would not affect him.

But this may help millions of Indians know Modi on a deeper level - that he is not just a politician, but a kind person who helps people in distress.

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first published:June 13, 2021, 19:39 IST