Train journey with Narendra Modi

A Facebook friend shared “A train journey and two names to remember“, which had appeared in The Hindu on June 1, 2014.

The writer, Ms. Leena Sarma, General Manager of the Centre for Railway Information System, Indian Railways, New Delhi, has written about a train journey in 1990 from Delhi to Ahmedabad, in which she and another female colleague were co-passengers with Shankersinh Vaghela and Narendra Modi, both BJP members at that time.

I strongly suggest you read the entire article, but for those who are short of time, here’s the summary:
Ms. Sarma and her female colleague, then Indian Railway (Traffic) Service probationers, had wait-listed First Class tickets to travel from Delhi to Ahmedabad. The train was heavily booked. The TTE (Travel Ticket Examiner) asked them to sit in a particular coupe, and assured them that he would try to get their tickets confirmed. The two persons who had confirmed tickets for that coupe were both politicians, as could be discerned from their white khadi attire. The TTE assured the two women that, “They’re decent people, regular travellers on this route, nothing to worry.” The politicians readily made space for their co-passengers by almost squeezing themselves to one corner.

After initial introductions, the 4 co-passengers started discussing various topics, particularly in the areas of History and the Polity. Eventually, the discussion veered around to the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League.

After the food, four vegetarian meals, arrived, the four ate in silence. When the pantry-car manager came to take the payment, the younger man (Narendra Modi) paid for all four meals.

Soon, the TTE came and informed the two women that the train was packed and he couldn’t arrange berths for them. Both men immediately stood up and said: “It’s okay, we’ll manage.” They swiftly spread a cloth on the floor and went to sleep, while the two women with wait-listed tickets occupied the berths.

As the train was nearing Ahmedabad, the politicians asked the two women about their lodging arrangements in the city. Vaghela told them that in case of any problem, the doors of his house were open for them. There was some kind of genuine concern in the voice or the facial contours of the otherwise apparently inscrutable younger one (Narendra Modi), and he told them: “I’m like a nomad, I don’t have a proper home to invite you but you can accept his offer of safe shelter in this new place.” The women thanked the politicians for that invitation and assured them that accommodation was not going to be a problem for them.

I leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions about the politicians involved in this episode.

My observations:

1.The entire episode took place far away from media scrutiny. The manner in which Shankersinh Vaghela and Narendra Modi conducted themselves speaks volumes about their character.

2.Since Ms. Sarma first wrote about this train journey in an Assamese newspaper in 1995, when neither Shankersinh Vaghela nor Narendra Modi was a minister or a famous person, it can be safely assumed that she had nothing to gain by writing an article praising them. As Ms. Sarma herself says, “It was a tribute to two unknown politicians from Gujarat for giving up their comfort ungrudgingly for the sake of two bens (sisters) from Assam.”

Please share your observations on this episode.