Modi arrived in Ahmedabad early in the morning for the cremation and announced through an emotional 6am tweet that “a fabulous century now rests at the feet of God…”
“My Maa…I’ve always seen her as a confluence of three things — journey of an ascetic, work of a selfless karmayogi, and life dedicated to values,” he tweeted. “When I met her on her 100th birthday, she told me something that I always remember, ‘work with your brain, lead your life with piety’.”
Heeraba had been admitted to Ahmedabad’s UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre on Wednesday morning. The hospital said the end came at 3.30am Friday.
Besides the PM, she is survived by sons Somabhai, Amrutbhai, Prahladbhai and Pankajbhai, and daughter Vasantiben. Her demise is the first instance of an Indian PM losing a parent while in office.
A stream of condolence messages arrived through the day from the heads of state of several countries, including the PMs of Israel, Japan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, and Sri Lanka’s President. Heeraba’s death was also mourned across the political spectrum in India, with the likes of Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik, Bihar’s Nitish Kumar and Tamil Nadu’s M K Stalin expressing solidarity with the PM and his family in their moment of grief. Union home minister Amit Shah, national BJP chief JP Nadda and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, too, condoled Heeraba’s death.
For many across the country, pictures and videos of Modi’s brief meetings with Heeraba at his brother Pankajbhai’s residence in Raysan near Gandhinagar exemplified a relatable and reassuring mother-child bond. The last such meeting took place during the Gujarat assembly poll, when Modi was seen sharing a cup of tea with his doting mother.
There are also earlier pictures of him enjoying a simple meal of khichdi with Heeraba by his side. Another image that has stuck is of the PM’s mother offering homemade sweets to her son. In terms of letting the media capture a few moments, Heeraba was the exception in the generally reclusive Modi family.
Around 8.15am, the PM reached Raysan and bowed in front of his mother’s body. After an offering of flowers, the funeral procession started from Pankajbhai’s residence to Muktidham, a crematorium at Sector 30 in Gandhinagar. Hundreds joined the journey, including CM Bhupendra Patel, senior ministers and MLAs of Gujarat, and dignitaries from various fields.
Heeraba’s mortal remains were consigned to the flames around 9.30am by Modi and his brothers, watched by family members. The crematorium was off limits for most. Outside of the family, the few people present during the last rites were the Gujarat CM, his predecessors Vijay Rupani and Shankersinh Vaghela, industrialist Gautam Adani, writer and religious leader Swami Sachchidanand, assembly speaker Shankar Chaudhary, Rajya Sabha member Jugalji Thakor, former speaker Ramanlal Vora and Gujarat BJP president CR Paatil.
Vadnagar, the PM’s hometown and Heeraba’s “karmabhoomi” for decades, announced the closure of all markets for the day. Nearby Unjha also shut its APMC and cooperative facilities.
In a heartfelt blog Modi had penned on Heeraba’s 99th birthday, he recalled the struggles she went through while raising the kids. He said she did domestic chores to keep the household afloat but at the same time ensured that even a sanitation worker didn’t go without a cup of chai. He credited her for many of his traits. When he became the PM, she told him that he should not worry about her, nor lose focus on the larger responsibilities. “Never do anything wrong or anything bad with anyone and keep working for the poor,” she told her son.
Modi left for Delhi at 5.45pm, having spent the day launching infrastructure projects in Bengal through videoconferencing, among other engagements.
Watch PM Narendra Modi’s mother Heeraben dies at 100