AHMEDABAD (TIP): “For you, I will always be Narendrabhai, not PM,” PM-designate Narendra Modi told a sea of BJP leaders and supporters who had gathered at the Ahmedabad airport to welcome him after he was appointed prime minister by the President. Modi’s childhood friends say that this humility was not for show -Modi in fact never liked them calling him ‘saheb’; he rather insists on being called Narendra by his buddies. Sudhir Joshi, 64, who studied with Modi from class 5 to class 11, says that Modi has prohibited him from calling him ‘saheb’.

“After he became the CM, I used to meet Narendrabhai for dinner at least once a year. Initially, I called him ‘saheb’ but he immediately corrected me: ‘Did you call me saheb when we were in school? Please call me Narendra’,” Joshi recalls. Joshi, who is the son of Modi’s family physician in Vadnagar, says that he is proud of his friend becoming the PM and that he had an inkling way back in 2010 that Modi would become the PM. “In 2010, Narendrabhai told me just like that, ‘Sudhir, your friend is marching towards Delhi.

I will not stay in Gujarat for long’,” says Joshi. Another childhood friend, Shyamal Modi (63), says Modi has remained humble with them and never made them feel about his growing stature in national politics. Shyamal who lives in Vadnagar was a businessman until recently . “When he was elected CM, I told him, ‘You have become Krishna and I am mere Sudama’. Then Modi told me never to say this again and said: ‘A friend is always a friend. He does not become big or small’,” recalls Shyamal, who had caught baby crocodiles with Narendra Modi and took them to Modi’s mother.

Nagji Desai, another childhood friend who studied with Modi in Vadnagar, recalls: “Once when I called him ‘saheb’, he asked, ‘Have you become so highly educated that you are addressing me as Sir?'” The childhood friends have remained close to Modi despite his meteoric rise in politics. They wish him well now that he has left for New Delhi. “We will go and meet Modi in New Delhi once a year, and keep our old ritual alive,” said Joshi.

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