Prime Minister Narendra Modi pleasantly surprised many on October 19, during his interaction with beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojna in Maharashtra, when he broke into chaste Marathi.
No sooner did Mr Modi finish the interaction that various media houses began to speculate the roots of his near perfect Marathi. Some media houses linked it to Mr Modi's close association with top Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Laxmanrao Inamdar, popularly known as 'Vakil Saheb', (who the Prime Minister named during the interaction, referring to his origins in Satara) and subsequent interactions with Mohan Bhagwat in Gujarat.
The real story of PM Modi's conversant Marathi has a much simpler and more benign origin. Sources close to Mr Modi revealed that he picked up Marathi during his days as an RSS Pracharak, when he used to stop over for meals at the residence of the Bhate family, based in the Calico Mills area in Gujarat's Ahmedabad.
Like all Pracharaks, Mr Modi's role too involved close interaction with local families. He would closely interact with one Bhate family, particularly over meals. Since the Bhate family came from Maharashtra, they would talk in Marathi in front of Mr Modi, who gradually picked up the language. In fact, the Bhate family and Mr Modi had an informal arrangement of sorts that they would serve him food only when the Prime Minister asked for it in Marathi.
In the same neighborhood where the Bhates lived, there was another family with multi-ethnic roots. In that family, there was a small girl who was proficient in six languages, owing to the fact that her mother was a Bengali, father a Malayali, friends in the neighbourhood, who spoke both Gujarati and Marathi.
Taking inspiration from the girl's ease in being able to fluently speak roughly six languages, Mr Modi continued to interact in Marathi and promised the little girl that whenever they would meet, Marathi would be the language of choice.
Later on, Mr Modi was sent to Vadodara for RSS work. Vadodara, with a deep influence of the Gaekwad dynasty had a strong Marathi presence. This sharpened Mr Modi's Marathi. In fact, he also interacted with the founder of the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, Dattopant Thengadi in Marathi.
PM Modi's interaction in Marathi last week, came as no surprise to those that knew the story of Narendra Modi, the RSS Pracharak, who picked up a language from the by-lanes of the Mill areas of Ahmedabad.
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