|Over 50 members of the Gujarati community watch at Shree Calcutta Gujarati Samaj in Bhowanipore Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday; (below) Modi was felicitated in the same hall on April 9 last year with a topor. Pictures by Amit Datta
Calcutta, May 26: For the Gujarati community in Calcutta, Narendra Modi had been “crowned” Prime Minister on April 9, 2013.
Around 50 people, who sat inside the Shree Calcutta Gujarati Samaj hall this evening to watch his swearing-in on a giant screen, had spent a good half an hour with him in the very room last year and “anointed” him Prime Minister, not with a shapath (oath) but with a topor.
“Hun tamaru rajyabhishek karu chhun. Tame chokkas pradhan mantri bansho (We are anointing you. You will surely become Prime Minister),” Ravindra Vaghani, the president of Gujarati Samaj, had told Modi while placing the ceremonial Bengali groom crown on his head.
“Hun haish toh (If I am alive, then),” pat came the reply from the man who became India’s 15th Prime Minister this evening.
After 412 days of the remark, Modi lived the moment whose dress rehearsal he had gone through a year ago in Calcutta.
Shree Calcutta Gujarati Samaj, a charitable organisation based in Bhowanipore, had decided last night that the swearing-in would be shown on a giant screen on the premises where Gujaratis across generations had turned up to watch their “topor babu” last year.
“We kept receiving calls throughout Sunday to organise a screening where everyone can get together to watch this historic moment. So we decided to have it in this hall, where he had come last April,” Vaghani said.
The decision to organise the open-to-all screening came as a relief for the Patels from Ahmedabad, a family of nine that had arrived in Calcutta on Saturday and spent over an hour today looking for a place to watch their former chief minister take oath as Prime Minister.
“Our guesthouse room doesn’t have a TV. We stepped out this afternoon and walked a good 2km, asking people where we could watch the ceremony. Someone told us to go to the Gujarati Samaj hall,” said Patel Babubhai Kalidas, 67, a retired headmaster who is in Calcutta on a pilgrimage tour.
However, at 5.50pm, when most had settled down and the lights were dimmed, the skies opened up once again and rain lashed against the glass doors of the hall. “Doesn’t matter if it’s raining here. It should not rain in Delhi,” someone in the room said.
At 5.58pm, when the first shots of Modi arriving at Rashtrapati Bhavan flashed on the big screen, the hall broke into spontaneous applause. A second round of applause ensued 12 minutes later, when Modi, seated in the front row, was invited to come up to the stage to take oath.
At 6.13pm, Modi had read out his oath and was greeted with a deafening applause by the audience at Shree Calcutta Gujarati Samaj.
For those present at the Bhowanipore hall, the sole topic of conversation throughout the day was Modi’s swearing-in and the likely ministers. Friends Kishore Doshi, 64 and Bhogilal Mehta, 74, who go for their morning walk to Victoria Memorial every day, met again at 5.30pm for the screening but their conversation remained the same — “Modi the Prime Minister, finally”.
“This is indeed a proud moment for all of us in Calcutta. This gathering today, however, has no political colour. We are all simply celebrating the fact that a fellow Gujarati has become India’s Prime Minister,” said Doshi, an investment consultant who had come with wife Krishna.
The celebrations and preparations among the community had begun early in the morning not just in the hall but also in the digital domain. Purshottam Parekh, the secretary of the society, had changed his WhatsApp display picture to one of him and Modi sitting side by side, as did many of his other friends and acquaintances on his list.
A text message listing the names of all the cabinet ministers and ministers of state set to be sworn in was circulated among those present in the hall through WhatsApp to help them keep track of the proceedings. At 7pm, as the ceremony neared its end, a box of pedas were opened and distributed among all.
“Is Modi our Prime Minister now dadaji?” 11-year-old Krish Mehta asked his grandfather, on whose lap he was seated in the first row, getting restless.
“Yes, he is now,” replied Bhogilal Mehta. Krish jumped off immediately, ran to the snacks counter and opened a packet of chips.