The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Munna runs for mama’s touch
- Sweets for cameras, not for diabetic mother to eat

Bakhtiarpur, Nov. 25: Nitish Kumar offered sweets to his mother a day after taking over as Bihar chief minister, but said: “Khana mat (Don’t eat).”

The sweets were for the benefit of the cameras ' photographers had followed Nitish to Bakhtiarpur, 55 km from Patna, where his mother lives with her elder son. Parmeshwari Devi, who is diabetic, didn’t even take a bite.

Maa ke ashirvad mein badi shakti hoti hai. Main woh lene aaya hoon. (There is great strength in a mother’s blessings and that is what I have come to receive),” he said, after his nonagenarian mother tearfully held him in a tight embrace.

Deerghayu howa (May you live long),” Parmeshwari Devi blessed her son in Magadhi, the local dialect.

Someone asked the man who had ended Lalu Prasad’s 15-year rule what was behind his success. “If you’re talking about my becoming chief minister, I give credit to the people of Bihar. But if you mean my entire political career, with its highs and very deep lows, it has been due to my mother’s blessings,” Nitish said, his head bowed. After a pause, he looked up and added: “And most of all, to my wife.”

Manju Devi, a Patna schoolteacher who takes an autorickshaw to work every day, tried to wipe away tears that had begun to roll down her cheeks. Manju and son Nishant had accompanied Nitish on the visit to his family home.

A large crowd of neighbours and well-wishers gathered to cheer the chief minister whom they know as “Munna”. A beaming Satish Kumar, his elder brother, an ayurveda practitioner like their father, welcomed guests with laddoos.

Among the guests were a few of Nitish’s teachers and at least one former classmate who do not remember him as a naughty boy. “Nitish was not at all naughty. Instead, he was grave and disciplined, and extremely brilliant,” said Anandi Prasad Singh, the chief minister’s Hindi teacher at the local Ganesh High School.

Former classmate Manik Chandra Mehta, now a government employee, had a good word, too. Stressing Nitish was stubbornly principled, he recalled: “His father had taken a paltry sum of Rs 1,100 from his father-in-law on account of some wedding expenses. Nitish made a big issue out of it and called it dowry. Out went the warning from the son to the father, ‘Refund it, else I won’t get married.’ Chachaji (Nitish’s father) had no option.”

Asked how he felt being here, Nitish shot back: “How would you feel being among your own people' It feels great.” As the crowds shouted “Nitish Kumar zindabad” and beat drums, he came out to the balcony and had flower petals and garlands showered on him.

Amid all the cheering, Parmeshwari Devi did not forget to recall her son’s friendship with the man he has ousted. “Bahut beri Lalu ke bhi yehan khana khilaili, dunu dost halo. (I fed Lalu here many times, both were friends),” she said.

All that has changed. Yesterday, neither Lalu Prasad nor his wife Rabri Devi whom Nitish has replaced as chief minister attended his swearing-in at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan.

Some things have changed at home, too. “Pahile maiya kaha halai ab munna hamra maaji kaha hai. Bhagwan ke ashirvad hai (He used to call me maiya earlier but now he addresses me as maaji. May god bless him),” said Parmeshwari Devi as Nitish touched her feet.

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