| Manmohan Singh waves to residents from his rented apartment in Guwahati. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, May 9: Tenant M.M. Singh came “home” today to find almost everything — his favourite books, a portrait of Guru Nanak and a framed picture of himself — exactly the way he had left them a few years ago.
However, in the intervening years, M.M. Singh did change: he is now the Prime Minister of India.
The house sporting the country’s most understated nameplate — “M.M. Singh” — had its moment in the sun today as Manmohan Singh dropped by for a dash down memory lane and a daab.
The stopover was made at Singh’s domicile address — House No. 3989, Nandan Nagar, Ward No. 51, Sarumataria, Dispur (Guwahati) — before he filed nomination for re-election to the Rajya Sabha.
Barring the innocuous nameplate, the house did not betray any telltale sign — not even the house number that is mentioned on the Congress website.
None was needed this morning, though. It is not everyday that a shiny, black BMW enters one of the narrow lanes at Nandan Nagar.
The usually quiet Guwahati sprang to life when the bullet-proof BMW, hemmed in by a cavalcade of vehicles, came to a halt in front of the house. Singh, the state’s long-time representative in the Rajya Sabha, was coming home for the first time since becoming Prime Minister in 2004.
Like all tenants who realise the importance of keeping house owners in good humour, the Prime Minister stepped into the Saikias’ residence first with two aides in tow.
Singh’s landlady, former chief minister Hiteswar Saikia’s widow Hemoprova, was not at home. She left Guwahati on a tour of Europe yesterday, giving son Debobrata the responsibility of playing host.
Debobrata rose to the occasion, thoughtfully keeping tender coconuts ready. He remembered that his family’s tenant prefers to cool off with chilled daab on a hot summer day. Singh did not disappoint him, asking for a daab even before he was offered one.
“Madam (Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur) gave me a call last night. She was not sure whether the Prime Minister would pay a visit (to his apartment) because of security reasons. But this morning, I got another call which confirmed that he was coming,” Debobrata said later.
Hemoprova had written to the Prime Minister a few days ago, informing him that her son would be at home if he wished to drop by.
The décor in Singh’s apartment was minimal. Two sofas, a tea table, a bed and a rack with a few books made up the furniture. Other than books on — you guessed it — economics, the rack had a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib.
A portrait of Guru Nanak and the Prime Minister’s own picture were the only frames adorning the walls. Singh picked up the photograph and gazed at it for a few moments before telling Debobrata and his aides: “It is me at a gurdwara in Maharashtra.”
He also glanced at the titles of a few books on the rack during the 20 minutes he spent at the apartment, for which he reportedly pays a monthly rent of Rs 700. The Prime Minister does have a benevolent landlady: the market rent for similar accommodation now ranges from Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000.
From the house, the Prime Minister drove straight to the office where he filed the nomination papers.
The house will now remain locked — as it has been all these years — with the Saikias keeping the key and maintaining it.
Moved by the visit perhaps, the Prime Minister later turned “emotional” at a Congress meeting, party sources said. “I am an Assamese at heart today,” he was quoted as saying.
“He wants to spend the rest of his life here,” government spokesperson and minister Ripun Bora said.
What Bora did not say was that Singh has yet to spend a single night in the apartment that is his “home” in the city.
Singh did try to make amends, though. “I know my inadequacies but it has been my sincere effort all these years to represent Assam and to be worthy of your trust. I am extremely grateful to you for your affection and your support,” he told Congress MLAs.