What is Narendra Modi the man like? Here are a few facets of him that I can share as a Gujarati, as someone who knows him and as someone who has observed him over many years.
1) He has a sense of style and would not be seen in public without being turned out perfectly. For Modi, being turned out perfectly means a trimmed beard and hair, and clothes that are stylishly cut, even if they are traditional.
2) His clothes, especially the iconic half-sleeved kurtas, might seem like khadi and often they are, but they are not inexpensive. His designer used to be the Ahmedabad store Jade Blue, the most expensive couture store in the city. I also frequented the store when I worked in Gujarat as a newspaper editor. The perfect fit over his shoulders suggests a few hours spent on trials.
3) Modi is a writer and a poet. He is actually quite prolific, but this has escaped media attention because he writes only in Gujarati. I have his books in which he has mainly biographed Hindutva leaders. He is emotional as a writer and not given to objectivity. As a poet, he is in the vein of Atal Behari Vajpayee. That is to say, some imagery, lots of emotion, but not a lot of depth.
4) He is single, but this was not always the case. Modi used to be married to a woman who, for whatever reason, has now been abandoned. A newspaper, a few years ago when I was working in Gujarat, wrote about this marriage and mentioned her saying that she still thinks of herself as his wife. He did not comment on this story. Modi does not talk about this phase of his life and though he is not sworn to celibacy as most RSS pracharaks are, he has no personal life outside of his work so far as I know.
5) Modi's closest relation is his mother. One night, this might have been in 2003 or thereabouts, I was the last person on his list of people to meet. We finished around 9 or perhaps a little later. I asked what he would do afterwards. He was surprised and said: "Go home to my mother, of course." She's very old, he said, and he visited her often.
6) He is uninterested in money. I don't know why precisely I am writing this other than the fact that this is what I believe, based on what I know of him. I think the idea of power excites him, but the idea of money doesn't.
7) He has a sense of humour and he is playful. I know this from personal experience. I will write about some aspects of this in another piece. If Modi did not take himself as seriously as he does after becoming chief minister, he would be pleasant company. He is warm and confident with people.
8) He is a vegetarian, who doesn't smoke and who doesn't drink. None of the minor vices, as the old saying goes.
9) He is terrified of being humiliated. In the period when cranks were throwing shoes at politicians in public (Chidambaram etc), Modi had a net erected at all his public meetings so that he would not be embarrassed by flying footwear.
10) Gujarati women absolutely adore him. Modi, though he may not acknowledge this, is a sex symbol in his home state. The ratio of women to men for his meetings and gatherings is higher than it is for other politicians in the state. He has the aura of a king or emperor, someone who exudes absolute power and authority, and therefore someone irresistible to women.
(Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. The views expressed are personal)
The story was first published on 16th October, 2012.