She’s waiting for him, as she has been all her life. But when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dined with Barack and Michelle Obama at a glittering banquet Sunday night, his wife wasn’t by his side. Modi, 64, kept his teenage marriage a secret for decades during his political ascent and only last year admitted that his wife exists.
The wife, Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi, is a retired teacher who lives in a small town in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Although she had not heard from her husband in years, she says she still hopes to join him one day in the capital as his spouse.
“If he calls me, I will go,” she said in an interview. “I hear all his speeches on TV. I feel very good when I hear him speak. I want him to fulfill all his promises to the people. That’s my prayer to God.”
Narendra Modi, the son of a man who sold tea in a railway station, comes from a lower caste called Ghanchi. He and his wife were promised to each other as young adolescents in keeping with the traditions of their community. They were then married in a small ceremony when she was 17 and he was 18. . . .
Nearly a dozen guards watch her around the clock and follow her in a shiny car as she takes auto rickshaws and public transportation, they say. When she visits friends or relatives, they have to cook for the guards, she said.
“The security travels in an air-conditioned car. But my sister takes buses, trains and auto rickshaws. What kind of justice is this? Should a prime minister's wife not get a car?” her brother asked.