“Hi sir, I am Amruta Ranade.” Some nine years ago, this was how Amruta, now Fadnavis, introduced herself to the man who would become her husband. Devendra Fadnavis, now Maharashtra’s CM-designate, responded with his characteristic namaskar.
“I used to call him sir always,” Amruta says with a shy smile. “It took some time and effort before I could drop the sir and call him Deven.”
Amruta’s account of their relationship also gives glimpses of Devendra the family man, such as his irregular food habits, how they make the most of the little time they get together, and how he prefers to use his eyes rather than words to express himself.
“Unlike me, Deven is not expressive. I don’t think he has ever commented on what I wear or how I work. It’s always silently conveyed through his eyes. And I understand,” Amruta says.
The first meeting was at the home of one of his friends. “Ours was an arranged marriage, and our mothers were keen that we should meet,” Amruta says. “I let Deven know I didn’t want to go through that ritual of wearing a saree and serving poha and tea. He didn’t want that either, and said let us meet at a friend’s house.
“He came from his constituency and visited a temple,” she recalls. “He was wearing a red tilak on his forehead. Frankly, I remember only the calm look on his face. His smile was so reassuring and genuine. But we did not decide immediately. It was after some more meetings and discussions on our careers that we agreed on the marriage.”
Amruta, whose daughter Divija is now six, is an associate vice president with Axis Bank. Before she met Devendra, she admits, “my impression about politicians and politics was not very good”. Once they met, she says, she was struck by his dedication to his constituency and its people, and his integrity — she found him “extremely down to earth”.
“It was made clear to me that his would be a very hectic schedule. I am reconciled to that and have never demanded his time. Whatever little time we have together, it is extremely happy,” she says. “But whenever I need him, I believe he will be there for me, as I would be for him.”
The day the election results were declared, she could meet him only for minutes, when he was in an open jeep surrounded by supporters. “He landed at Nagpur airport and entered the jeep. It was late evening when I got to meet him. I told him, ‘I am happy for you as the people have again reposed their faith in your work’,” she says.
Frequent travel also makes Devendra’s meals irregular, but when at home, Amruta keeps his food free of oil and fat. They haven’t even watched a film together since Lagaan.
Amruta is a classical singer, a talent Devendra apparently doesn’t share. “Yes, I sing all the time and he loves to sit and listen. And no, I never allow him to try singing for he sounds like he is reciting a poem,” she says. “When we have got together with college friends, though, he has often joined me in duet. He sings only one line — ‘Monica, oh my darling’ — when I sing Piya tu ab tu aaja.”
Amruta, who had gone to St Joseph’s Convent, graduated from GS College of Commerce in Nagpur,and got an MBA from Symboisis College in Pune, says she was always among the top three as a student.
Her parents Sharad and Charulata are both doctors. “My mother is a gynaecologist and works 12 hours a day even at this age. My father is an opthalmologist,” she says.
Amruta, who is ready to shift from Nagpur to Mumbai, wants to continue to work with the bank while taking care of the home.