Mention a surname ending with 'Kar' and everyone probably thinks of Maharashtra. After all, personalities like Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Dr. Ambedkar are known across India. But Ireland rarely comes to mind when anyone mentions such a name. But in a globalised world, anything is possible. Irish PM Leo Varadkar is one such person. Varadkar, who was born in Dublin, Ireland has his family roots in Varad village in Maharashtra. And villagers on Monday got a chance to welcome the dignitary.
It was like an extended Christmas for 3500 villagers of Varad, a small village in Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra, bound on one side by the Arabian Sea and on the other by the Western Ghats.
In June 2017, Varadkar, 40, became the 14th Prime Minister or 'Taoiseach' of Ireland.
For the first time, he fulfilled his 80-year-old father, Ashok Varadkar's desire to visit Varad village, around 525 kms south of Mumbai, close to the Goa border.
"He arrived in Goa on December 28, for a purely private visit, went to Malvan on Sunday (December 29) and spent the night with the whole family, walked around the small village. He will fly back home to Ireland tonight from Goa," his excited close relative, Dipti Bhosale-Varadkar, told IANS.
As per his wishes, there were no VIP trappings or security or protocol or officialdom for the visiting leader and he roamed around casually, in jeans and shirt, smiling and greeting the village folk, with a 'namaste' and hearty handshakes.
Leo Varadkar inaugurated a proposed "Madhukar V. Varadkar & Manohar V. Varadkar Memorial Sports, Arts & Cultural Centre", set up by Sanskrita Foundation, in memory of his uncles and Indian freedom fighters.
Later, he visited the Malvan Municipal Council headquarters and visited the offices of Madhukar V. Varadkar, a former Malvan Mayor in the 1940s, said a cousin, Shubhada Varadkar - who's a world-renowned Odissi dance exponent.
He marvelled at the simple and typical Konkani village lifestyle, and observed the locals going about their routine chores with interest, she added.
The Varad folk also reciprocated by preparing "a classical Malvani" feast for Varadkar and his accompanying family which comprised mouthwatering and favourite of seafood lovers, pomfret cooked in Malvani style, the Konkani all-time lip-smacking spicy chicken rassa, with rice, chapatis, local mango pickles and dry chutneys.
To soothe his palate, there was a surprise - 'modaka' usually prepared during the annual Ganeshotsav festival, plus home-made 'gulab-jamuns', all whipped up by the village women folk under the close supervision of another clan member Anuradha Varadkar, she said.
The entire family - Ashok Varadkar and wife Miriam, (the Irish PM's mother), sister Sofia and her husband Cainan, their children Nicholas and Susannah, and Sonia with her husband Johnny and their kids Alex and Eric besides Varadkar's partner Matt, all soaked in the rare village outing in the mild sunny winter.
"Leo Varadkar has come to India earlier at least four times, but for the first time he travelled to remote Varad and each time, he has been astonished at the pace of development he witnessed in this country," said Dipti Bhosale-Varadkar.
The family spent a night in Goa, then they drove down to Varad, a couple of hours away where they spent the night with the whole village practically sleepless in sheer excitement.
On Sunday, Leo Varadkar visited the temple of the family's deity and a small church in the village, generally relaxed and chilled, and on Monday, along with cousin Shekhar and others, visited his father's alma-mater, the 119-year-old co-ed Marathi medium ASD Topiwala High School.
"All through, Leo Varadkar was very carefree, mingled with the people, interacted with all the relatives, and took a keen interest in many things," said Dipti Bhosale-Varadkar.
She is hopeful that on his next trip he will take out time to visit the Varadkar clan's bungalow in Borivali suburb of north-west Mumbai.
Mumbai-born Ashok Varadkar (Leo Varadkar's father) has been a regular visitor to Varad, speaks fluent Marathi in Malvan style, has helped rebuild his old school, donated books and uniforms to poor students, and built the family home which he came to see in 2015.
Dublin-born medico Leo Varadkar is the leader of the Fine Gael Party and became the youngest Prime Minister of Ireland at 38, the first of Indian heritage and the fourth openly gay Prime Minister in the world.
(With IANS inputs)