An Unspectacular Day in the Life of a Narendra Modi Look-alike

07 April 2014

On the morning of 3 April, Abhinandan Pathak stepped off his sleeper compartment at Lucknow’s Charbagh Station. A posse of five men, including his 14-year-old son, Shivam, accompanied him. He wore white trousers and a white kurta, a gold Nehru vest, and a turban and neck sash coloured saffron and green—the colours of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

His silver hair and beard, and a pair of rimless spectacles, rounded off Pathak’s imitation of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

Pathak is a physical education teacher from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, who has taken three months off from work to travel around India and campaign in support of the man he resembles, and whom he thinks should lead the country. “My first journey to campaign for Modi was by bicycle from Saharanpur to Meerut on January 27,” he said proudly when I met him at the station.

We proceeded to the exit, Pathak walking with a swagger befitting a politician—his left arm bent to touch his belly and right arm swinging widely with each long stride. Outside, our group of seven piled into two autos and set off for his friend’s house.

“It’s all to change the feelings in peoples’ hearts about Modi,” his friend Sushil Taank explained from the front seat as we waited for a train to cross at a traffic signal. Taank was sitting beside the driver and had turned around to talk. Pathak, squished in the backseat between me and his son, his arms raised to give him more wiggle room in the heat, nodded in agreement.

Sonia Paul is an independent journalist, radio producer and contributing editor at She is a senior fellow with the Fund for Investigative Journalism and Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. From 2013 to 2015, she was based in Lucknow, India, as a freelance journalist. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.