Long before Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Prime Minister, he used to visit the homes of his childhood friends riding a bicycle, much to the surprise of many in Madhya Pradesh, his niece Kanti Mishra said.
Kanti Mishra said Vajpayee, who died today at the age of 93, was humble in his conduct despite becoming a towering personality in the Indian politics.
"Years ago, Atalji used to take my son Nitin Mishra's cycle and often visited his childhood friend Deepak, a Kashmiri, to far off Murar area," Kanti Mishra told PTI.
He used to cycle down to the homes of other childhood friends in the city also, she said.
The 75-year-old lives next door to the former PM's house in Kamal Singh Ka Bagh area, which plunged into grief after the news of Vajpayee's death came.
"On hearing about his humble gesture, BJP patriarch Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia once told my Chachaji that if he (Vajpayee) just informs her about his movements in Gwalior, she can send a chauffeur-driven car for him to go around," said Kanti Mishra, taking a trip down the memory lane.
"He was a jewel in the crown of India," she said, adding he was the last man of his generation in their family tree.
"Chachaji had three brothers, including my father Sada Bihari Vajpayee' and as many sisters - all of them are no more," she said.
"I don't have words to express the grief of our family. Chachaji was too fond of me," she added.
Kanti Mishra said she visited the BJP stalwart four years ago in New Delhi.
"I had visited him four years ago. It was painful to see him lying on the bed. Before this, I had always seen him happy and full of life," she recalls.
"My husband O P Mishra rushed to Delhi this afternoon after getting to know that Chachaji was critical," she said.
Kanti Mishra said Vajpayee last came to Gwalior, his native town, around 12 years ago.
"Chachaji came to Gwalior last time round in 2006 to celebrate his birthday and stayed here for three days," she recalls.
Ravi Upadhayay, a photo journalist who lives close to Kanti Mishra's house, said Vajpayee got his two-storey house converted into a free computer training centre and children's library in 1997 in the memory of his father late Krishnaji.
The house is spread in an area of around 2,000 sq feet, he adds.