MUMBAI: As soon as the news broke that Leo Varadkar is set to become the next prime minister of Ireland, residents of Varad in Maharashtra, his ancestral village, started celebrating.
Leo, 38, is an Indian immigrant's son and he came out as gay in 2015. He is set to be the next Irish prime minister after he was yesterday voted leader of the country's main ruling party.
His father, Ashok Varadkar, traces his roots to Varad, a village having a population of nearly 3,500 in Sindhudurg district's Malvan tehsil and around 550 km south of Mumbai.
Ashok is Mumbai-born and went to the UK after completing his MBBS from India. He then married an Irish woman there.
But for the villagers, Leo and his doctor father are not merely a part of their memory, but they are very much attached to the Varadkars, a local resident claimed.
They are keen on inviting Dublin-born Leo to their village where his father built a home two years back. "We know Ashok and his wife as they were here two years back. They even helped some students, bought books for local schools. Now we want Leo to visit Varad once as he has not yet seen his ancestral village," Victor Dantes, a resident of Varad village told PTI today.
"I'm regularly in touch with Ashok, as I helped him when he was building his home in Varad," he claimed.
He said was a very joyous and proud moment for all of the villagers.
"It is not like we do not know him (Leo) by face, but we have heard about him only from our seniors. Ashok is very much in touch with us and he has been visiting Varad from time to time," 52-year-old Dantes said.
"Two years back, Ashok was here to see his newly constructed house in Varad village. He has donated books, funded the repair works of schools and even brought uniforms for poor students in Varad," said the village's former head.
Dantes said he even interacted with local youths for some time and shared his views, ideas and urged them to work hard for a better career.
"It was a touching moment for all of us, because Leo, his son, was then minister with several portfolios in the Irish government and his father was talking to us, just like a concerned senior person of a village," said Dantes, who is the director of a cooperative bank.
"Ashok still speaks fluent Marathi and he also uses some Malvani words while talking to us," he said. Malvani is a dialect of Marathi language named after Malvan tehsil of coastal region.
Another Sindhudurg resident Ashok Kalaskar, who is a local BJP leader, said, "For a long time, people in Varad have cherished Ashok and his family for their attachment to the village. When Ashok had come to Sindhudurg to see his land and old house, he had wished for building a home there."
"The Varadkars are a huge family as Ashok has some eight brothers and sisters. Many of the Varadkars come to Malvan from time to time. We all are very happy for Leo and his success," Kalaskar said. Notably, while Leo's feat made his family members proud in Maharashtra, the Costa family in Margao village of Goa also had its share of proud moment after Antonio Costa became the prime minister of Portugal.
Costa, who is of Indian origin, visited his ancestral house in January this year during his tour of India. He has roots in Goa which was ruled by Portugal till 1961.