Mumbai: It was a swinging start to the day for the Obamas on Sunday with both the President and his wife shaking a leg with children at the Holy Name School here as a Marathi folk tune played in the background.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, who landed here on Saturday for a four-day India visit, were relaxed and smiling as they interacted with students, many of them from poor families, at the school. The couple arrived separately at the venue, in a quiet bylane in Colaba, a hub of foreigners and close to the Leopold Cafe, which was targeted during the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The US first couple - the President in shirtsleeves and the first lady in a black and white dress with a hot pink shrug - moved around, shaking hands with the children and stopping to exchange some words.
They then settled down to watch dance performances by the children, dressed in vibrant reds, greens and oranges, who first presented a semi-classical dance followed by the traditional Koli folk dance of Maharashtra`s fisherfolk, the original inhabitants of Mumbai.
That over, Michelle Obama gamely agreed when the children asked her to join them, swinging her hips to the catchy tune and quickly catching on as the steps were taught to her. The President was not too far behind either, and happily got up to join the fun, waving his arms and swinging along with the rest.
The children were delighted - and so it seems were the Obamas who were seen smiling broadly.
Minister of State for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid, who is also the minister-in-waiting, and Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar sat behind the couple.
Obama had greeted the students with a namaste, the traditional Indian greeting with palms joined, and lit a traditional lamp to flag off the function. Earlier, Michelle Obama had also seen an exhibition of paintings and rangolis put up by the students.
Obama`s Diwali connect is not new. Last year, the US President had presided over a Diwali celebration at the White House.
Following his engagements at the school, Obama headed straight to St Xavier`s College, where he addressed a gathering of select student from different city colleges and also take questions from the young minds.
Connecting with real India
Soon after arrival at the St Xavier’s College, the American President interacted with farmers of Kanpura village of Ajmer in Rajasthan via video conference. Sam Pitroda, advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations, was also present to help Obama understand how Information Technology is revolutionising agriculture and governance in India’s villages.
On the other side at Kanpura village was Union Minister of State for IT and Ajmer Member of Parliament Sachin Pilot, who acted as a bridge between the US President and the villagers.
The villagers told Obama about the various e-governance initiatives been carried out in their village and their positive impact towards making their life easy.
He then interacted with college students where he answered a gamut of questions on topics ranging from jihad to spirituality to Pakistan etc. This was his last engagement in Mumbai and the presidential party flew out of Mumbai for Delhi after it.