Published On : Sun, Jan 25th, 2015

If Barack Bhau came to Nagpur..



Nagpur Today did some spot interviews with ordinary and some not-so-ordinary people of the city and asked them what they felt about US President Obama’s visit to India. Most of the replies were positive; some baffling and some outright hilarious! Read on…

First of all, I asked Vaishali, who works as a cook and also gives beauty parlour services at home. She sends her only son to a pricey school to study and so is clearly upwardly mobile. When I asked her about the excitement over the visit and what she felt, she asked frankly “Who is he? Never heard such a name – Obama?” I said he is the President of another very important country. She asked ” Pakistan?” (Just then on the TV screen, Obama and Michelle stepped out of Air force One and began descending the steps). Vaishali looked at them curiously and said ” Oh! they seem from one of those countries which have lots of forests and only black people live there!”


Next I asked Sudipto Roy, Ph.D. , who is originally from Nagpur but now working in an MNC in USA. He was in Nagpur to attend a wedding in the family.
“This is a very significant day for India” he said. “I know American Presidents have come to India before also but this time many of our interests are the same and we could be forming a new strategic partnership in Asia. China and Russia have begun moves of coming together again and USA too needs an ally in the region. They cannot go with any of the other countries – Pakistan is like a whore who will go with anyone for pecuniary gains. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc are too small to matter. Afghanistan is always unstable, so that leaves India. India is already a regional power and needs someone like USA to counter China. USA and India could be good for each other.”

My third interviewee was Niranjan, who works as a Head waiter in a big city hotel where the wedding was happening. He was aware of Obama’s visit and hoped “good things will come for Indians out of this”. What do you expect for yourself, I asked. “Better job opportunities, higher salaries, scope to do business” he replied. While speaking to me he called out to a junior employee and asked him to scoop up some tissues from the carpet. His name was Naseem.

“So Naseem, what do you think about President Obama’s visit today?” I asked him.
“No, not today he is coming tomorrow. Yes, definitely ‘woh kal hi aa rahe hai’.”
Why tomorrow, I asked thinking Naseem will say for the Republic Day parade.
“He is coming for some family function which is happening tommorow” Naseem replied, proud of his GK and walked away.

I asked some students and young medicos. They were all super excited and said they are proud of how India is being viewed as a nation to watch out for by foreign powers now.
“Modi showed great courage in inviting an American President for the Republic Day. It is happening for the first time. We are becoming a powerful, progressive and developed nation that is why Obama agreed to come. It is a good change and we are happy it is happening in our times” was the general consensus.

At this same wedding venue, I spied a couple who looked lost and forlorn in the city gathering. The man was wearing dhoti and his wife the nine yard saree. I went up to them and asked them if they knew who was visiting India today.

“No, I don’t know, I didn’t get to read any newspapers for some days” the man replied. US Prez Obama is coming, I informed him. Had he heard the name?
“I am just a farmer, living in a village near Nagpur. How would I know who this man is?” His wife was alarmed at the negative replies her husband was giving and thinking we should not think badly of him she spoke up. ” See, we do farming on this Doctor’s lands whose daughter is getting married today. It was so kind of them to invite us, but my husband is disturbed because the year has been bad for farmers.
“Yes” concurred the farmer. ” This year we will get only 4 ‘anna’ produce. What money will we make for all our hard work?” If you get 16 anna, do you still make money or incur losses? I asked. “Of course we make money. Even if the yield is 12 anna we make some money” he replied, his pride hurt. These two were clearly the least interested in the visitors to Delhi so I moved on.

A group of Doctors were standing together and hotly discussing some issues. I went up to them and asked them the question.

“Oh! We are very happy with the development. Modi has made us proud. Did you see how President Obama hugged Modi? Kya bat hai is admi mein!” Replied Dr. Sunil Joshi.

Taking me aside, another Doctor, a famous Naturopath of the city said a little irately “Modi hugged Obama, not the other way round! And what do these hugs mean? Nothing. They do it for the photo opportunity. Let us see if the Nuclear deal moves forward with his visit? Personally, I don’t want it to happen. Look at what happened at Chernobyl or Japan recently. Just remember Bhopal!”

On the first floor of this hotel an exhibition of fashion ware was going on. I asked a group of three ladies busy purchasing hand bags what they felt about the visit.
“It is very nice, what is happening. The Prime Minister of USA is visiting our Prime Minister” replied one lady. Listening to our talk, the man from Indore whose stall it was also spoke up “Yes. It is the first time after our independence that the Prime Minister of Amrica is visiting Bharat.” Hmm…naturally, I thought, it will be a first if and when USA starts having Prime Ministers!

But the most hilarious are the whatsapp messages that are going viral on Nagpur phones today. A friend read out one such message to me:

‘Today Obama and his wife landed at Sonegaon airport where they drove in a big black car to Hotel Hardeo. After getting ready they stepped outside and had breakfast at a Poha stall of Baldi – tarri marke!
Phir woh dono Devendra bhau se milne jayenge aur time mila toh Futala pe boating bhi karenge…Aaj Nagpur ke liye bahut hee suhana din hai!’

When she was reading this message for me, a salesgirl from another stall selling designer wear asked seriously ” do you think after they finish boating in Futala they will come for our exhibition?”

..Sunita Mudaliar