Obamas' Visit was Diwali 'Dhamaka' for School

By Dibyojyoti Baksi

Mumbai, Nov 7 (IANS) "It was the best Diwali gift and we had an amazing experience," was the universal response of the overwhelmed staff and students of Holy Name School where US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spent half-an-hour talking, chatting and dancing with students and shaking hands with their parents.

"It was an amazing experience for all of us. It was a beautiful experience. They were so beautiful, so wonderful both of them. They made us feel at home in our own school," principal Father Michael Pinto told IANS immediately after the Obamas left the school premises.

"We gave them gifts, they gave us gifts like chocolates and candles. They danced, they clapped, they had a blast. It was a Diwali 'dhamaka' (blast). They also saw our science projects. He said 'your children are very smart'."

The school gifted the Obamas a portrait of Jesus and a wall hanging.

"We gave him a portrait of the Holy Name of Jesus to whom our school is dedicated to and a wall hanging depicting the lord as our Shepherd as a token of our love and appreciation," said Father Pinto.

Seher Pathan, school councillor and the event manager of the programme, said: "They (Obamas) inaugurated the ceremony by lighting up the lamp."

During their visit, the Obamas matched steps with utmost perfection with the children who performed a Koli dance for them.

The teacher who choreographed the dance, said: "It was such a fast dance, but they picked the steps up as the children were doing it. Holy Name has created history today. The name of the school will be written in golden words.

"I was pinching myself whether I am dreaming or seeing Obama live. He was just like a father figure. He was so humble, so graceful, it was very nice experience and the best was when both of them hugged me."

The children who performed were in seventh heaven.

"First Obama came and said, 'Hello everybody'. Then he saw the exhibition and then saw the Koli dance and they both danced with us, shook hand with us, gave autographs, took photos and gave chocolates to all of us," Tejeshri Ashoke Cherekar, a class 7 student, told IANS.

Shruti Vinod Bhalerao, who is in class 6 and performed, said: "It was a fantastic experience. I shook hands for three times all through his stay."

Security was beefed up at the school and parents had to go through three rounds of checking before they were allowed to enter, but they had no complaints as inside the premises everything was at ease and everyone was allowed to get close to the Obamas.

"Our Diwali can never be better than this. He is the most powerful man. We were given IDs and no one one was stopped from meeting him," said Shruti's mother Sunita Vinod Bhalero.

The IDs were given to only one parent - either the father or mother of each child.

Another parent, Vicky Tambe, said: "We were so happy to see him dancing with the children. And we are also happy that we got to see Obama. I also shook hands with him."

"My fingers were crossed, Oh god all should go well! When they walked in, their body language was so normal; they had no attitude; and they were not throwing their weight around. Mr. Obama, as soon he entered the room, personally went to each of the guests seated there and shook hands with them. After that he took his seat," Tambe added.

One girl student even touched Michelle Obama's feet in Indian style of taking blessings from elders. The First Lady was a little taken aback before recovering to hug the little girl.

The Obamas were in the school for 30 mins, after which they went to the St. Xavier's College before leaving for New Delhi.


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