"Youngsters now more aware about environment than my generation"
The students of Holy Name High School in Colaba remained star struck well after the Obamas had left. U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle were unlike any political heads they had ever seen or imagined. They danced to a folk song in Marathi and shook hands and spoke to most of the students present on a Sunday morning and paid minute attention to the science exhibition they had taken a week to put up.
While students of the fourth to seventh standard danced the traditional Koli fisherfolk community's dance “Mee Hai Koli,” Michelle joined in readily and showed she could move gracefully and in tune with her younger performers. Mr. Obama made a fuss that he was not asked to dance and the older boys from the 10th standard dragged him on to the floor. He asked if he would have to remove his shoes. Clad in a white shirt with rolled up sleeves and tie, he too plunged in with gusto.
The President and his wife arrived at the school around 9.30 a.m. After going through the science exhibition, Mr. Obama said he was happy that youngsters were now more aware about the environment than his generation. His own children too were like that, he said. The students had put up an exhibition on green energy and set up models of windmills, rainwater harvesting and green villages.
Mr. Obama asked the students how long it had taken them to prepare the exhibition and he was impressed enough to say that he would like to take tips on public speaking from them. He ticked off the media saying a tree a day keeps global warming away, in case they had missed it.
The President said the school students at the town hall style meeting at St Xavier's too had concerns for the environment.
Mr. Obama lit the lamps for Diwali along with Michelle, and clapped in tune to a Hindi film song, the meaning of which Union Minister Salman Khursheed explained to him.
The programme lasted nearly an hour and, after the Obamas left, students were in awe and couldn't believe they had actually danced with the U.S. President and his wife.
Purnima, one of the students said: “I did not believe this was happening.” The others said the Obamas chatted with them in a very relaxed manner.
The Obamas shook hands, chatted, signed autographs and were happy to pose for pictures with the students and their parents.
Students had put up posters saying “Happy to see you Obama” and were worrying for a week whether they would actually get to meet the President.
The Koli song was specially chosen to highlight the tradition of Maharashtra. The Kolis are said to be the original inhabitants of Mumbai.