Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao put aside his inhibitions as he mingled with the children at a public school in south Delhi.

After wielding the brush to paint Chinese characters in four different ways, Mr. Wen sensed the students' enthusiasm. With boys and girls from the Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, crowding around him, as security personnel looked on benignly, Mr. Wen began painting freestyle Chinese calligraphy and had the children repeat each character he drew.

The Chinese Premier took care to repeat the sentence he had written in four different styles to make sure the children memorised what he had put down — “China and India are friends.” His endeavour seemed to have worked. By the time he began making his way from the hall, the children were effortlessly reciting ‘Grandpa' Wen's [as one student wanted to know if he could call the Chinese Premier that] lesson.

Mr. Wen's interest was spontaneous and turned gregarious even before he took the brush — “I like practising Chinese calligraphy,” he said, “because where your heart goes, your brush will go.”

The three questions put to him appeared scripted and studiously apolitical. The first query on how much he knew about Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had Mr. Wen giving a detailed account of the “sage poet's” feelings and thoughts, mentioning the Geetanjali and his stay in Shanghai in the mid-1920s. At the end, Mr. Wen wanted to know how many marks he received for his effort. “Ten out of 10,” came the reply from Principal Madhulika Sen.

The second query was what impressions Chinese children have about India, to which the Chinese Premier replied effortlessly. In similar fashion, he tackled the final question, this time from a teacher, on how China had managed to become the number one country in many aspects.

But he came into his own when Ms. Sen wanted to know if he had a message for the children. “I hope all students will study hard and embrace independent thinking as said by Tagore. You will not only be a talent for the country, but serve as voice of friendship with people all over the world,” he said.

The Chinese Premier also expressed his happiness on having been told that the Chinese language would be introduced from Class VI by the Central Board for Secondary Education as it would give a “strong boost to the friendship and cooperation with China.” Mr. Wen saw it as a “very meaningful decision that would lend impetus to friendly relations between our two countries” and commended this “important linkage.”

And then Mr. Wen turned to yoga, which is very popular in China and even practised by some members of his extended family. “I have two kids in my family who practice yoga. Before coming here, I asked them to explain its essence in simple words. They said it promotes harmony between the body and the soul.”

Mr. Wen then linked the beneficial effect of practising yoga with Chinese calligraphy. “I do like practising Chinese calligraphy. So does our Foreign Minister. It promotes harmonious combination of heart and strength. They say where your heart grows, your brush will go. I hope I will be able to teach you some Chinese characters,” he said. And he was successful.

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