I am a Delhiwala, a product of India: Malawi president (Lead)

January 8th, 2010 - 4:03 pm ICT by IANS  

By Devirupa Mitra
Lilongwe (Malawi), Jan 8 (IANS) There is a “Delhiwala” ruling a country of 13.5 million people in the heart of Africa. At least that is how Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika introduced himself at a state banquet in honour of visiting Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari.

“I consider myself a Delhiwala,” Mutharika said to the clapping of hands Thursday night. He had done his Bachelor of Commerce and Masters in Economics from Delhi University and then left for the US for his doctorate studies.

“I am myself a product of India,” asserted Mutharika, who was re-elected for a second time in 2009. Citing his success story, he urged more cooperation from India in the education sector. Malawi is a small, land-locked southern African nation.

He said the five years of study in India were continuous and without a break to return to Malawi. “That was because as a student I was always broke and didn’t have enough to come home,” he said.

Then, during the holidays, he travelled extensively in India in all the regions from Jaipur to Chennai. “I am very fond of Punjabi bhangra. But people with rheumatism should not try it,” he advised.

Mutharika had returned to Delhi for a short trip of 13 days in 1994.

Ansari invited him to visit India to “see how much India has changed since your college days in New Delhi four decades ago”.

The Malawian government has accorded Ansari’s visit the protocol of a state visit - with the president hosting the banquet.

The state banquet was held in a massive white tent in the lawns of a hotel in Lilongwe, after a pavilion in the State House lawns collapsed under heavy rains Thursday afternoon.

There had been intermittent rains throughout the day in the country, turning the lush countryside of Malawi even more intensely green.

The host government then prepared the tables and chairs in the lawns of hotel Sunbird Capital, where Ansari and his entourage were staying, even as the guests - the elite of Malawian society and diplomatic community - had arrived at the tent. It finally started about two hours after the scheduled time.

Malawi has not witnessed too many high level visits in the recent past, though it will now take up a high profile diplomatic role as the next chairman of the 53-member African Union.

As the arrangements had to be made at very short notice, the state banquet became a buffet dinner, with members of the delegation, including the accompanying Indian Minister of State for Labour and Employment Harish Rawat and other senior officials standing in queue for the food.

The menu included goat stew, lamb curry and the local specialty of cassava.

Entertainment was provided by the local police band, with garba dance by women of the local Indian community. There was also a special tribal dance called chisammva, in which the singers sang about their joy at the visit of the Indian vice president.

Ansari is on a three-nation African journey to spread goodwill from India, where he started with Zambia and will end with Botswana.

(Devirupa Mitra can be contacted at devirupa.m@ians.in)

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