India soaks in Obama moment with parties - and some poetry too

January 20th, 2009 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) Obamamania swept India in its warm embrace Tuesday. Soulful ghazals, a black-tie inaugural ball, diplomats and officers toasting the moment and gala parties were just some of the ways Indians and expatriate Americans celebrated the epochal swearing-in of America’s first black president Barack Obama. In New Delhi, the seat of power and the hub of politicians of all stripes, there was a mood of optimism and caution as the foreign office braced to deal with the incoming administration on issues close to its heart.

“We will all be watching the inaugural on our TV screens. And we will be carefully listening to every word Obama says, especially regarding his foreign policy, as it could have a bearing on India,” said a diplomat who did not wish to be named.

There was no party planned by the US embassy, but the American Center was lit up and the mood was one of quiet celebration.

“We will be celebrating the peaceful transition from one administration to the next administration, a hallmark of great democracies,” Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, spokesperson of the US embassy in New Delhi, told IANS.

But like many of her colleagues in the diplomatic fraternity, she would be going to a private party to soak in this important moment in the US history. American expatriates had also organised a black-tie inaugural ball.

The American Chamber of Commerce and the US embassy in New Delhi have also organised an Obama inaugural party to which top business executives, politicians and diplomats have been invited. Giant TV screens will be erected to bring the inaugural ceremony live to the audience.

Many American expatriates opted for the privacy of their homes to watch all the action live on TV.

“It’s a historic moment. I will prefer to watch it at home,” said CNN correspondent Elizabeth Neisoloss.

If it was business as usual in New Delhi, the famously resilient Mumbai, which bore the brunt of a massive terror attack nearly two months ago, was not afraid to display its flamboyant streak.

The US Consulate and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) were all set for spirited partying that was expected to go well beyond midnight. Security jinks had clearly not dampened the spirits of Obama enthusiasts and revellers. The party was preceded by a film on Obama, said an American Centre spokesperson.

The venue would then shift to Hotel J.W. Marriott in Juhu where the inaugural pageantry would be broadcast live on giant TV screens from 10.30 p.m. The Marriott party, expected to be attended by US Consul General in Mumbai Paul Folmsbee, would be a celebrity-studded affair where the power elite of the city would assemble — perhaps also to catch up on all the latest gossip and display their knowledge of world affairs.

This would kick off a week of a series of events, including a panoramic view of black history and the proposed visit of Martin Luther King III along with some Congressmen to India next month.

Jaimini Oza, a well-heeled NRI who landed in Mumbai from New York only last week, captured the mood of optimism among over two million Indian-Americans.

“Cutting across all affiliations, Indians are hopeful that new President Barack Obama will effectively handle the challenges before the US and the entire world,” Oza said.

In Kolkata, a city of poets, artists and café intellectuals, the Obama moment brought out the poetic streak, with a little enterprise from the US Consulate that organised an evening of poetry to mark this epoch-making event. The American Centre was adorned with big cutouts of the US first black president, Stars and Stripes and posters.

“About eight poets from different parts of eastern India will participate in the event. The poetry recitation will continue for one hour while the ghazal session will be of two-hour duration,” said US consulate official in Kolkata Rafiq Anwar. All the poems and songs would be based on Obama.

Down south, the mood was slightly subdued but not entirely bland.

In India’s IT city Bangalore, there would be some wining and dining but nothing on a spectacular scale. Chennai had big party plans with five star hotels readying to host the city’s elite.

Hyderabad chose to be more radical in spirit with some officers seeing the Obama presidency as a festival of the oppressed. Impressed by Obama’s stirring message of hope, diplomats, police officers and bureaucrats, specially those from the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and minorities, organised a party at a hotel to soak in this history-making moment.

There were also celebrations at the recently opened US consulate, which will start processing visa applications later this month. Americans settled here and some eminent citizens from different walks of life have been invited for the celebrations.

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