Obamas find Humayun’s Tomb ’spectacular’, interact with children (Second Lead)

November 7th, 2010 - 11:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) A relaxed US first couple looked like any other visitors to the Humayun’s Tomb, except for the scores of plainclothes Indian and US security personnel swarming around, the glare of cameras and the absence of any other tourists. The Obamas described the 16th century monument complex as “spectacular”.

The presidential black limousine drove up to the west gate of the Humayun’s Tomb complex, a World Heritage site, at 4.55 p.m. - the second engagement of the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle after arriving in New Delhi in the afternoon, as part of their four-day official visit to India.

Accompanied by Archaeological Survey of India’s superintending archaeologist K.K. Muhammad, the Obamas spent about half-an-hour walking through the monument, on which the more famous Taj Mahal is modelled. The first garden-tomb in India, the tomb was commissioned by Hamida Bano, the wife of the second Mughal emperor Humayun.

“Let’s take a look,” Obama was heard saying, as he walked up the stairs to the tomb.

In between, the Obamas, in a personal touch, interacted with the children of labourers employed by ASI for the conservation projects and even gave them gifts.

The children, aged between four to 13 years, gave an enthusiastic welcome in Hindi to the US first couple, who met them on the first floor terrace of the Mughal tomb. “Namaste,” said Obama to the children, some of whom were accompanied by their parents and the organisers of an ASI-run school in Tughlakabad.

Dressed in new uniforms of grey skirt or shorts and a red-checked shirt, they carried a black slate on which they had written in English - “Welcome to H.E (his excellency) US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama”.

“They said we should work hard and study more,” said Vishal, the eldest of the 14 children present at Humayun’s Tomb. While Vishal recognized the importance of the visitor, the younger children seemed rather overawed by the special attention bestowed on them.

Ten-year-old Puja struggled to name the visitor, “Maba, no.. Obaji”, before her cousin, Shiv Ram, 6, came to her rescue with an emphatic, “Obama”.

When asked if they knew why the two persons were important, they shyly shook their heads in the negative.

Ram Das, an ASI labourer and father of Vishal, was certainly impressed that the US president and his wife shook hands with all in their group. “He shook my hands and with everybody else. I really liked it,” he said.

All the children got gifts of a silver bookmark, embossed with the presidential seal and Obama’s signature. Immediately after Obama left Humayun’s Tomb, the children turned into media stars of the day as television channels vied to record their feelings.

As he left the venue at around 5.20 p.m., Obama remarked to the contingent of Indian and foreign media at the complex that the Indian capital seemed to be a “modern city rooted in civilization”.

Commenting to reporters on the workmanship of the structure, Obama said: “It took seven years to build this (monument). If you try to build something like this in seven years in the US, it will be tough. Good contractors,” before exiting with a comment of “spectacular”.

Writing in the visitor’s book, Barack and Michelle Obama said: “Through the rise and fall of empires, Indian civilization has endured and led the world to new heights of achievement. The world owes a profound debt to India and its people.”

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