During the two-day visit of the US president, while the lives of many reporters were on the fast track, the residents of south Mumbai were confined to their homes due to security arrangements. No wonder, they celebrated their ‘freedom’ after Barack Obama left the city
It may sound strange, but on Saturday and Sunday, lives of countless reporters as well as residents from south Mumbai were held 'hostage' by the establishment for making 'arrangements' for US president Barack Obama and Co. While our friends from the media were running from one place to another like there would be no news left for the next moment, the residents, particularly from Colaba (Mumbai's southern tip) were locked in their homes.
No wonder, when Mr President left for New Delhi on Sunday noon, the relieved reporters and Colaba residents started celebrating the festival of lights or Diwali.
This may sounds strange especially for a country which believes in Athithi Devo Bhava (one's guest is God), and may appear quite rude, but it's true. Many reporters gave vent to their 'relief' through blogs, social networks or SMS.
A reporter wrote: "Obama gone to Delhi.... Schedule back to normal.... Normal?? Who wants life to be normal anyway... Someone else... pls come to India!!!"
Similarly, another reporter was quite frank. He said: "President Obama has gone (to Delhi) & the Diwali festival for Mumbai journalists truly begins today. Last three days most of us were preoccupied chasing him. Although it spoiled our Diwali, it was a really interesting experience covering his Mumbai visit... Some incidents were funny 'n' ridiculous too... Will post on my blog soon."
The chase left many reporters tired throughout the day and night. After Mr Obama left the city, here is what a reporter said: "Ok breathing again... but feel as if my legs are a separate entity from the rest of my body. Tired, aching & foot massage calling!!"
During his visit to Mumbai, Mr Obama interacted with some college students as well. Here is what the students have to offer on Mr President. One said, "Obamalicious!!" Another replied, "But this (the interaction) was nothing short of disappointment, he (Mr Obama) dodged every question."
While students went gaga over the interaction, media members were fuming, not because they had to cover the event but because they were called early in the morning at the spot. One reporter, who opted out of the interactive event said, "You guys know how happy I am with Obama's visit. This takes the cake. All teams covering tomorrow's (Sunday) 10am event at St Xavier's College asked to come with their camera equipment at 5.00am!! RIDICULOUS....Wise was I to opt out of this all :)".
The US president and his wife visited Holy Name High School in Colaba, where Michelle Obama, the first lady, participated in a koli (fisherman) dance. Even Mr President shook a leg or two to the tune of a koli song.
Here is a reporter's take on the dancing event. "'Nach Baliye' (the TV dance show for couples)... must have been eying Mr & Ms Obama for their next season... Both danced very well to Indian tunes... specially Marathi koli geet," the reporter said.
The other one, however, was more worried about the mid-term elections in the US, where Mr Obama's Democratic Party faced a dramatic defeat. The reporter said, "Loved seeing Barack O's face when Michelle was dancing in Mumbai. But I think Barack (Obama) enjoyed the recent elections more than his time on the dance floor."
Although the Indian media is known to go overboard and turn any news item into a celebrity show, this time, maybe due to the security and TRP pressures, they did put up a good show.
Commenting on the Obama coverage, a journalist-turned-PR executive said, "I was watching Obama stories by you all, and could imagine the effort taken for them... Show goes on... Whether it's Diwali or Dussehra... but watching from outside was fun..."
As far as the residents of south Mumbai are concerned, they also heaved a sigh of relief after the visit got over. They came out of their homes and danced and lighted crackers in order to commence their (freedom?) Diwali celebrations.
Finally, here are some questions that many reporters had in their minds - but could not ask Mr Obama...
1) Mr President, how does America view the changing political landscape in Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation?
2) Is it true that Michelle Obama has been allotted a flat in Adarsh Society?
3) Is it true that your arrival was delayed by an hour because Air Force One kept circling over (the proposed) Navi Mumbai airport before realising the folly?
4) Did Praful Patel (civil aviation minister) personally frisk you as he was frisked in the US?
5) Mr President, is it true that Rajnikanth refused to meet you as he is busy with his next movie, "Robot...the President"?
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New Delhi: India today asserted that it was not in the business of stealing American jobs, even as US president Barack Obama said that deals with India to create 50,000 jobs back home were aimed at assuaging citizens' fears, reports PTI.
"India is not in the business of stealing jobs from the US... outsourcing (work to India) has helped improve the productive capacity and productivity of America," Prime minister Manmohan Singh said at a joint press conference with visiting US president Barack Obama at Hyderabad House here.
The two leaders committed to enhance the bilateral cooperation in technology transfer, enhancement of trade and investment flow to create jobs in the respective nations and raise the living standards.
Replying to a question on outsourcing, the US president, who earlier met the Indian leader and held delegation level talks, said that both countries were operating on stereotypes that have outlived their usefulness and clarified that he hasn't raised the outsourcing bogey during this trip.
To a specific question on the purpose of his visit, Mr Obama said part of the reason why he advertised creation of 50,000 jobs from deals signed in Mumbai during his visit, was to tell people in America why he spent so much time in India.
His visit came in the backdrop of electoral reverses in the US Congress for Mr Obama's Democratic Party, amid criticism of his economic policies and the president summed up the situation, saying that people were frustrated with high unemployment level and difficult economic conditions.
During his visit, over 20 deals worth $10 billion were signed between the corporations of the two nations.
Mr Obama said the relationship between the two nations as a defining partnership of the 21st century and acknowledged India's emergence as a prominent and key player on the global stage.
On his part, Mr Singh welcomed American initiative and commitment to support India, saying this was essential for sustaining 9%-10% growth over the next three decades.
He pointed out that India needed $1 trillion of investment in infrastructure over the next five years.
One of the major steps agreed during his visit was lifting of controls in exports of technology by the US to India. The US has strict export control regime for the know-how, which has applications for both military and civil uses, and India was denied the same.
"We will remove Indian organisations from the so-called entity list, which will allow greater cooperation in a range of hi-tech sector like civil space and defence," he said.
The Indian prime minister hailed the US decision and said: "This is a manifestation of growing trust and confidence of each other."
In his opening remarks, Mr Obama stressed that the US expanded trade and investments to create prosperity for the people of the two nations. "The major trade deals that were signed in Mumbai were a clear step forward in elevating India as US' top trading partner.
"We have agreed to keep reducing trade barriers and resist protectionism," he added.
He said the purchase of US cargo planes by India will create 22,000 jobs in America.
The two countries have agreed to enhance cooperation in several areas including agriculture. The cooperation would cover weather and crop forecast, critical to Indian agriculture which employs more than 50% of its people, Mr Singh said.
Replying to a question on concerns in the US over trade surpluses in several countries, Obama praised India for maintaining a balance.
"India has been a part of the solution and not problem," he said.
The issue of big trade surplus by China and problems relating to its currency are likely to come up in the coming meeting of the global G-20 leaders next week in Seoul, South Korea.
Mr Singh said the US is one of India's largest trading partners and "Our trade is balanced. India is among the fastest growing sources of investment in the US and the investments have helped increase competitiveness of the US economy."
Total trade between the two nations is over $36.5 billion in 2009-10 with exports constituting $19.53 billion and imports $16.97 billion.
A number of memorandums of understandings (MoUs) were signed between the two countries. These related to energy cooperation, shale gas resources, petroleum and natural gas.
The energy cooperation covered assessment of shale gas resources in Indian basins. The US geological survey will carry out studies in this area and help India tide over its energy shortages.