Residents of a village in Gurgaon’s Sector 23A look at the newly-elected US President with hope. Donald Trump, they believe, will help them with development work in their area, something successive central and state governments, and a previous American President, despite his “best intentions”, failed to do.
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Gurgaon’s Carterpuri is named after the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, who, along with his wife, Rosalynn, spent some time in the village during the couple’s visit to India in 1978.
The older residents of the village still remember the day of their visit — January 3 — vividly and with fondness. Village lore claims that Carter’s mother, Lillian, spent a considerable amount of time here while she was a nurse in Bombay in the 1960s. Residents believe she convinced her son to visit Carterpuri, then known as Chuma Kheragaon, during his trip to India.
According to villagers, the entire area underwent a transformation in anticipation of the President’s visit. “They repaired the roads, cleaned up the streets, and cordoned off the area for 24 hours before their visit,” said Ramesh Chand, an older resident of Carterpuri, who owns a general store in the village.
When President Carter arrived, he was accompanied by his wife as well as various officials from the central and state government, including the then Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai. “He was taken around the entire village, and the PM even tied a Haryanvi pagdi on his head at the village chaupal,” said Attar Singh, a cloth store owner who was 24.
Singh burst into laughter as he recalled how Rosalynn Carter was, similarly, given a traditional Haryanvi dress to wear. “They covered her face with the dupatta, as women would traditionally do, and the President kept lifting it up to look at her face. Each time she put it down, he would lift it up,” recalls Attar Singh.
Residents of the village also recall Carter’s fascination with bajre ki roti and channe ka saag, after he spontaneously ventured into the kitchen of a village resident. “He picked up the roti and looked at it, transferring it from one hand to the other. They aren’t accustomed to our food, he probably thought it was a plate or something,” said Ramesh Chand.
Residents say the decision to change the name of the village was taken at the suggestion of Prime Minister Desai, at a panchayat held during Carter’s visit. That panchayat, however, has also led to great disappointment for residents, who recall Jimmy Carter showing interest in “adopting” the village and working towards its development.
“Morarji Desai rejected the offer and said the government, instead, would help us, but he never kept his promise,” said Kartar Singh, who was a post office master at the time, adding, “If he (Desai) had only remained silent, we would be in an entirely different state today.”
Kartar Singh, however, possesses some of the village’s most precious documents — pictures of Carter’s visit and three letters that serve as proof of the correspondence shared by the President, his wife, and the residents of the village. Placing hope in Trump, Singh said, “He mentioned Modi in his speeches, and because of that all the Indians in America voted for him. Now he should pay back the people of India by working for our development.”