Ajaybhai Lakshmibhai (33) from Behrampura was at the Riverfront park on the east bank of the Sabarmati river, across the Gandhi Ashram on the west bank, since 8 am on Monday, hoping to catch a glimpse of the President of the United States Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their visit to the ashram.
“We could not see anyone… we just stood in this heat since morning. It would have been better to watch them on TV,” said a disappointed Ajaybhai.
On this side of the river in Shahibaug area, the Gandhi ashram buildings appear as specks. Marigold garlands decorated the parapet of the riverfront embankment where people stood hoping to catch a glimpse of the esteemed guests across the river where colourful silk flags fluttered. But they had to be happy watching the float in the middle of the river that said ‘Namaste T-R-U-M-P’ backwards. A river-cleaning machine chugged away removing algae, triggering ripples across still waters.
Ranjan Prajapati (27), a housewife, who came with her husband, who is a driver with the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation, and their five-year-old daughter, was disappointed but was glad that her daughter enjoyed. “We came from Bapunagar. We have been standing here since 9 am and we could not even see Trump. We are hungry, my five-year-old has not had anything to eat here. We brought her because we were told that we are being taken to the stadium, about which she was excited. But then we were dropped here,” she said.
BJP workers were enthusiastically shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in anticipation of the VVIPs hearing them across the bank. Megha Ajmera, general secretary of Mahila Morcha of BJP who was among them, said, “We did not mobilise, people were just excited to witness this. For a month we have been hearing about the event and it has been very exciting.”
Jaya Khubani an IT professionals’ recruiter with American firm, Paul May & Associates, said, “May be after his (Trump’s) visit , India US relationships will strengthen and the process for H1B visas will become smoother. When he got elected, he cut down the issuance of H1B. Now things may change,”
Both Ajmera and Khubani agreed that given the upcoming American elections, the President is looking to reach out to the Indian diaspora. This prospect did not go unnoticed even by ninth grader Shreni Mutta from Jamnabai Narsee School in Gandhinagar who was excited to catch a glimpse of the US president along with his “beast car”.
Mutta reasoned that the visit could be because “he has recently come out of the impeachment process and the presidential elections are due on November, which might help him as many Gujaratis reside in America”.
Zubeda, 47, a tailor by profession who came from Danilimda, said, “I don’t think there was any point of all this. They came, they left, and we are the ones who have to undergo hardship,” referring to the walk in the sun without getting a glimpse of the US President.
Chela Parmar, a BJP worker from Behrampura, contended Ajaybhai. “Everyone expects the US President and PM will stop and shake hands with them. That is not possible. If you look intently enough, anyone could have seen them sitting inside the car.”
Sweating through 30 degrees Celsius, a 47-year old resident of Maninagar said, “If this results in a trade deal, it will be worth it. It is our money being spent and we don’t even have a say on how they are blowing it up for this event. When they needed us, they dropped us on the correct spot but now that the show is over I am walking three kilometres to reach the bus.
As the presidential cavalcade passed en route Sardar Patel stadium, a bystander wondered why the Potus is here. “Who knows what’s the insider strategy. May be he is doing it for the Gujarati votes (in the US).”
A 75-year-old housewife from the neighbouring Spectrum Tower, said, “My home is five-minute walk from here. None of this matters to me really but now I can always say I saw the US President face-to-face. At least the city is shining because he is coming…”
Chirag, a 34-year-old farmer from Himmatnagar, said, “We came at around 9 am from Himmatnagar and neighbouring villages and we were informed approximately a week ago that we will have to come here because President Trump and our PM are coming. I think approximately 5,000 people have come from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts.”
Of them, at least 50 women involved with Sabar dairy, a plant of Amul in Sabarkantha district, were specially brought in and positioned on a stage in the hope that the cavalcade would stop by. However, the Prime Minister’s entourage as well as the American dignitaries sped past enroute Gandhi Ashram from the airport and from there to Sardar Patel stadium.
(With inputs from Disha Palkhiwala)
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