While the Golden Temple in Amritsar is no longer on their itinerary,US President Barack Obamas wife,Michelle Obama,can trace her links to Punjab back to 1961 when her uncle,Nomenee Robinson,worked in the state as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Robinson,an architect,was sent to Punjab to assist in building projects. Based at the Punjab Engineering College,he was associated with the institutes rural housing wing. He worked under then Punjab Financial Commissioner for Development Anthony Fletcher (ICS officer).
During his field work,Robinson stayed in Nasirpur village near
Patiala,where he helped the residents in fabricating structures using a Cinva-Ram machine to make bricks from soil,sand,straw and a fraction of cement. In the course of his two-year stay in Punjab,Robinson travelled extensively with Indian engineers throughout the state,visiting Ludhiana,Sangrur,Jalandhar and Amritsar.
Asked about his Punjab stay,Robinson,now 73 and a Peace Corps recruiter,said in an e-mail to The Indian Express: It crosses my mind every year since I left. I would love to be involved in some way with strategic and economic planning for regions of India.
Robinson,who went on to do his MBA from Harvard Business School after returning from India,said he enjoyed Punjabi food and hospitality. His best friends were a mix of Sikhs and Hindus,he said,recalling some names like Muktiah Singh,Jugdesh,Tunji,Vir,Raju and Sohan Lal.
Besides Punjab,Robinson also went to Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. For three months,he was sent on an assignment to begin construction of trekking huts above Manali. It was a most exciting,and sometimes thrilling,exposure to India and the cultures in the north, said Robinson.
Im proud to say I know India and its people in small ways,but profound ones, said Robinson,adding that he found his visit to Chandigarh spellbinding,since he had read about the place during his university years.
Recalling some of his unforgettable memories,Robinson said: On one occasion,Mr Fletcher took me to New Delhi when he assisted in Five Year Plan sessions. He arranged for me to chat with Jawaharlal Nehru in his private office. I shall never forget that experience,one that few Americans have ever had. I,a small boy from the inner city of Chicago,drinking tea,sitting and talking with one of the greatest men in our lifetime.