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When President Obama danced to Meebai Koli

Last updated on: November 7, 2010 20:58 IST

When President Obama danced to Meebai Koli

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel in Mumbai
Rediff.com's Vaihayasi Pande Daniel speaks to students at Holy Name High School who shared the stage with Barack and Michelle Obama on Sunday morning.
The students of Holy Name High School may have been welcoming the most powerful man on earth, but they were not short on humour.

The posters up at the school welcoming America's first couple had Barack all puffed up with beefy muscles in a Superman suit and Michelle demure and extra feminine in a traditional Maharashtrian sari.

Other posters had messages like 'We welcome the most powerful man and lady of the world Mr and Mrs Obama to our school.'

Barack Obama

Equally intriguing was the lively Koli dance presented to the Obamas by children between the ages of seven and 12, with baskets on their hips in the school hall that was decked out with garlands, rangoli and kandeels.

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Image: A poster depicting Obama as Superman
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com
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'I didn't feel I was interacting with the President. I felt he was my friend!'

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America's personable First Couple -- she smartly dressed in black and white checks with a pink jacket and he more casual in a tie and a crisp white shirt, with sleeves rolled up -- firmly and quickly dispensed with ceremony and matched that humour to get up onto the floor to join the children in the typical hip-swaying movements of Mumbai fisherfolk.

Says Juzer Furniturewala, the school head boy: "I did not feel at all that I was interacting with the president. I felt he was my friend!"

"We chose a Diya dance because it is Diwali time. We heard he wanted to celebrate Diwali with our kids," explains Shalini Kunder, a science teacher who supervised the projects on display for President Obama.

"Our children are mostly from the Colaba area and many of them are Kolis (belonging to fishing families) so we thought of putting up this traditional Diya dance and also the Koli dance."

Barack Obama

The spontaneity and sense of fun the president and his wife displayed made Sunday an enchanting morning for the 20 Holy Name children who met them.

Please click on the Next button to read their accounts


Image: School head boy Juzer Furniturewala with science teacher Shalini Kunder
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com
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'They are very good from their hearts'

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Abigail Akash Pillay, 13, Diya dancer
It was good. We had fun with Mr Obama.

They were very frank with children. I liked that they were attracted towards us. He liked our dance. He said Indian tradition is very good. He liked the dresses. He was very happy with us.

We were standing at the entrance when he came and lit the lamps. He said: "You are all looking very beautiful!" Even Mrs Michelle Obama said you are all looking very good.

They also looked nice. Were they well dressed? It is not necessary to be well dressed. They (the Obamas) are very good from their hearts.

Barack Obama

(In answer to if they were different from what she expected) I was a little bit surprised. We were actually telling each other that we cannot believe he is Obama the president of the United States. We were a little bit excited and nervous. We thought we will dance for them and they will like it, but when they got up and started dancing too, we felt very good.

My parents are very proud of me. They had fun seeing the president dancing with us!


Image: Abigail Pillay (centre) with other Diya dancers
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com
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'We have not yet seen India's president!'

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Urjeeta Moleshri, 12, Diya dancer
We practiced the Diya dance for just one week.

He told us you all are like my children. He... we... very... what to say now!... I have no words about him! I admired him because he was very nice and he was so good a man. I liked him verrrry much.

We have not yet seen India's president and we saw America's president!

My mother came (to see our performance). She told me you are very -- means very -- lucky that you met the president of the US.

Dharmesh Moleshri, 11, Koli dancer

Barack Obama

I practiced till five days. Maximum five days. They liked it too much! Obama told us he liked it.

They were very friendly. They don't have a habit of dancing Indian dances (yet they danced).

I don't think they came for any purpose. They come for us!


Image: Michelle Obama dances with children at the Holy Name School
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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'I am on the ninth cloud right now'

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Juzer Furniturewala, 15, Environment Project


It was very nice. We were not at all nervous. First, we were afraid. But we were not at all afraid that Mr President is with us, he is talking with us, he is interacting with us. He was like a friend.

His wife was also very nice. She interacted with us. She cheered us and said it was a very nice project. She appreciated us.

They did not look different from their pictures, but it was the first time I was seeing them with my eyes. I was satisfied that at last I have seen them.

Even now I am very happy. I am on the ninth cloud right now. They appreciated our project and the work and they said it is the future generation who are more creative and who will take more care of our environment.

Barack Obama

Michelle was attractive. She was also very friendly. Yes, very tall, taller than us. She helped Mr President light the diyas.

When I go home I will tell my dad that it was awesome, very nice, that we met him, interacted with him. It was great fun.


Image: Juzer Furniturewala

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'Mrs Obama dances better'

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Rakhi Issai, 12, Environment project

We were six students who had to explain our two projects (whose themes were an eco-friendly village and 'care for creation'). He loved our explanation.

He is a very frank person. Very sweet. No one was nervous looking at him.

We thought we would be nervous and forget what we had to say. But he is very frank. No one was nervous. It was a good exhibition.

He asked us questions like: As a student do you implement this in your life? As a student what can you do to save your mother earth?

We said we can plant more and more trees, we can give awareness to the people, we can save much electricity.

Smiles were there on their faces and because of that everything went smoothly and easily.

He does not act like the president of America. He was a simple person who was standing in front of us and we were talking to him.

I liked him very much. I want to meet him once again.

Barack Obama

And one more thing -- Mrs Obama and Mr Obama, they danced with us! They catch up (mastered) the steps very fast.

We were just showing them and they were dancing with us. That was great fun. They danced to Meebai Koli. It was surprise.

We just told her (Michelle Obama): Pleases Ma'am, please dance with us. And she just got up and she started dancing with us.

We had to tell (ask) President Obama two or three times and he danced with us (too). Mrs Obama dances better.

We got some small M and M gems from the White House. It is very good. Ya, I have eaten it already. I am going to frame the box!


Image: A science project on display
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com
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