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'I didn't feel I was with the President of America'

February 26, 2020 10:00 IST
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Nitin Singh, tourist guide, spent 75 minutes with Donald and Melania Trump at the Taj Mahal.
'They were very down to earth and listening to me intently as I told them the story of the Taj and the Mughals.'

NItin Singh, tourist guide at Taj Mahal, showed the Trumps around the monument

IMAGE: Nitin Singh, tourist guide at the Taj Mahal, with President Donald J Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during their visit to the famous mausoleum, February 24, 2020. All photographs: Kind courtesy Nitin Singh

The other Indian -- besides Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi -- with whom Donald and Melania Trump spent maximum time in India was Nitin Singh.

The tourist guide from Agra spent one hour and fifteen minutes of 'alone time' with POTUS and FLOTUS at the Taj Mahal on Monday.

"They are extremely nice people, so humble and down to earth. I didn't feel I was with the President of America. I felt as if they were like normal tourists," says Singh who was selected from among nearly 30 guides interviewed by the US embassy in New Delhi.

Singh conducted guided tours for two separate teams of White House staffers around the Taj Mahal before receiving the final approval.

Nitin Singh with the family of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

IMAGE: Nitin Singh with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family after he gave them a tour of the Taj Mahal.

"President Trump was amazed at the size of the monument and its white marble. He wanted to know where it was acquired from," Singh tells Archana Masih/ over the telephone from Agra.

"They both marveled at the intricate inlay work on the graves of the king and queen."

"Mrs Trump was extremely kind and generous," says Singh, a tourist guide since 2008 who has been besieged with calls after his post-Trump stardom.

Tourist guide Kamal Gupta was entrusted the responsibility of showing the Taj to Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and other guests accompanying the American president.

Nitin Singh with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu

IMAGE: Nitin Singh with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Taj Mahal.

Had it not been for the death of a Saudi king, Nitin Singh would have been the guide for then US President Barack Obama in January 2015.

He had been selected by the US embassy, but King Abdullah's death resulted in Barack and Michelle Obama curtailing the Taj visit and flying to Saudi Arabia en route to Washington, DC.

This time, the American president's 36-hour whirlwind tour across three cities went off with military precision.

And President Trump hasn't stopped showering effusive tributes to India at every opportunity!

"I was not expecting the president to be so keen about the story of the Taj and the Mughals. I could explain the details calmly without rushing. They were listening to me intently," adds Singh.

"I gave them a brief history of the Mughals including who they were, where they came from, how long they ruled India, how they generated revenue, how powerful and wealthy they were."

Nitin Singh with French President Emmanuel Macron

IMAGE: Nitin Singh with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Singh had been briefed by the White House advance team to go with the flow and answer queries as and when President Trump asked. He says he was nervous, but the guests made him feel at ease.

"The team from the White House and secret service gave me liberty to make them feel special."

As someone who goes the to Taj Mahal almost every day, Singh is mesmerized by its magnificence.

"As you walk towards the Taj and see the clouds moving behind the dome, you cannot take your eyes off it. And on a day like yesterday when there is no one -- it is like gazing at a celestial building. It is amazing," says Singh.

With Actor Sir Ben Kingsley

IMAGE: Nitin Singh with actor Sir Ben Kingsley who played Gandhi in Richard Attenborough's epic Gandhi.

Explaining the magnificence of the Taj Mahal to foreign dignitaries is not out of the ordinary for Nitin Singh.

He has served as a guide to French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Sir Ben Kingsley.

Though Americans outnumber all other foreign tourists who visit the Taj Mahal, Singh is enthused that President Trump told him that his visit will encourage more Americans to come and see the Taj.

With former California Governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger

IMAGE: Nitin Singh, right, with former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, centre.

At the end of the tour, the Trumps thanked him and told him that he had made their visit memorable.

"I asked if they would take a picture with me and they said they would love to. The president told the White House official photographer to send me some pictures too," says Singh, adding that he will frame and hang the photographs on the wall.

"If I get a chance, I will probably visit the White House," says Singh whose US visa expires in 2023.

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