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A champagne toast for Obama in Delhi

delhi Updated: Jan 21, 2009 11:52 IST
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With champagne glasses in hand and a gleam in their eyes, expatriate Americans, diplomats and socialites toasted the epochal moment in the Indian capital as the first black president of the US captivated the world with his message of choosing hope over fear to remake America.

Barack Obama's rich baritone boomed across from thousands of miles away in the heart of Lutyen's Delhi as men, sporting black ties and black tuxedos, and smartly-dressed women rehashed Obama lore and shared notes over their hopes and anxieties as the new president ushers in what many felt was "a new era" in American politics.

Recessionary fears appeared a distant echo, at least momentarily, as the guests sang and swayed happily at a black-tie inaugural ball, hosted by an American diplomat.

It was perhaps one of the coldest winter nights in Delhi, but that did not dampen their carnival spirits. Much like Obama's celebration of multi-cultural America, the choice of music was eclectic: funky rock numbers competed with peppy Indi-pop numbers to fire the revelers' spirits.

There were, however, no loud cheering and wails of joy that greeted Obama's November victory speech. Instead, there was a holy hush as they listened in rapt attention to the man "whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a restaurant" stood before billions of people watching him around the world taking "a most sacred oath."

Many looked visibly moved and appeared close to tears of joy, specially when Obama spoke about "beginning again the work of remaking America" and defeating the terrorists."

"This is truly a grand historic moment. We never thought this moment will come in our lifetime," said an American diplomat.
Others stood hypnotized by Obama's eloquence and sense of the moment and generously praised the man who has come to embody collective American thirst for renewal.

"He has become a messiah for Americans who are taking his promise of redemption seriously. We all hope he makes his promise true," Jesus Garcia, second secretary (economic affairs) at the US embassy, told IANS.

"It was a great speech and very moving," said Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, spokesperson of the American embassy.

American diplomats also appeared upbeat about the future of India-US relations. "This relationship will only grow and grow in the years to come. I was struck by sheer vibrancy of commercial enterprise in India," said Garcia.

Amid gaiety and celebratory toasts, there was much sober reflection over the direction the US will take in the next four years of the Obama presidency. "Let's hope Obama the legend delivers as Obama the president. There is a huge burden of expectations he is carrying on his shoulders," said another American diplomat.

"Great speech. Even if he delivers on half of those things he said today, the US and the world will be remade," said a former diplomat, who did not wish to be named. "But nobody can doubt his sincerity. He looks so sincere that you want to believe him," said an American woman who said her views represented the views of most Americans.