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Indian scribe celebrates birthday with Bush

Raghubir Goyal of India Globe has been a White House pressperson for many years and shares his birthday with the President.

india Updated: Jul 08, 2006 12:54 IST

An Indian journalist, popular at the White House, edged out visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a photo op with President George W Bush on his July 6 birthday.

As the premier stretched out his hand for the traditional handshake picture after a press conference on Thursday, journalist Raghubir Goyal of India Globe newspaper piped in a cheery "Happy Birthday!" from the press corps.

"We share the same date!" Goyal called out to Bush, who was celebrating his 60th.

"Today's your birthday, too?" asked a delighted Bush, dropping Harper's hand.

"Well, come on up - let's have a birthday picture. Come on, come on, come on. Come on, come on, get up here! Anybody else have their birthday today?"

Within moments, USA Today's Richard Benedetto took the stage, too. "If we start to get any more, I'm going to start to question it," said a befuddled Harper, who stood off to the side, rubbing his nose.

"Another one?" Harper blurted out when a sound technician from the State Department, Todd Mizis, joined the group.

Television crews in the rear struck up a round of "Happy Birthday to You". The cameras zoomed in on the four birthday boys, cutting the Canadian premier out of the picture.

Goyal has been a White House pressperson for many years and is often ridiculed for his softball questions that deal exclusively with India and for which he has been labelled the "Goyal foil" - or a way out for White House spokesman Scott McClellan when he is in a tight spot.

"Every day my question is about India," Goyal says proudly.

Born in the small village of Badsikri in Haryana, Goyal visited India in March 2006 along with Bush, his second trip with a US president to India. He had also come with president Bill Clinton in March 2001.

Through a series of accidental and sometimes unfortunate events, Goyal landed in the US in 1976 via Austria, doing odd jobs along the way.

He did his high school in Chandigarh, worked his way through college, was employed part-time at the Chandigarh Coal Company and the Punjab Land Acquisition Office, and attended classes in Punjab University in the evenings.

At 16, he told his mother he wanted to leave the country and the village leaders met to discuss the issue.

"My village got together and they said I was incapable of doing anything. Finally my uncle said: 'Give him Rs 10,000 and he will not waste it, I guarantee'."

The rest, as is said, was history.