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Naila’s Prez memories

Pulling the edge of her red tie-dyed sari over her head, Mohinidevi Gupta said she’ll never forget her dance with President Bill Clinton 10 years ago.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2010 23:48 IST

Pulling the edge of her red tie-dyed sari over her head, Mohinidevi Gupta said she’ll never forget her dance with President Bill Clinton 10 years ago.

“The village women sang songs for him, showered him with marigold and rose petals. We created the mood, and he could not resist. He had to dance with us,” said Gupta, a 38-year-old dairy farmer, recalling the day Clinton came to the village of Naila in the northern state of Rajasthan.

Days ahead of his visit, the village was cleaned, women were quickly trained to use computers and a potholed road was repaired and widened. For a few days, even the name of a school was changed to Chelsea Private School.

Clinton met council members, spoke about women’s empowerment and danced in the open courtyard of an ornate palace. The villagers called him “Clinton brother” and “King Clinton”. Some here still mispronounce his name as “Quintal”.

Ahead of President Obama’s visit, many Indians were remembering the highlights from previous presidential visits: Clinton breaking into an impromptu jig, George W. Bush rolling up his sleeves and playing with a pumpkin, and Jimmy Carter presenting a television to a village that had renamed itself Carterpuri in his honor.

As the ties between the two countries grow deeper, each presidential visit generates exaggerated expectations, colour and chemistry.

“The visit of an American President is like an encounter with royalty, and our response to these visits is also typically irrational,” said Santosh Desai, a newspaper columnist who writes about socio-political anxieties of contemporary India. “We want the unofficial king of the world to acknowledge India as an emerging power. For Indians to swoon, a US President has to say, ‘You are special, you are a great country, you are an emerging superpower.’”

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