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Meeting of hearts at Taj

People of diverse backgrounds and with a link to Mumbai's 26/11 terrorist attacks on Saturday listened to US President Barack Obama at the Taj Mahal hotel, which bore the brunt of the tragedy. Ketaki Ghoge and Bhavika Jain report.

mumbai Updated: Nov 07, 2010 00:15 IST

People of diverse backgrounds and with a link to Mumbai's 26/11 terrorist attacks on Saturday listened to US President Barack Obama at the Taj Mahal hotel, which bore the brunt of the tragedy.

A five-star hotel chef, a constable of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), a taxi-driver's wife were part of the audience when Obama spoke at the Taj Mahal hotel terrace with the Gateway of India monument behind him. They met him later.

Moumina Khatun, whose husband, Mohammad Umar, a taxi-driver, was killed when his vehicle was exploded by the terrorists' bomb, did not understand much of what Obama spoke. "I didn't understand what was being said, but I know I got an opportunity to meet a very important person," Khatun said.

Central Railway announcer Vishnu Zende and RPF constable Jillu Yadav, whose bravery saved many lives, said that they were honoured to meet the Obamas.

However, Zende and Yadav regret that they did not get a chance to click a photo with Obama, something that their families had insisted upon.

Yadav said: "He (Barack Obama) said something to me in English, which I couldn't understand, but when he smiled at me I knew they (the Obamas) were thanking me."

For many, the event was emotional as they relived the tragedies of the three-day terror attacks. A dozen people had a chance to meet the Obamas and share their grief.

Others shook hands with the US President and his wife, Michelle, who met everyone after the speech. People took their autographs.

Kia Scherr, a US national who too lost her husband and daughter during the attacks, was among those who met Obama on Saturday.

"It was meeting of the heart, it was not about words. He looked into each of our eyes and shook our hands. And, I felt he understood our loss," said Scherr, 54.

Taj general manager Karambir Kang, who lost his family and became the face of the 26/11 tragedy, also met the Obamas. The US President praised the staff members and the Taj Hotel manager in his speech.