Bopping to the rhythm of ‘Mee Hai Koli’, on Sunday morning, US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle put their dancing shoes on as the audience at the Holy Name School in Colaba clapped and cheered for them.
“Obama danced with our students,” said Florin Martis and Elizabeth Nathan, teachers from the school, after the event. “That was definitely the highlight, it was amazing.”
The President’s visit began with visit to a classroom to see the students’ science projects. He then lit a diya and proceeded to the school auditorium to watch the dance performances. While one group of students performed a ‘diya dance’ choreographed as a Bharatnatyam dance, another group did a Koli dance.
Towards the end of the performances, the students invited the First Lady to join them. She did, and soon picked up the steps of the traditional fishermen folk dance. The children then asked Barack Obama to join them and he too got on to the floor and matched steps with the students.
“I will never forget this Diwali,” said Sudha Shinde, 12, who performed the Koli dance. “It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.”
Others were only barely able to keep themselves together for the big day. “I was so nervous yesterday thinking about today, I slept just one hour last night,” said Sangeeta Ayer, 12, who performed the ‘diya dance’. “When I first saw Obama, I was not sure if I was asleep or dreaming. I asked a friend of mine if this was real. The experience was truly amazing.”
“The students gave wonderful performances, there was not a single hitch,” said Father Michael Pinto, the school’s principal. “Even the explanations that our students had prepared for each of the dances were excellently delivered.”
Obama’s free-spirited participation in the festivities stood out as the highlight during his 40-minute visit. “He was like a normal guy, not like a President,” said Adnan Husein, 15.
Obama even asked the students if they would like to continue learning about science and the environment. All of them in answered in the affirmative.
Two groups of students got an opportunity to present to the US President and Michelle science projects they had earlier created, themed around ‘Caring for Creation’. One was a display of a model village, the other exhibited different pro-environment messages. The students spoke about preserving resources and combating global warming.
“When he asked us how we thought the younger generation could be more environment friendly, we said, by planting trees or spreading awareness through rallies,” said Juzer Furniturewala, 15, the school's head boy who also made a presentation.