For US ambassador Richard Rahul Verma, it was a nostalgic trip on Thursday to the house and school of his maternal grandmother at Basti Sheikh here.
Verma, who was "visiting his roots", as he mentioned, second time since 1974 when he was just 5, turned emotional on finding the signatures of his granny, Maya Devi, in the teachers' attendance register of Government Girls' Senior Secondary School near Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi in the locality and took pictures from his mobile-phone camera. The school also presented him with copies of the signatures.
The ambassador smiled when he read in the register that his grandmother would get `322.50 a month for teaching social studies in 1967, and he was surprised that the records were so well maintained, for which he even appreciated the school authorities. In a 15-mintue interaction with 20 students, later, through an interpreter, Verma talked about the value of hard work, consistency, determination, studying, and parental guidance.
Replying to Class-10 girl Komal, who had asked him what was required become an ambassador, Verma said: "Higher studies, hard work, and good values." To Nisha of Class 11, who wanted to know his educational qualification, the envoy said he had studied first engineering and then law.
In a chat with the media on the school premises afterwards, he said he was overwhelmed to visit the school where his granny had taught for many years. "I will come back when I get a chance," he said. Before coming to the school, he went to his grandmother's house at Chaiaam Mohalla opposite Ram Mandir and interacted with the Gupta family to whom Maya Devi had sold the property. He visited another house in the same narrow lane where had played with other children in 1974, and spent 20 minutes there.
He went over to the shop of Shree Ram (82) on the street, like he had done many times in childhood. In the afternoon, he was at DAV College, where his father had studied in 1948. The college presented him with copies of the signatures of his father on an admission form. The ambassador then laid a plaque outside his father's old classroom.
In his address at the college to 919 new graduates and post-graduates, he said that his father, like most immigrants, had left his wife and children behind when he came to New York in 1963 with borrowed $24 and a bus ticket to Northern Iowa. "My mother, brothers and sisters came over a few years later," he recalled.
"My father has taught us brothers and sisters to be proud of our roots," said Verma, telling students that wherever life takes them, they should remain proud of their country.