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Gujarat and Ghandi

I'm back (well, was back 10 days ago, but just now have the energy to post) from Ahmedabad and it was definitely a memorable trip. Here's what happened:

Flew SpiceJet and was pretty impressed. The airline moved efficiently and on time. The airplane was new and buying a cold chicken sandwich and diet coke is completely ok with me. 140Rs for both = $2.97.

When we landed, we ended up disembarking on the tarmac (is that the right term?) and then bussed in. As we entered Ahmedabad airport, I was greeted by about 5 people and a big sign with my name on it. There were some quick introductions and I was whisked out of the airport (with a waiting car at the curb with my name on it) and off we went to the hotel which was fortunately, only about 8min away. After arriving at the hotel, I immediately got my room key and ID badge to wear:


Kinda cool. Anyway, I was told that I have an assistant down in the lobby if I needed one (which I didn't) and just to take it easy until 5:30pm when the delegates would gather and then take off for the event. OK, cool. I basically just went for a late breakfast and relaxed in my room happy to be free for one day from the kids and home responsibilities. It's been a long time since I got to think only about me! Vijay called and said he'd arrived with his group from Delhi and I wandered down about 3ish to have another quick bite since it would be a very late dinner (ended up being past midnight) before eating again. It was neat to start meeting some people i.e. the Deputy Chief Mission Carlos Forno from Peru and his wife (Regina??). I am so bad with names. At least I got his card. I also met a VP from the ABG India--the largest shipbuilders in India. He was actually a nice guy and even called me yesterday to ask if we could me when he came to his office in Mumbai (based in Ahmedabad). I said, sure, why not.

Jumping back a bit, sometime before I went down to breakfast, I sent down my green salwar kameez to get pressed since it got wrinkled in my suitcase. At about 4ish, it was brought back to my room just after I got back from the late lunch. I started to try things on since I was nervous about wearing a get-up like this for the first time. Good thing I did too because once I got it on, to my absolute horror, IT WAS TOTALLY SEE-THROUGH! Because it was so sunny outside, the 2 sheer layers just did nothing to hide anything. OMG! :cloud9: What am I going to do now? Well, thank goodness I had bought TWO outfits because the white one worked beautifully as it was lined and had only a top sheer layer. Now the question was shoes. I had been flirting with wearing the most perfect strappy sandles that matched like a dream (bronze and gold) but had 5 inch stiletto heels. Dare I do it? I've never worn shoes like this before, but all the magazines had these delicate strappy shoes pictured so I decided to go-for-it. I told myself if I don't have to walk to much, I'll be fine.

Famous last words....

After a frantic 45 minutes of ironing the 2nd outfit and getting ready, I headed downstairs to where everyone was. Ok. Deep breath. I walked into the lobby and everyone was there--although at this point, I still don't know who "everyone" was. We got a list of names, and room numbers, but no titles or countries (I would think for security purposes??). After a few uncomfortable minutes of people looking at me wondering who I was, I see Vijay and my "handler" and then it's time to go. We get ushered to the front of the hotel and I hear "OK, USA FIRST!" and out I go into the car that has me, the handler guy (feel bad I can't remember his name, he was really nice), the driver, and an armed escort. Behind me, are maybe 12 other Toyotas mini-vans with each delegate getting inside with their "detail". We were led by a truck full of armed police and then followed from behind with another full truck of armed police.

As far as the security went, well, it's not what we're used to seeing, but it certainly got people's attention on the side of the roads. Everyone was wondering who was in the convoy. It was pretty funny at times because Indian people don't really give a crap about hearing sirens coming up behind them. They do not move to the side of the road or pull over and stop like we do in the west. They just continue to motor on with the cops frantically honking and waving their arms which has no effect at all.

We arrived at the event and now I see the daunting situation my choice of footwear will present for the evening. We are led through sand and puzzle-piece type stones (temporarily put in) to a "holding tent" where we get to sit for a few minutes until it's time of us to be led to wherever. I go and sit down and ended up next to Dr Durgesh Man Singh--Ambassador from Nepal, and his wife. Dr Singh was actually a really nice guy with a friendly face. He said that he'd gone to college in Colorado (Boulder?) and then got his PhD at the U of Florida at Gainsville. We chatted about the Florida and I joked that from now on when I think about Nepal, I'm going to also think about the Florida Gators!

After about 10 minutes, we were ushered to a central location where we got a welcome greeting, got pictures taken, then moved to the front of the large outdoor event. When I say moved, I mean we had to walk about 2 blocks in sand/stones (and me in my heels) up to the front. When we finally got there, I was bordering the beginning of a headache from concentrating so hard on not falling. Anyway, we played "musical couches" for a bit due to some disorganization, but got settled in nicely and waited for the show to start. There was some formal stuff in speeches and the MC lady even announced the attendance of the foreign dignitaries and Republicans Abroad! That was cool. There then were some presentations to the political leaders and then the dancers got started.

I have to say, it was the best dance event I've ever seen. The dancers represented all the different States in India and it was amazing. The traditional costumes, the choreography, the lighting--AWESOME. Here's some pictures:

http://img361.images...p9300058lf2.jpg Mr Narendra Modi via Jumbotron

http://img241.images...p9300071ir8.jpg Dancers

http://img95.imagesh...p9300092vk1.jpg Me in my salwar kameez in front of the dancers after the program

http://img137.images...p9300097ae0.jpg Some dancers close up

The show lasted until about 10:30ish and then we were able to go up to the front at take pictures close up of the dancers. I got my picture taken with all the foreign dignitaries and it was nice to start talking to more of them.

We returned to the hotel, and I went to eat with Vijay and a few others then went to bed. It was about 2:30am.

The next morning, we had to be ready in the lobby at 9:30am. We went to see Ghandi's ashram--which according to definition means: "Abode of spiritual teacher; place for disciplined community living; stage of life." It was very interesting to see how simple a life he led there and it must have been very peaceful there. We were provided a tour of the facilities and I got more pictures:

From Left to Right: Pinky (with the BJP), don't know--spouse of someone, Vijay (my friend from BJP), don't know, Ambassador from Laos, representative from Taiwan, Ambassador (I think) from Malawi

From left to right: woman??, Japan Minister Naoki Ito, the Ambassador Singh from Nepal, then Malawi, behind him Russian Information Secretary, then Chinese assistant girl, China Ambassador's wife, Montenegro Ambassador and wife of Malawi Ambassador

After this, we were driven to another location where we were to meet with Mr Modi. We all went into the conference room and the Ambassadors took their positions at the main table and I went to sit along the wall. This was a casual economic meeting, but one that opens doors so it was very interesting to see the Ambassador/economic ministers (the EM from Senegal was super nice) introducing themselves and talking about doing business with Gujarat. We got to watch a very impressive about 10minute opening presentation talking about all the ambitions the State of Gujarat has/Narendra Modi has for his citizens. We watched planned development to bring potable water to all the population, increased energy production and draws to bring manufacturing to Gujarat---which was even more interesting as just last week, Gujarat was named the new home to the Tata Nano. Basically, under Narendra Modi's leadership, Gujarat is really moving to the forefront of India in the way of economic development.

Here's some pictures from the meeting:


The guy in with his back to me is the Ambassador from Belarus, and you can see the Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yan and his wife across the table. At one point, I was moved to the head of the table next to our host Narendra Modi seated next to the Ambassador from Venezuela. It was a bit surreal....

Pinky with her back to me, next to her with the glasses is Ukrainian Ambassador Igor Polikha. Across on Pinky's left is the Ambassador (I think he was the Ambassador) from Nicaragua and across on Pinky's right is the Ambassador from Laos and his wife.

All in all, it was a very exciting and interesting 24 hours. After the meeting, we had a quick buffet lunch, and then there was another meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, but I had to take off for the airport. It was another lovely and uneventful flight. The hospitality shown me in Gujarat was really nice and I look forward to seeing some of the people again.

I've taken a bit of a break from posting on politics as the election is starting to wear on my nerves and I find myself ranting to the computer, television, sympathetic friends (that's a shout out to you Kate!). I'm going to be relieved when the election is over, but am trudging through. I feel fortunate being in my position now to have met some really great people and am very happy to have involved myself in US politics here. This coming Friday, there's a great event at the American Center that I'm looking forward to. Will post on that soon!

3 Comments On This Entry

That was a great report and interesting as well. You are fast becoming a celebrity in India. If I ask real nice, can I get an autographed picture? :lol: Really, that was interesting. I am a proponent of more economic interaction between India and America. I know quite a few Hindu people in this neighborhood, and since the Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon who repaired my Heart is Indian, I guess you could say I got a special place in my Heart for them and their country. :unsure: I'll probably come back later to make another comment as I'm sorta tired myself. The Doctors had me held hostage for some tests all afternoon, and though nothing was invasive, they really tired me out.

BTW: You looked good in the White outfit!!! :P Now, how about a picture of you wearing the other one? j/k

Attila, on Oct 14 2008, 06:56 AM, said:

That was a great report and interesting as well. You are fast becoming a celebrity in India. If I ask real nice, can I get an autographed picture? :P Really, that was interesting. I am a proponent of more economic interaction between India and America. I know quite a few Hindu people in this neighborhood, and since the Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon who repaired my Heart is Indian, I guess you could say I got a special place in my Heart for them and their country. :P

Hey, Atilla: Thanks for the comments. If Obama becomes Pres, the interest in Repubs will probably die down, but if McCain wins, then who knows what'll happen. India, financially, is holding on pretty well and in fact, the Sensex opened over 500 points up today after yesterday's 781point rise. India doesn't seem to be affected by the subprime style issues and, in fact, Paul Krugman (of whom I am no fan of) is quoted in today's paper (no link):


Krugman had told India to shut weak banks

Paul Krugman, during his visit to India at the peak of the East Asian financial crisis in 1997, had suggested shutting down weak banks. "it may sound hard-hearted, but you cannot keep unsound financial institutions operating simply because they provide jobs. There can be a huge amount of damage a bad bank can create..." he had said.

Our bank here, HSBC is offering an no-risk option of putting money into a fund for 1 year with a 10% return. If you need the $ back, then you may get it refunded but then receive your 10% interest on the money for the pro-rated time. Not a bad deal. Yesterday, a merger between Kingfisher and Jet Airways was announced. All-in-all, my husband, who is the sales GM for India and Sri Lanka for his company, is still very positive with the expected growth in India which is why we're invested in stocks as well--as long as one is a long term investor of min 5yrs. Stocks did fall here as they did elsewhere in other markets.

However, on the Indian social front things are a bit more tense. Recently, there have been religious riots against Christians that haven't been totally taken under control. Basically, the Hindus think that there is funny business going on by the Christian missionaries regarding conversions (for monetary bribes, pressure, etc) and they have gone crazy. There is freedom of religion in the Indian Constitution and then there is reality on the ground. It is a very sensitive subject, as you can imagine, and my tip toeing into the subject when it came up, led to some tense conversations with friends when I tried to relay that from a US/American perspective, you are not going to get the American people/administrations to support church burnings/rape and murder as retaliation for perceived funny business regarding who is what religion and why. America is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian country and while I can totally support India's identity as a Hindu nation, we (Americans) aggressively protect the rights of those who aren't to practice their faith unobstructed. The "aggressive protection" (aka judicial) or lack-there-of is what the Christians (and the Muslims to some extent) complain about because they are minorities. My perspective wasn't necessarily one based on judgment of their society, but enforcement of the existing laws and how churches in the US have the power to influence our lawmakers to take a position on the, for example, Narendra Modi visa scenario that I blogged about earlier. Not everyone could understand where I was trying to come from and then I suggested we just drop the subject. Bottom line, India is a messy place politically. More-so than in the US....and much more emotional considering the long history this fascinating country has.


I'll probably come back later to make another comment as I'm sorta tired myself. The Doctors had me held hostage for some tests all afternoon, and though nothing was invasive, they really tired me out.

I hope everything is ok. Please keep us informed if by PM if you prefer. :lol:


BTW: You looked good in the White outfit!!! :P Now, how about a picture of you wearing the other one? j/k

Haha. Good try, but think I'll leave something to the male RNer imaginations! :unsure:
When I read this I think of Cinderella, the pumpkin, and turning back to a mom and wife at midnight.

I'm sure it doesn't all correlate, but dang, it just seems you have gone from Renwaa to a celebrity in short order.
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