Mahatma Gandhi a hero to the world: Obama (Lead)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

MUMBAI - Mahatma Gandhi is a “hero not just to India but to the world”, US President Barack Obama wrote in the visitor’s book after spending an engrossed half-an hour touring Mani Bhavan where the apostle of ahimsa used to stay.

In remarks in the visitor’s book, Obama wrote: “I am filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi’s life. He is a hero, not just to India but to the world.”

Obama’s wife Michelle, who was with him, wrote below: “This visit will be one that I will always treasure. The life and teachings of Gandhi must be shared with our children around the world.”

The president and his wife also read the remarks written by American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who stayed at the two-storey building on Laburnum Road in May 1959.

Obama and Michelle visited all the rooms of Mani Bhavan, his second stop in the city after speaking at the Taj Hotel. While Obama was attired in a black suit with a white shirt and blue tie, Michelle was wearing a grey dress with a three-string pearl necklace around her neck.

The Obamas visited the room where Gandhi lived and interacted with the trustees. They also saw the museum with tableaux depicting several scenes from Gandhi’s life. Gandhi stayed in Mani Bhavan from from 1917 and 1934. He was assassinated in New Delhi on January 30, 1948. The museum houses rare memorabilia and 50,000 books.

After writing in the visitor’s book, Michelle spoke to the Honorary Director Dr Usha Thakkar, who took them on a tour of Mani Bhavan, and also gave her a warm hug.

Earlier, the Obamas were greeted at Mani Bhavan with garlands.

All the parallel roads leading to Mani Bhavan had been cordoned off several hours before the Obamas’ visit.

There was heavy security near Mani Bhavan and media persons were allowed to enter only after a thorough check.

A retailers association had put up a prominent hoarding just across the lane leading to Mani Bhavan, that said - “We welcome you Obama but not Foreign Direct Investment in India”.

Many residents of the area were seen taking pictures with American security personnel after the president’s convoy had left.

About 300 people visit the library and the museum everyday, the number going up during holidays.

The Bhavan has also preserved Gandhi’s spinning wheel and other belongings.

The building was owned by Gandhi’s friend and follower Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri. In 1955, the building was taken over by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and later became a heritage building.

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