I am standing outside the White House. I am feeling rather odd standing in front of someone's house. "But, it's the White House," Sid tried to cheer. Well, it is a house, and it is white — that's all. I remember standing in front of Buckingham Palace and Rashtrapathi Bhavan, feeling exactly the same way. I don't feel comfortable standing in front of someone's house and taking pictures. I find it rather inappropriate.
My son, was getting bored. He took his toy camera where he can scribble with a stylus and then take a picture, so he won't forget. Sid was happy to write down the address and smile in front of his camera.
I watched him endearingly. Just then, I heard someone whisper that the President actually lives in the upper deck of the house. "Who cares?" I thought. A lady next to me was clearly worried about the lawn, " How sad!" she lamented, "the kids will never be able to run around in the sprawling grass garden and Bo would just love to sprint here." I agreed but wait, who is Bo?
Earlier during the day, as we were walking towards this touristic spot, we had stopped by in a gift shop. That was when, I learnt about the celebrity called Bo. The gift shop had a ensemble of souvenirs but what caught my eye was a little book. Bo — The Commander-in-leash, the title read. Now, get it — the ‘first dog'?
I noticed a lot of tourists now and everyone was frantically trying to frame the White House, with themselves smiling in it. It all seemed quite funny. As I looked, the White House, looked singularly tall with a lone fountain. A tall cherry blossom tree was sprawled in the garden. The White House itself overlooked a large square blooming with more of these trees rendering their pinkish glow.
Just as I got ready to leave without a picture, I saw a group of children from a school. They were all clearly excited. They gathered quickly and each one was trying to get a better view by standing on the wall. They stood on the edge and dangled with the camera. In a few minutes, the teacher called out to them for a photograph.
Fountain of hope
The kids were clearly happy to sit down and smile. The teacher then, held the camera and asked the children to pose for the picture. Instead of saying ‘Cheese', which you normally would hear, the kids shouted, "We love you President Obama," in unison and they giggled excitedly. Something, just then, shook me. As the giggles and the excited words, trailed off, they tugged at my heart. The little girls continued to talk in bated breath — that is when I noticed that they were all black. They all probably belonged to a similar African clan and they were so proud.
I walked a little closer and now watched the White House earnestly. The man in there, had brought in hope and all these kids looked up to him. They, perhaps even identified with him. They probably faced the same challenges as he must have. I got all mixed up. Standing there and taking a picture meant the world to these kids and I couldn't help smiling myself. So, I took out my camera, and smiled my most cheerful smile. So what if I took a picture of someone's house? After all, I did it when a man who brought in a million hopes to those African-American people lived in that house. I called out to a fellow tourist, "Would you mind taking a picture of me with the White House please?"
Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.