Ahmedabad: For a large number of spectators who came to accord a massive public reception to United States President Donald Trump at the Motera Stadium on Monday, it was effectively a day out in the sun for the former chief minister of the state and current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi!
Saree-clad women in their late 50s, young men in their early 20s and 30s, middle-aged men and women were seen in large numbers as they jostled for elbowroom early in the morning, making up the rush towards Motera. With all vehicles stopped due to security reasons almost one kilometre from the stadium perimeter fence, walking all the way to the stadium from the nearest public or private transport point was the only recourse. And yet no one seemed to mind.
When asked as to what was the reason behind coming to the stadium when there was no cricket match being played, 22-year-old Mukesh Rupani -- who had come all the way from Vapi, a good seven-hour train ride from Ahmedabad -- said: “It’s all because of one person.” Trump, right? “Wrong, it’s for Narendra Modi,” came the reply. But why? “For someone who has given Gujarat a definitive global face, and who is now heading national politics as the prime minister, we certainly can do this much,” Rupani explained.
Minutes later, as an elderly woman was seen struggling up the stairs to get to the seating areas inside the stadium, Gulf News caught up with her. “So what brings you here? Isn’t it very hot to spend about four-five hours in the stadium? “No that’s fine. I have a problem with my knees, but when my nephew told me that Modi is coming with the US president and entry is free, I just agreed,” said Saralaben, a resident of Usmanpura in Ahmedabad.
There were many others like Mukesh and Saralaben who came to the stadium not so much for Trump or First Lady Melania, but for the mass leader they have known best for the last 15-20 years.
There were also quite a few from the Indian diaspora who took it upon themselves to ensure the success of ‘Namaste Trump’. Businessman Pramith Makhode came all the way from Boston to be a part of the Motera show. “I am part of an 18-member group of Indian expatriates from the US who have come here not as a part of any lobby promoting this event, but simply as well-wishers who do not usually miss out on anything Gujarat or Gujarati. We were part of the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston last September and we are here today as well for ‘Namaste Trump’,” Makhode told Gulf News.
Of course there were those very obvious, die-hard Modi supporters who kept chanting “Modi Modi Modi” all through the day, sporting Modi masks and almost turning ‘Namaste Trump’ into a ‘Kemchho Modi’ (how do you do, Modi). Little did they realise that in so doing, they were probably running the risk of embarrassing their ‘dear leader’ in the presence of a coveted foreign guest!