Dear Mr. President:
Wow, you are coming to Mumbai today! Welcome, Sirjee, most welcome. You know what; I was so thrilled when you won the elections. Man, I never in my wildest dreams ever imagined a Black American with a Muslim sounding name preside over the most powerful country in the world. I know, I know, you are a Christian, I heard you saying this enough time during your campaign gigs around the country. Still, with a name like Baraak Hussien Obama, wow, isn’t it something? Perhaps there is hope for my daughter, Maaha Zainab Yusufali, now 10 in about 25 years? She has an interesting background resembling yours somewhat, born in the USA from African and Indian parentage. HE does work in ways most mysterious, no?
I would love to meet and welcome Michele and you to my house in this host city of mine but I have about the same chance of that happening as a ban on honking and fireworks in this city. Now, you may be shielded from wrecking your ears from endless, addictive honking in this country what with you in an armored vehicle but please hold on to Michele real close when you retire for the day. It is Diwali here and firecracker blasts that go off at night would put the bombing of Bagdad to shame. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate; a little. So do not worry if you hear loud bangs that make you jump out of your skin or Michele scream in terror. I wonder how they are going to insulate you from the smells, however? Mumbai, at least here in Versova where I live, throws up a terrible pong when the wind changes direction in the evenings, but this is common all over the city, I am told. Ah, well, perhaps the armored vehicle and sealed hotel rooms at the Taj will take care of that.
Why would I want you to visit my home, you ask? Well, you are my President for one so I am being polite but it is the subsequest publicity I fancy. Can you imagine?! Your visit will be the key that opens so many doors in this city! Bollywood? Also, I want to share some secrets with you, secrets CIA and FBI cannot or will not tell you. You see, not everybody is excited as I am with your visit here. Apart from Government officials and the media going gaga over the official visit, I have yet to meet a single Mumbaite who is even a bit thrilled. My driver, who is a staunch conservative Muslim made a sour face when I mentioned that you are coming, but said nothing. The watchman at the gate of my housing complex gave me a puzzled look and asked, ‘what’s that?’
‘It’s a person,’ I said, ‘the President of USA’.
‘Really?’ said he, ‘interesting’, and promptly lost interest.
These few individuals were indifferent, but thousands other are disgusted if not livid, I assure you. I thought visits by heads of countries were intended to bring goodwill and friendship but this is not the case here in Mumbai, Sirjee. I went to buy some fresh fish yesterday and the Koli women selling me the seafood had some choice powerful, colorful words for you that I feel embarrassed to pen here.
Here are some of the people aggrieved by your visit:
Thousands of drivers; there is a virtual security clampdown in and around the airport all the way to Colaba where you and your entourage have taken over the Taj and neighborhood hotels.
There is no taxi service in and around the airport and the hotels; you cannot imagine Mumbai without taxis, Sirjee. It is like New York without the Yellow Cabs.
This is Diwali and Guajarati New Year season, when small time traders make most of their yearly profits. All these traders along your official route have been ordered shut for two days.
No fresh fish in Mumbai. That’s right, the Sassoon berthing docks where fresh catch of the day arrive have been sealed for three days; its chicken, mutton or veggies, Bwana. Did you retain some Kiswahili words from your Dad? Bwana is Mister if you didn’t.
The Chief Minister of Maharashtra is pissed off because your schedulers did not allow a private meet; so are several other states Chief Ministers.
Aditya Thackery is even more upset for not been invited with his schoolmates to meet you. You do not want to mess around with the Thackery’s in Mumbai; you can read about them on Google.
So you see, Mr. President, I have yet to meet anybody real happy with your visit. I am sure Government officials will give you a great time, together with the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis, those that do not drive a taxi for a living or earn from selling fish or saris or shoes. You will dine grandly (mind that curry though, known to clear sinuses from both ends) but never anything from the streets, you do not want to end up with the Delhi Belly. Oops, I forgot, the foods vendors have been chased off from your route, never mind.
Anyway, I just wanted to share these secrets with you, my President. Again, Michele and you are most welcome to visit my home. It is modest by USA standards but very comfortable middle class Indian home. You will be very proud to see how a US citizen family lives in Mumbai. I for one am genuinely happy you have come; but then I have not been inconvenienced in the least; I can eat chicken or mutton anytime. Most welcome.
PS: Try and come in the morning, the winds shifts after about 4PM and I do not have facilities like the Taj or your armored vehicle.
PS again: If you come, please don’t mind Maaha Zainab’s acquired Indian habit of wagging her head every time she agrees with you. I am sure she’ll be adequately Americanized by the time she becomes the Democratic Party’s candidate for your current job.