The next day, I went down to the Outlook office where I met Satvik and both of us shortlisted about 20 questions that we wanted answers to. Our Honorable Prime Minister, while in Bali, mentioned that 54% of the Indian population is below 25 years of age - that is we are essentially a "young" nation. Both of us represented this 54%! So we thought of all possible questions that girls and boys of our age would want to know about. The assurances we need, the truth, the future through the eyes of a visionary.
At 11 A.M., on the 19th, we had a debriefing by the Press Secretary to the President at Rastrapati Bhawan. In a huge office, which was centrally heated, sat Mr S.M.Khan. A very friendly man, he asked us plenty of questions about our respective backgrounds. After attending to numerous telephone calls, while we sat on the chairs in front of him, he rose and asked someone to escort us to the President's study (where the interview was scheduled to be). But I left him only after he had satisfied my curiosity about what his job involved. Very patiently he answered all my questions. I had decided, that since I'm never going to enter this beautiful building ever again, (unless I become the President myself!), I was going to go right ahead and find out everything that I wanted to know.
After another round of security check, we were taken to a visitors' room which was very artistically set up. Right in the middle of the room sits a gold statue of the poet Thiruvalluvar. No sooner had we sat down, when a uniformed man entered the room carrying a huge tray. The tray had 5 plates on it - cake, pastries, cheese on toast, namkeen and biscuits. After pecking on these refreshments, I asked the man for some water. Water! This time the tray contained different coloured soft drinks, limewater, tea and coffee.
After about 15 minutes, a smartly dressed, very cute-looking Air Force officer, who was the ADC to the President escorted us into the study. Even in my wildest fantasies I wouldn't have pictured this. I walked into a palatial room which overlooked the Mughal Gardens. Beautiful roses of varied colours covered every table. Exquisite furniture adorned the room. And in one corner, with a study table in front of him and a sleek computer on it, sat our much loved and admired President.
He greeted us with a huge smile, which immediately made us feel at home. The ADC left us with the First Citizen. After introducing ourselves, he asked us about our dream. Our aim. Once he was satisfied, we continued with our questions. We asked him everything from unemployment, poverty, Indo-Pak ties, corruption to whether he watches movies, enjoys cricket and what his inspiration is. I blushed when he said that my earrings made me look beautiful! I repent not having asked him about his haircut!
The scheduled time for the interview was 20 minutes but he spoke to us for nearly an hour. The ADC kept poking his head to let him know that people
were waiting but the President answered all our questions. Finally when we ended the interview, the President's photographer took about 6-7 of our
photographs. Very meekly I asked the President if someone could show us
around the Mughal Gardens and the majestic building. With a benign smile he told me not to worry and said he would take care of us. Next he gave us signed copies of Ignited Minds, which is an excellent book and a must have book for the youth.
The President patted us on our back and we thanked him for giving us so much of his precious time. The simple man who is adored by millions, not only in our country but internationally too, got back to his table. I presented him with a book titled Encounters with the Enlightened which has changed my life in many ways. He promised me that he would definitely read the book. The ADC escorted us yet again, who was told by the President to show us everything we wanted to see.
In the Mughal Gardens, which is the most beautiful sight ever, is a small hut with some sofas where the President sits every morning and evening and "thinks", as he said. Then we were shown the Musuem, the Art gallery, the Children's gallery (where we clicked snaps) etcetera. Finally, totally exhausted, we returned to the ADC's office. The press secretary wanted to meet us before we left but he was out for lunch.
My "cute guy" asked us what we wanted to do till then. Prompt came my reply, "I'm hungry". We laughed while he ordered
lunch to be laid out for us. After chatting for a while, lunch was served which was an awesome spread of appetizing food. I
love myself for being so forthcoming at times! After meeting the press secretary, we came out of the warmth of Rashtrapati
Bhawan into the cold breeze blowing outside. Soon we were seated in my car and on our way to the Outlook office.
We spent more than 5 hours at the Rashtrapati Bhawan but as always, in happiness and excitement, time just flew by. The beautiful day had come to an end. I will cherish this incident throughout my lifetime. Our President is a delight to be with. He is a simple man with a mission, that of making India into a developed world. It was indeed an honour to meet him. The optimism that he exuberates is something we should all imbibe. If the youth of India instills even a fourth of this man's vision, our lives will be changed forever.