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Rousing welcome for Sunita at Sabarmati ashram

September 20, 2007

Text and Pictures: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel in Ahmedabad

On Thursday afternoon, a handful of tourists -- a British businessman and few foreigners looking exotic in colourful Indian clothes -- visiting Gandhiji's ashram, located on the western banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad, were in for a shock as they reached the address.

The ashram famed for its peace and tranquility was abuzz with about 1000 schoolchildren and their teachers, a battalion of policeperson and an army of media persons.

The ashram was expecting a visit from Indian-American astronaut Sunita nee Pandya Williams.

Patriotic songs -- Raghupati Raja Ram, Aai Mere Vatan Ke Logo -- blasted from loudspeakers. At each Jai Hind refrain, the kids joined in boisterously and waved.

Journalists had overrun the ashram dangling mikes and lugging cameras.

To kill time as they awaited the arrival of the astronaut, they aimlessly took pictures of the room Gandhiji once lived in and of ashram staff spinning khadi.

Local leaders kept the waiting people entertained, reminding the children that there were 1,000 future Sunitas sitting right here in the audience.

Sunita Williams with her father Dr Deepak Pandya at the Sabarmati Ashram

Also read: Image: Sunita Williams arrives in Ahmedabad
Images: Amdavadis turn out for Sunita

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