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Sunday, November 7

First Lady Michelle Obama takes India by storm


She arrived in India in a silk dress to die for, and with her upswept hairdo and a fabulous pearl necklace she was the picture of elegance. But after her husband's speech at the Taj hotel memorial for the victims of 26/11, and after the visit to Mani Bhavan to honor Mohandas Gandhi, she changed into a simple blouse and flowered skirt while her husband went off to speechify at a business summit.

Then the First Lady of the world's lone superpower nation went out to play. Meeting with a group of disadvantaged children she sang, she danced, she played hopscotch, she made music, and her infectious good spirits melted the hearts of all the Indians watching.

Even the normally starchy Indian counterterrorism analyst B. Raman was charmed, and couldn't help but note that Michelle had not graced China with her presence when her husband visited that country and that many Chinese have a dour take on her very American style of femininity.

But no matter; let the Chinese cluck their tongues. On this day I find myself greatly cheered by our First Lady's joy in being young at heart in a land that is so very old and forever young:
MUMBAI, India (AP via Buffalo News) - Michelle Obama played hopscotch, danced and sang with 33 disadvantaged children from the Indian charity Make a Difference Saturday at the University of Mumbai.

Almost immediately after arriving at the university's library, she kicked off her flats and joined in a game of vocabulary-building hopscotch with the 8- to 13-year-old orphans and runaways who receive English-language instruction from Make a Difference volunteers.

"I love dancing. Oh that was fun!" Mrs. Obama said after they danced to theme song from the Bollywood movie, "Rang de Basanti."

The girls wore their salwar kameez - traditional long shirts and baggy trousers - and glittering dupatta scarves. Mrs. Obama, dressed in an olive blouse and delicate flowered skirt, also joined a drum and tambourine circle with the children. She banged on a tambourine while the kids pounded on drums.

After dancing, she spoke to the children about the importance of an education.

"I didn't grow up with a lot of money," Mrs. Obama "I never even imagined being the first lady of the United States. But because I had an education, when the time came to do this, I was ready."

When the first lady invited questions or comments from her young audience, the result was an amusing exchange.

"I feel like my dream come true," one little girl told Mrs. Obama.

"You feel like your dream has come true?" the first lady asked.

"Yes," the girl said.

"Why, because of me?" asked Mrs. Obama.

"Yes!" the girl said.

"No!" Mrs. Obama disputed.

"Yes!" the girl exclaimed again.

Replied the first lady: "No, you are my dream come true."

After some laughter the kids fell silent, so Mrs. Obama urged another round of dancing.

"Let's dance some more! One more dance!" she said. She was quickly surrounded by a bouncing circle of girls throwing their arms in the air. The boys nearby jumped up and down. Before leaving, the first lady sent each child home with a tote bag stuffed with educational materials - notebooks, pencils and pen - and White House M&Ms [candies].

Jithin Nedumala, 23, who forsook an MBA to help found MAD in 2006, said he hoped Mrs. Obama's visit would inspire the children he works with.

"We are here to tell the children to dream big," he said. "They're in orphanages and street shelters where they don't have their parents to push them. Not many people believe in these kids."
I will allow myself a bit of snark by noting that I'm glad Michelle has finally come around to appreciating the benefits of a good education. But just a bit. Pass me a tamborine.

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