Kilometre-long invite for Obama – from Uttar Pradesh

By Asit Srivastava, IANS,

Lucknow : Barack Obama has mail – from a place in Uttar Pradesh state in India that he would never have heard of.

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And how! Measuring over one kilometre, the letter has been put together by more than 11,000 people over eight months and carries a simple message for the US president – “Come and inspire hope: lots of love from Basti district, Uttar Pradesh”.

Many of the two million-odd residents of Uttar Pradesh’s Basti district, some 300 km from state capital Lucknow, have collaborated to prepare the one-km long invitation letter for President Obama. They want the US president to visit the district and address them.

“His speeches are known for inspiring hope and cooperation. We too want to hear him and therefore we have prepared this letter,” Alok Kumar Mishra, a native of Basti and former post-doctoral fellow in psychology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who conceptualised the letter, told IANS on phone.

“The letter has been prepared mainly by joining fax paper rolls end to end,” added Mishra, also a member of the Juvenile Justice Board, Delhi.

According to locals, the invitation letter contains text in different languages, carries photographs of the US president and also has decorative designs.

“People have used the language in which they felt comfortable to express themselves. While some have used English, others have written their ideas in Hindi, Awadhi and even Urdu,” said Maneesh Kumar, a local, who is pursuing his B.Sc. from a college in Basti.

“In the invitation, I have urged the US president to guide youth and motivate them to join politics as I feel, particularly in India, politics is believed to be a profession of corrupt people,” he added.

Asked how the letter was written, Mishra replied: “Initially, after purchasing the paper rolls, they were cut into smaller sizes and distributed amongst the locals. After individuals had expressed their thoughts, the papers were collected and glued together.”

Locals say they started writing the letter in February.

“Initially, when we planned to undertake the exercise, only a handful of people were willing to join us. However, after seeing our project turning into a reality, more and more people came forward to assist us,” said Kaushal Kishore, a student of Class 12.

For dispatching the letter to the US president, Mishra has approached the district authorities, asking them to hold talks with officials in the external affairs ministry.

“The letter needs to be handled with care…even slight carelessness can damage it. We have asked the district administration to talk with officials of the government of India for delivering the letter,” Mishra said.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at [email protected])